There is a ritual to the first cup of coffee, or tea, during the day. It has been a centerpiece to many humans’ mornings for thousands of years, and our understanding of it has been growing more and more since that first cup of tea 4755 years ago. A big reason we are drawn to coffee and tea is because of the natural caffeine that is present when brewed.
Caffeine is apart of a class of drugs known as stimulants that arouse your brain and central nervous system. When you drink it, it gets distributed into your bloodstream fairly quickly, where it travels to the liver to get filtered in order to affect our various organs. There are a lot of quirky side benefits to this, like boosting your metabolism and protecting against heart disease, but the main effects of caffeine are on the brain.
Caffeine affects the adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is the neurotransmitter primarily responsible for making you feel tired. Caffeine can block this by connecting the adenosine receptors in your brain without actually activating them, causing you to feel more alert by reducing your drowsiness. As it does this, it promotes the production of catecholamines in your brain, like dopamine and epinephrine, to put that little extra pep in your step. What’s more, caffeine boosts your cognitive health, increasing your memory and thinking skills. This contributes to that mental acuity many feel when they drink it, and why it’s so popular to take as you work or game.
A Small Difference
A lot of people think that caffeine is found in chocolate, and while it might be found in some special blends, the real chocolatey stimulant is theobromine. There’s a subtle difference between the two.
Caffeine and theobromine are in the same methylxanthine chemical family, which are the types of chemicals that will bind to those adenosine receptors. Xanthine is found in most human tissues and fluids, as well as produced naturally by both plants and animals. A methyl group is a little carbon with three teeny tiny hydrogens attached, and the addition of one or multiple methyl groups can determine whether or not certain molecules, like caffeine or theobromine, are able to cross our blood-brain barrier, enter our brains, and affect our central nervous systems. The difference between caffeine and theobromine is just one of these methyl groups! Science!
That one methyl group difference means that, while caffeine can enter into our brain and give us that jolt of brain stimulation and mental acuity, theobromine is relegated to affecting our bodies and acts as a cardiac stimulant and smooth muscle relaxant. It helps get your heart pumping all your blood around to spread around that good-good oxygen, and relaxes the muscles that most of our internal organs consist of. So, while theobromine is opening up your respiratory tract and giving you slow burn of elevated energy, caffeine pierces into your central nervous system to wake you up and get your brain going.
This combined effect is why we decided to include a measured amount of caffeine as well as cacao into our dope AF life potion + preworkout Prelixir, and we didn’t even get to all the antioxidant effects, nutritional values, or health benefits that come along with the rest of the molecules that combine to make up cacao in full!