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Caffeine: the most used psychoactive substance in the world

ragazza con tazza di caffè in mano


What it is  Where it is  Use in integratorsi  Risks and contraindications

Caffeine, also known as theine, is an alkaloid naturally present in various plants from which commonly used products are derived, including coffee, tea, cola, guarana and mate. The name of the molecule is due to its discoverer, the German scientist Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge, who in 1819 extracted it for the first time from some coffee beans.

What is it

Caffeine is a psychoactive substance with a stimulating effect, which acts on the central nervous system. It is taken in the medical field but also in everyday life, and, within 45 minutes of taking it, it reaches its maximum concentration in the human body.

As is known, its action reduces drowsiness and increases the heart rate. As a result, the blood supply to the muscles is also increased. Among the lesser known effects, efficacy against migraines was also found.

The average half-life of caffeine is about four hours, but in some subjects the effects can last up to eight hours, after which the molecule is metabolized and excreted in the urine.

Where is it

Obviously, the best known source of caffeine is coffee: in fact a cup of espresso contains about 60 mg. The molecule is also present in tea (theine), in cocoa, in the fruits of the cola tree. The Guarana plant and the drinks made from it also contain caffeine (also called guaranine). Lastly, yerba mate is increasingly popular in Europe, an infusion made from dried maté leaves with stimulating effects.

Caffeine is also widely used in energy drinks, often in combination with other stimulants such as taurine and glucuronolactone.

Use in supplements

Caffeine is mainly used in 3 types of supplements:

  • Supplements for athletes
  • Due to its effects on the blood supply to muscle tissue, caffeine is to all intents and purposes a substance capable of improving sports performance . So much so that its intake is strictly regulated in competitive environments: the concentration of caffeine in the urine of athletes subjected to anti-doping controls cannot exceed 0. 012mg/ml.

  • Fat burner supplements
  • Caffeine intake is a widespread practice for those looking for a slimming aid or for body builders who intend to reduce their weight percentage of fat mass. This is due to the thermogenic effects of caffeine, which increase our body's caloric expenditure and increase the basal metabolic rate up to 15%.

  • Integrators for concentration
  • Coffee and energy drinks, which also contain high quantities of the molecule, are often consumed for the anti-somnolence effect and as a support to concentration by students and workers from all over the world.

    Risks and contraindications

    As with many substances, an abuse of caffeine can present serious risks for our health. Consuming more than 400 mg or about 5 cups of coffee per day can have effects such as nervousness, restlessness, insomnia, and heart palpitations. Caffeine overdose can exacerbate these effects, and taking huge amounts of caffeine (about 80 cups of coffee) can even be lethal.

    Daily consumption of caffeine can lead to addiction, or caffeinism. This pathology often has consequences that lead to worsening of mood and nervousness, but also headaches or muscle pains. These symptoms generally completely disappear two to nine days after discontinuation of the drug.