For a long time, caffeine has been widely accepted as a diuretic. The popular belief is that consumption of caffeine increases urine production, and subsequently increases the risk of dehydration. In recent years, however, there have been several studies that challenge this long-held view and offer a better understanding of how caffeine affects the body. So, is caffeine really a diuretic?
While caffeine does have a mild diuretic effect, consuming it in the form of beverages, such as tea and coffee, doesn’t generally have any impact on hydration levels. In fact, studies have shown that regular caffeine consumers might not have any increase in urine production, because their body adapts to the diuretic properties of caffeine!
Does caffeine dehydrate you?
Caffeine is a stimulant, mostly found in beverages such as tea, coffee, and energy drinks. It’s also a common ingredient in pre-workout supplements. When we consume caffeine, it blocks adenosine receptors in the brain, helping to promote alertness and reduce feelings of fatigue. It also has an impact on the kidneys and therefore can increase urine production.
While, caffeine does have a mild diuretic effect, it’s not actually likely to result in dehydration – becoming dehydrated is far more likely because you haven’t been consuming enough fluids or have been sweating excessively without replacing those fluids. In fact, the water component of caffeinated beverages is generally more than enough to offset any diuretic effects when it comes to hydration levels.
Photo by Marta Dzedyshko
Does caffeine make you wee more?
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and increases blood flow to the kidneys, sometimes causing an increase in urine production. Our bodies can develop a tolerance to this effect, so regular caffeine drinkers may have no impact on their urine output. The diuretic effect of caffeine is actually more noticeable when a person is adequately hydrated and has less of an effect on urine production when a person is already dehydrated! What this means is that taking in enough fluid is more important to maintaining proper hydration than worrying about the diuretic effects of consuming caffeine.
Other health effects from consuming caffeine
Now that we’ve debunked the myth that caffeine causes dehydration, it’s worth mentioning the other effects that caffeine can have on your health. Caffeine can impact on sleep, so it’s best to avoid consuming caffeine late in the day. Some people are more sensitive to the effects of caffeine, so it’s important to understand your own body and adjust your behaviours accordingly. It can also increase heart rate and blood pressure, so if you already run high in those metrics, it may be worth keeping your caffeine intake to a minimum.
Caffeine does contain addictive properties and some people do become dependent on it. If you are consuming a high amount of caffeine and are concerned that you might have developed a dependence, speak to your health professional about ways to reduce your intake and modify your habits.
How much caffeine is considered safe to consume daily?
For most healthy adults, it’s generally considered safe to consume up to 400milligrams of caffeine per day. This could be in the form of tea, coffee, energy drinks, caffeine pills or supplements such as pre-workout blends. This is only a generalisation and safe daily consumption should be assessed based on an individual’s tolerance levels and sensitivity.
What are the benefits to consuming caffeine?
Caffeine is often used for improved alertness and cognitive function, increased metabolism and a boost in physical energy. It can be a daily ritual to kick-start the brain for many people in the form of a coffee, and is a popular pre-workout choice for those who are looking for some extra zip to push harder when training. For example, Australian owned supplements brand Red Dragon Nutritionals, have a popular pre-workout formula, Dragon’s Breath, which contains 200mg caffeine per serve.
The belief that caffeine is a diuretic is a common misconception. While it does have a mild effect on the kidneys, increasing urine production in some individuals, this is actually more likely to occur in people who are already well hydrated to begin with. Inadequate fluid intake is much more likely to cause dehydration than consumption of caffeine, and in fact, consuming the fluid component of caffeinated drinks will often compensate for the diuretic properties anyway.
Caffeine can be a useful stimulant for increased energy and mental alertness, but should be consumed in moderation and individual tolerance levels can vary from person to person.
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