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5 Myths About Caffeine — Debunked

January 4, 2023

Fact: caffeine isn’t what you think. This naturally occurring stimulant has gotten an unfairly bad rap in the health and wellness world. But as with most things, there’s more nuance to it. In the case of caffeine, it’s important to separate fact from fiction so we’re aware of how to make caffeine a part of our lives strategically and intelligently.

The truth is, caffeine has a lot to offer by way of our health. From improving brain function to enhancing physical performance, caffeine can be a partner in making the most of our days.

Let’s debunk five common myths about caffeine, so you have a better understanding of what it is and how to make it a part of your routine.

Myth 1: Everyone responds to caffeine the same way.

False. The way you respond to caffeine has to do with your genes, especially one gene in particular, called CYP1A2. Depending on the version of this gene you inherit from your parents, you can either be a fast caffeine metabolizer or a slow caffeine metabolizer. This explains why some people can down espresso shots after dinner and sleep like a baby, while others end up with the shakes after a little too much green tea.

“Caffeine is mainly metabolized in the liver by a liver enzyme known as cytochrome P450, 1A2,” explains Dr. Farshad Shirazi M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of medical pharmacology and pharmacy practice and science at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, and a Monster Energy consultant. That enzyme is coded by the CYP1A2 gene, which means the speed at which you metabolize caffeine is dependent on your DNA.

The gene also influences the benefits you get from caffeine; for example, a study on the effects of caffeine on muscle endurance in male cyclists showed that fast caffeine metabolizers experienced a 4.9% time improvement compared to slow caffeine metabolizers, who only got a 1.8% boost.

So how does this relate to you? You probably already have an inkling as to whether you’re a fast or slow caffeine metabolizer, so all you have to do is be honest with yourself about how much caffeine is healthy for you. In an ideal world, caffeine is used to support our already healthy lifestyle, not make up for skimping on sleep or eating low-nutrient foods that make you feel sick and tired.

Myth 2: Caffeine and sugar are a package deal.

Caffeine and sugar often get grouped together (we’re looking at you, caramel frappuccinos). But in reality, caffeine exists independently from sugar, and there are plenty of zero-sugar sources of caffeine. Try an iced matcha with unsweetened almond milk or a double espresso shot. If you’re looking for convenience and energy in a can, there are energy drinks to consider as well. Monster Energy Zero Ultra flavors also give you a ton of taste, a nice boost of caffeine, and no added sugar. All of these drinks provide the boost you need without the sugar rush/crash, so you can be the best version of yourself.

Myth 3: Caffeine doesn’t have health benefits of its own.

False. Caffeine has the following benefits:

  • Improving memory
  • Increasing energy levels and alertness
  • Providing essential nutrients and antioxidants
  • Helping to detox the liver
  • Relieving post-workout muscle pain
  • Warding off diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Protecting against cataracts
  • Reducing kidney stone risk
  • Boosting metabolism and preventing weight gain
  • Lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes
  • Reducing inflammation

Myth 4: Caffeine is only in drinks like soda, coffee, and energy drinks.

Caffeine isn’t just found in coffee, soda, or energy drinks; in fact, it occurs naturally in an array of different foods and plants, including chocolate, guarana berries, guayusa, and the yaupon holly.

Chocolate is an important one to remember; if you have insomnia or restlessness before bed, you might want to try cutting out any chocolate-based desserts after dinner. Though chocolate doesn’t contain a lot of caffeine — typically about 10 milligrams per ounce, which isn’t much compared to a cup of coffee’s 100 milligrams — if you’re a slow caffeine metabolizer, even a small amount of chocolate could be keeping you up.

Myth 5: Energy drinks contain dangerous levels of caffeine.

Actually, compared to a typical cup of coffee, many energy drinks contain a totally reasonable amount of caffeine. For example, a 16-ounce Starbucks coffee contains about 300 milligrams of caffeine, while Java Monster Mean Bean contains 200 milligrams of caffeine.

Whatever caffeinated beverage you’re consuming, make sure to check the label for caffeine content and pay attention to how many milligrams you’re consuming each day. There is “no one-size-fits-all recommendation for daily caffeine consumption because caffeine response can vary based on your weight and other genetic and other environmental factors,” Dr. Shirazi notes — so it’s best for you to learn how much is optimal for you based on your own experience.

Luckily, “the amount of caffeine is listed on the labels of Monster Energy and other mainstream energy drinks, [so] these beverages can provide greater certainty regarding caffeine intake levels,” he notes.

Want to know how to feel more energized without the crutch of sugar? Check out our guide to staying energized without relying on sugar. We promise that with a few tweaks to your routine, you’ll be moving through your day with some serious pep in your step.

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