It can improve your energy, lift your mood, decrease your chances of contracting several diseases, and even help you lose weight. Sounds like a miracle drug, right? Then it might surprise you to know that it’s likely already a big part of your diet.
This miracle drug is caffeine, a natural stimulant found in about 60 plants. In nature, it serves as an insecticide, but when consumed by humans, it is most well-known for the boost in energy it provides. According to a 2015 study, 89 percent of adult Americans consume caffeine, taking in an average of 211 milligrams per day. Of that, 98 percent comes from drinks such as coffee, tea, and soda, but what about that other 2 percent? For those who still want the benefits caffeine offers without drinking coffee or soda, the market has exploded with companies offering a variety of ways for consumers to get that daily fix.
More than Skin-Deep
Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the potential health benefits of caffeine, and manufacturers have responded to this trend by offering new – and stranger – products that tout the benefits of the caffeine they contain. While most people get their caffeine through food or drink, a few innovative minds are experimenting with new methods of delivery.
Caffeinated leggings were claimed by the manufacturer to encourage size reduction and smoother skin. Though the manufacturers very carefully never mentioned weight loss, the leggings became popular among those wishing to shed a few pounds. However, a lawsuit filed in 2014 claimed that the size-reduction claims were baseless, and while you can still find the products from some retailers online, caffeinated clothing for weight loss seems to have fallen from grace.
While caffeinated clothing has fallen by the wayside, wearable caffeine is an idea still being explored. One of the most recent ideas has made waves on social media – a caffeinated bracelet. The Joule bracelet uses a refillable patch compartment on the inside of the bracelet to deliver caffeine through the wearer’s skin. One patch is the equivalent to one cup of coffee, but the dose is delivered over a four-hour timespan, preventing the jittery feeling that some people experience when they drink too much caffeine at once. The bracelet is not in production yet so no reviews are available, but the idea is certainly popular – with 16 days left in their crowdfunding campaign, the folks offering the product had already financed more than three times their goal of $15,000. For those who like the patch idea but don’t want to bother with the bracelet, caffeine patches are available from many major retailers.
Caffeinated options are also available for several hygiene and beauty items. Reviews vary, but studies have shown that caffeine can be absorbed by the skin, so it’s entirely possible that these products may actually be able to deliver the energy they promise. Some of the options available are:
- •Soap, though the benefits of this method are debatable, with most scientists claiming it isn’t in contact with the skin long enough to absorb enough caffeine to be noticeable.
- •Lip balm, but no information is available on how much caffeine is actually in the product.
- •Toothpaste, whose makers claim you can feel the effects of the caffeine within seconds of use. While there is no information on how much caffeine the product contains, the makers say one brushing session offers the same amount of energy as a cup of coffee.
- •Makeup, which claims the caffeine in the formula helps tighten pores and lines on the face. No claims are made regarding energy resulting from its use.
- •Sprayable caffeine, as its name suggests, is a caffeinated liquid made to be sprayed on your skin. The spray is not scented and allows the user to adjust the caffeine intake by how many sprays he or she chooses to use.
While there are several ways listed above to get your caffeine without ingesting it, food and drink are still the most popular ways to get an energy boost. Coffee, soda, and tea are the most common ways of getting caffeine, but other caffeinated food and drink options are available. Matcha is a drink made from powdered green tea leaves, but it is not steeped, meaning it is not actually a tea itself. This drink is expected to grow in popularity throughout 2016, with caffeinated giants such as Starbucks experimenting with matcha at their Starbucks Reserve location in Seattle. Caffeinated water is another trend to keep an eye on, with companies such as Water Joe popping up to offer this healthier alternative to soda. Water Joe has about as much caffeine in a 1-liter bottle as a cup of coffee, and it is calorie-free and unflavored. The caffeinated water from Water Joe is currently in distribution in several states throughout the Midwest and ships nationwide.
If you’re looking for a chewier method of getting your caffeine in, there are options for you as well. Perky Jerky is beef and turkey jerky that contains guarana, a berry that in its natural form contains about twice as much caffeine as coffee beans. For your morning kick, caffeinated cereal may be more your speed. ThinkGeek offers a ‘hyper-caffeinated’ sweet cereal called Spazztroids, or you can go with a more traditional caffeinated flavor with Coffee Cereal. Those with a sweet tooth may enjoy some caffeinated candy, with options including chocolate, mints, ice cream, and gum.
Feeling brave? Try adding some caffeinated hot sauce to your meal. If that’s too much flavor for you, you can go in the opposite direction and choose no flavor at all by getting your caffeine from an inhaler, where one pump contains an amount of caffeine equivalent to a cup of coffee
As common as it is, it’s easy to forget that caffeine is, in fact, a drug, and ingesting too much of it can be dangerous, and even deadly. In 2008, a caffeinated alcoholic beverage called Four Loko became popular, with one can of the drink containing the same amount of caffeine as three cups of coffee and the same amount of alcohol as three beers. After several reports of serious sickness, the FDA issued a warning and in December 2010, the drink was reformulated, with the new version containing no caffeine.
More recently, the FDA has had to issue a warning against the use of powdered caffeine, which is believed to have caused the deaths of at least two people. It’s become popular among young people and athletes as way to consume caffeine in its purest form without having to drink sugary sodas, but experts warn that the powdered caffeine is so potent that there is no reliable way to measure out a safe dosage in a home kitchen.
As more caffeinated products have become available, hospitals have reported an increase in caffeine overdoses, with a large majority of the cases being in children and teens under 18. The latest edition of the DSM-5 even lists caffeine withdrawal as an actual mental disorder, bringing caffeine usage into the medical spotlight.
All that said, caffeine has a whole slew of health benefits when used responsibly, including pain reduction, improved memory, and preventing diseases such as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, and cancer, so by no means should you feel compelled to cut it out of your diet; just be aware of how much caffeine you ingest and caffeinate responsibly.