Coffee: The Good News, The Bad News, and How Much is Too Much

This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in November of 2020 . For the original video go to

Brad: Hi I’m Brad Heineck, physical therapist.

Chris: Hi, I’m Chris, the pharmacist.

Brad: We are here today to do a video on coffee! The good news, the bad news and how much is too much? All from recent research. We are very happy to have Chris the pharmacist here to take how caffeine and coffee and how it works with our bodies and give us the most updated recent research. You’ve done a lot of homework on this, haven’t you Chris?

Chris: Little bit, little bit.

Brad: Yeah, his little bit, believe me it’s complete. Bob is on a coffee break today. Ha-ha, just kidding.

Chris: That guy.

Brad: Coffee, first of all, it is one of the most widely consumed drinks throughout the whole world. It’s right up there in the top 5.

Chris: It’s up there, everybody drinks it. 80% of the planet, so you got 7.8 billion times that by 80%, that’s a large number of people. About 60-65% of Americans drink it on a regular basis.

Brad: If you haven’t noticed, Chris is a numbers person. He knows his stats. Which is also nice.

Chris: It’s alright, I’m a nerd.

Brad: The history of coffee, very briefly, has it been around for a couple hundred years?

Chris: It’s been around for thousands of years. Basically, there’s a fancy cute little story about a goat herder, his name was Kaldi. The story goes that he was watching his goats and basically these goats were eating these berries and he observed that they just wouldn’t sleep at night. They were jumping around and all crazy. He figured out what they were eating, brought it home to his wife. His wife took some and was like, oh my gosh, this stuff really jacks me up. To the point, they were like, we should probably tell somebody. So, what do you do in Ethiopia in 850AD? You take it to the monastery, so they had a monk try it. Basically, at first, they kind of scoffed at it. Then they were like, well, maybe it’s not so bad. It kept me awake during my prayer session. This is a good thing. So, that’s the story of how they essentially came up with coffee. Realistically, the Persians, Ottoman Empire, Ethiopia, all those areas seem to have had all around the same time been trading coffee. Went to the 1500’s, and then it was more or less started to expand towards Europe. In the 1600’s, brought to the United States and here you go.

Brad: We have Folgers and everything.

Chris: The whole nine yards!

Brad: We’re going to refer to one cup of coffee. We’re going to talk about the good news, and the bad news. Let’s start with the good news. When we refer to a cup, let’s define what that is, according to most studies.

Chris: Yeah, coffee ranges all over the map. That’s one of the problems is nobody knows what they’re getting in a cup of coffee. So, to standardize it, we’ll assume that one cup of coffee, which we’ll call it eight ounces, contains 100-milligrams of caffeine.

Brad: Okay, eight ounces, and I’m not even sure if this is exactly eight?

Chris: That looks more like six, you know. If we pour it out, we could get a volumetric measure.

Brad: We’ll hold on that.

Chris: Yeah, I mean, so the average cup of coffee and again, it’s going to vary, we’ll just assume 100-milligrams.

Brad: 100-milligrams of?

Chris: Caffeine in the coffee. Caffeine in a lot of cases is the simulant that causes a lot of the effects. But not always. I mean, maybe we have to ask what’s in coffee. Coffee’s got a lot of good stuff in there. It’s going to have some essential vitamins, a few of your B vitamins, like B6, pantothenic acid/B5. It’s also going to have a little magnesium, potassium and of course the flavonoids, chlorogenic acids. There’s a lot of fancy stuff in coffee that does a lot of good things for a body. As we get into some of the health things that it helps, we’ll kind of break it down.

Brad: So, the big thing everyone is aware of, the caffeine. So, caffeine has good effects and maybe some bad effects?

Chris: Good and bad. That’s one of those things that you want to kind of be aware of with your doctor, guys. It’s one of those things where, if you have a heart condition, an anxiety condition, probably not the best thing to be taking. Because of what caffeine does, it’s got kind of an adrenergic effect, it’s kind of jacks you up a little bit. We do have to be kind of careful with that, for our friends that maybe shouldn’t be on it. Always check with your doctor.

Brad: I think we were talking before, typically the symptoms that are bad are oftentimes, you’ll know it. You’re jumpy, you don’t feel right. If you’re that person, you just stay off of it. Or stay away from it. The other thing I was going to say is, now I can’t remember what I was going to say Chris!

Chris: That’s okay. The interesting thing is there’s probably a genetic predisposition to people that actually drink coffee.

Brad: That’s where I was going.

Chris: It’s metabolized by a specific enzyme in our livers, so if you’re playing score at home it’s the C1A2, which will glaze everybody over. That particular pathway in our bodies and in our liver, when people drink coffee and aren’t really bothered by it; we all have those friends that can drink a cup of coffee and then go right to sleep. I’m not that guy. People don’t like me on caffeine. It’s a bad thing. So, there are other people that it metabolizes a lot longer. From that standpoint, they naturally tend to avoid it. They recognize the symptoms of taking too much coffee makes them jittery, makes them jumpy, raises the heart rate, makes them anxious. It’s one of those things where we want to try to avoid it. They know how to avoid it. Although there’s actually more and more accidental caffeine overdoses being seen in the ER’s.

Brad: From coffee?

Chris: Coffee and/or more likely energy drinks. We’ll sidebar that for another day. But if we’re sticking with coffee at hand, I mean, those are the negatives.

Brad: Let’s get back to some of the good things. That’s what I wanted to get in to. I sidetracked things. So, we talked about fitness. People who are marathon runners, people who are doing some aggressive things.

Chris: Yup, cyclers, swimmers, rowers.

Brad: They are actually, taking caffeine in what form?

Chris: Yeah, well usually just a cup of coffee. And basically, when coffee hits your lips, into the system, you’re going to start to feel the effects within about 15 minutes, maximum response, about 45 minutes to an hour, and then it lasts for about 4-5 hours in your system.

Brad: We are talking about that rush, that buzz, from the caffeine? How does that relate to making you faster?

Chris: Well, it’s kind of interesting. They’ve done a lot of studies on endurance athletes. Cyclists, marathon runners particular, but they’ve also look at swimmers and we’ll talk a little bit about team sports. Marathoners and cyclists in particular, caffeine when you take it before a race, tends to increase your metabolism. In fact, cyclists have been putting out more power, so they test their muscles. You could probably speak to that a lot more effectively than I could. They’re putting out about 17% more power on caffeine. Some of the studies show like 200 mg before, 400 mg before, 100 mg before.

Brad: So that’s like, 1-4 cups of coffee?