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Do you control caffeine or does caffeine control you?

It’s never to latte to work on our health. Cheers to a brew-tiful you!

01 Nov 2022
Do you control caffeine or does caffeine control you?


Power. To order or limit. The act of managing something. 


From kopi peng to cappuccino, teh-o to oolong milk tea, the caffeine culture in Singapore has grown steadily over the last ten years. Ask any working adult if they enjoy having coffee or tea breaks during their workday, and they will likely respond with an enthusiastic, ‘Yes!’. 

After all, coffee is the biggest dietary source of caffeine, with tea next in line. 


Caffeine, a beneficial, socially accepted drug?

Yes, we have all heard it before. Caffeine is an agent that increases dopamine levels in the brain the same way some recreational drugs do, which makes it addictive. That also loosely explains why most of us kickstart our day with a morning coffee and then look forward to a caffeine refill in the afternoon.

That said, everyone has a vice. As long as it falls within the categories of being legal and safe, then all a caffeine lover needs is a little discipline and to drink in moderation!  


It is (NOT) always caffeine time

Contrary to popular belief, you are likely to get the biggest bang for your brew when you have it between mid to late morning.

Here’s the why and how: When you first get up from bed, your cortisol levels are already at a natural high. So if you were to sip on a mug of teh at this time, you might end up lowering the energising effect of the caffeine. That just means you’re not getting the best out of that cuppa.

Getting a caffeine hit three to four hours after waking instead, is a good gauge and will better maximise that caffeine boost. This is when your stress hormones are low and in need of a pick-me-up. Although studies have been inconsistent and inconclusive on the optimal time to down a cuppa, it is worth experimenting. 

What is not worth trying, however, is taking it excessively. A combination of back-to-back meetings, multiple deadlines, and caring for a screaming toddler are all justified reasons to gulp down more kopis than one should. But remember, what does go up, will come down.

Blasting your system cup after cup could take you through the day - and also into the night. It is recommended to have your last cup at least six hours before bedtime. That’s because the length of time caffeine hangs around in your body varies, and depends on a series of factors: the types of coffee beans or tea leaves, the caffeine tolerance of an individual, and how well one metabolises caffeine. If and when sleep is affected, you might end up getting sucked into a cycle of chugging multiple kopi gao to manage your sleep deficit.

Let’s say you are well rested and you typically go through one to two cups of caffeine a day. What should your choice of drink be exactly - to make sure you get to reap the benefits you read and hear about?


Lighter is better than dark 

More often than not, darker pigment foods contain more antioxidants. That was thought to be the case for the coffee bean too, up until a recent study discovered that lightly roasted coffee may be in fact, better than dark.

The lighter the blend, the higher the antioxidant activity and anti-inflammatory properties. With this knowledge in hand, and being fully aware that the root cause of our modern-day diseases is inflammation built up over extended periods of time, you could put two and two together.

Interestingly, the same study found that caffeine levels in light and dark roasts barely varied. Now if there’s no difference in that, then why not opt for the blend that has shown to have more powerful effects on your health?

By that, we mean lightly roasted black coffee - neat. No sugar, no cream.

Unlike coffee beans, not all tea leaves are roasted. Neither should their nutritional benefits be compared based on whether they are light or dark. 


Green is supreme but black is stronger

Green tea is superior to other teas because of its high concentrations of antioxidants. Ten years ago, scientists had already concluded that this tea contained a particular antioxidant, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), that stops cancer cells from reproducing and can even kill them. It is also considered one of the least processed teas, hence the healthiest.

While we all know that green tea contains less caffeine than coffee - which might be a bummer, its low stimulant content is actually sufficient to produce a similar effect without giving you that jittery feeling.

If anxiety gets the better of you, try replacing your daily cup of coffee with this magical green liquid. You will still get that “buzz” but at a milder, more manageable level. Some people even reported being more productive when on green tea, compared to coffee.

Okay, say this experiment falls flat and you find yourself defence-less against your midday sluggishness, then switch up to black tea instead. It has the highest caffeine content among all teas and it is no wonder why these beautiful black leaves are the most widely sought after in the world. It also explains why teh-o kosong, made using black tea, is one of the more popular tea beverages among Singaporeans.

Before making adjustments to your daily caffeine intake, reminding yourself why you decided to make this change in the first place, is crucial.


Perspective is everything 

Choose to see this as a small but important step to upgrading your #selfcare routine. More than simply just moderating your caffeine fixes, these changes no matter how minute, can impact your overall well-being. 

At the end of the day, it boils down to how you perceive it. Whether it's caffeine, your anxiety, or your life - if you fail to take control, it will control you.

While you can’t control every aspect of your life, there are some things you can do for peace of mind. Getting a comphrehensive coverage for example, is one of the ways you can take control of your future. 

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