Ahhh…. Joe, Java, Wake Up Call, Mud, Go Juice… There are as many nicknames for coffee as there are kinds of beans and I love the stuff. Many people love the taste of coffee, but I’m sure most would say that they drink it to wake up in the morning, thanks to the caffeine in it.
So what is caffeine and what does it do to the human body and brain? Why does it make us feel so good? The answer starts in the brain with the neurotransmitter adenosine. You see, adenosine is a relaxant and when it’s produced and it reaches adenosine receptors in the brain, you feel sleepy and relaxed. Caffeine blocks these receptors and poor adenosine can’t do it’s job. As a result, we feel more alert and energetic.
While this is the main action of caffeine, there is a domino-like effect that involves many other things like dopamine, serotonin, acetylcholine, and adrenaline systems. With the brain suddenly feeling more awake, the body is fooled into thinking we’re in a fight or flight situation. As a result, the adrenal glands produce adrenaline to give us an extra boost to help us deal with the imaginary man-eating beast lurking nearby. As a result, our anaerobic running capacity, power output and reaction time are all enhanced. What a perfect supplement for an athlete!
And what’s more, with adrenaline pumping, our fat cells free up triglycerides and dump them into the bloodstream for use as fuel. Paired with exercise, fat-burning becomes a cinch, so dieters can see a benefit as well. However, if these triglycerides are not burned with exercise, apparently they simply return to the fat cells for storage. Also, if you’re taking sugar along with your coffee, be it in the coffee itself or in the cake or sweets you might eat with it, your body will burn that first, taking away the potential fat oxidation. And what’s more, your body will be more inclined to burn glucose once it’s tasted it and fat oxidation will likely be impaired for the rest of the day. So if you need some help losing that unsightly subcutaneous fat, drink your coffee black and get some cardio done.
So how do I take my coffee? I make mine black from beans I buy at Kaldi with a shot of MCT oil in it. MCT oil is 100% medium-chain triglycerides, which are very ketogenic, and it encourages your body to burn fat for energy. A bit of MCT oil (product link) will help it stay in fat-burning mode much longer, especially if you skip breakfast or at least eat a zero-carb breakfast. As a rock climber, I like to be as strong and light as possible, which means maintaining a low body fat is in my best interest. Coffee with MCT oil in it is simply one of the tools I like to use to get results and it’s a nice bonus that it tastes so good.
By the way, if you have some time to go out for your coffee before work or on the weekend, check out Zoka in Mejiro, Bridge in Asakusa, Streamer in Omotesando or Jabara in Akihabara. I’m sure there are dozens if not hundreds of other great cafes with knowledgeable baristas in Tokyo, but these four are my favorites.
Just remember, just like with all things moderation is key. So how do you take your cup of joe?