Coffee is a seductress. We all love a boost of caffeine to help improve our focus and attention. Adrenaline from caffeine can make us stronger, perform better, and improve our mood.
But there is a dark side to coffee (ha!).
Sometimes coffee can come with negative side effects. Namely, jittery, anxious energy. Many people consider this to be the only drawback, but there are others including:
- Elevated heart rate and blood pressure
- Nausea and stomach issues
- Jittery, erratic, or non-focused energy
- Diminished sleep quality
Now you know all the “evils” of caffeine, but any psychoactive compound is a double edged sword.
You are also well aware of the enhanced focus to complete your work, additional physical boost during a workout, and alertness to stay awake longer.
How do we get the benefits of coffee without dealing with the problems that come with it?
My preference is to give my body a break from caffeine, but that is a subject for another article. For now, how can you have your cake and eat it too?
4 Common Coffee Side Effects and How to Fix Them
1. Elevated Heart Rate & Blood Pressure
Adrenaline is a hormone associated with the “fight or flight” response in mammals. Consuming coffee will increase adrenaline, which will stimulate this response.
On one hand this is a good thing because your mind and body perform better when it is in an aroused state. Adrenaline is one of the reasons you have better concentration and motivation!
So instead of avoiding coffee, you can get the best of both worlds. You have a couple of options:
- L-Theanine – This amino acid is found in green and black tea. It can help reduce heart rate and blood pressure to a normal state . Tea combines both caffeine and L-theanine, but it require a few cups to see real psychoactive effects. If you buy caffeine and L-theanine together in a 1:2 ratio (caffeine to L-theanine), you will get the best of both worlds.
- Meditation / breathing exercises – Although there are ingredients to counteract caffeine's negative side effects, sometimes simple breathing exercises can have an impact. In the midst of a challenging mental task, slow down, close your eyes, and take 5 slow deep breaths. It can help to bring your heart rate and blood pressure down even if only temporarily.
2. Nausea & Stomach Irritability
One of the biggest complaints of coffee drinkers is nausea, stomach, or gastrointestinal problems. This is often caused by coffee's acidity. On a pH scale, it is considered “very acidic”, which causes secretion of uncomfortable stomach acids.
These acids can cause reflux, nausea, and long term stomach issues if untreated…
…luckily, there are ways to counteract this.
Consuming acidic and alkaline foods at the same time can counteract many of the stomach and gastrointestinal problems. There are plenty of alkaline fruits and vegetables, but I prefer drinking my coffee black and while I am fasting.
Solution: Alkaline spices, roots, etc. Particularly, I like using the following:
Turmeric – Growing up in an Indian household, we ate turmeric a lot. It's relatively flavorless, but has tremendous benefits. Turmeric is filled with curcumin, which is a bioactive ingredient that can help prevent cancer and reduce inflammation. For coffee, it is an alkaline spice that counteracts the acidity of coffee.
Maca – This is a root vegetable used in Peru to improve endurance, but it also has nootropic effects. Maca improves memory and reduces anxiety  (to improve mental performance). Again, this is an alkaline root that can help with acidity.
Reishi mushroom – Fungus isn't the first thing you might think of for your coffee, but reishi mushroom can help mitigate the acidity. It also improves relaxation and enhances your immune system.
I used to wake up and have a stomach ache from drinking black coffee and nothing else; by incorporating these three ingredients you can prevent this from happening.
Alternatively, you can buy cold brew coffee, which is far less acidic than black drip coffee.
NOTE: Decaffeinated coffee does not make a difference. In fact, it can sometimes make the alkaline / acid balance worse.
3. Jittery, Erratic, or Non-Focused Energy
Some people may notice that coffee makes them intensely focused, but comes with erratic energy. You try to focus on one task, but your brain ends up focusing on everything and anything else.
People refer to this as jittery, anxious, and it is definitely ungrounded. Our recommendation is to use similar methods as we have described above:
- L-Theanine – This enhances your attention more than caffeine alone. Numerous studies show combining L-theanine + caffeine is better than either by itself . For me, this combination helps me focus on the task at hand without feeling jittery and ungrounded. It is largely considered the “best beginner nootropic”. If you are buying your own, use the ratio of 2:1 L-theanine to caffeine for optimal effects.
- Butter coffee – I prefer to eat my calories, but it seems that butter coffee (often referred to as Bulletproof coffee) can help with the jitters. The fats add well directed focus to the coffee.
- Meditation / Breathing exercises – See above
NOTE: It is a myth that eating bananas will prevent coffee jitters. It will not solve anything.
4. Diminished Sleep Quality
“How do you sleep at night?”
“I don't drink coffee after 7.” – Parker
Even Jason Statham knows that coffee can negatively affect sleep. Caffeine acts as an adenosine receptor , which keeps you awake even when you would normally be tired.
For a college all-nighter this is great, but sometimes a cup of coffee too late in the day can disrupt sleep quantity and quality.
The half-life for caffeine is 5 – 6 hours, which means half of the caffeine you consume is still in your system. For sensitive individuals like me, that means taking coffee after noon is a bad idea.
Because caffeine remains in your system for so long, sleep is negatively affected unless you also consume L-theanine. Again, this amino acid is shown to improve sleep quality when consumed with caffeine and people with ADHD in general .
Having Your Coffee-Cake and Eating it Too
I covered 4 of the common negative side effects of coffee, but you might have other problems. Some people build a tolerance to caffeine, which renders many benefits dulled. There is no way to avoid tolerance except cycling off caffeine routinely.
Even though we have provided you with alternatives and recommendations to avoid negative side effects of coffee, it might not work for everyone. Be conscious of your own body and test what will work for you.