Mix Chocolate and Caffeine To Help You Focus

Sure, you could drink a plain old cup of coffee or a warm cup of cocoa in the morning. Or you could make things much more interesting — and improve your concentration — by adding a healthy dose of chocolate to your morning caffeine fix.

Researchers recently explored the powers of cocoa and caffeine, studying the effects various beverages had on “attention, motivation to perform cognitive work and feelings of anxiety, energy and fatigue.”

For the double-blind study, volunteers drank brewed cocoa, cocoa with caffeine, caffeine without cocoa, and a placebo (flavored and colored brewed water) with neither caffeine nor cocoa. Before they imbibed and then three times after drinking, participants took a series of tests to evaluate mood, attention and their motivation to perform cognitive tasks. Volunteers repeated the tests with each drink at least 48 hours apart at about the same time of day.

“It was a really fun study,” study author Ali Boolani, Clarkson University assistant professor of physical therapy and physician assistant studies, said in a statement. “Cocoa increases cerebral blood flow, which increases cognition and attention. Caffeine alone can increase anxiety. This particular project found that cocoa lessens caffeine’s anxiety-producing effects — a good reason to drink mocha lattes!”

Working for warm drinks

As part of their tasks, participants watched as letters flashed across a screen and had to respond when an “X” appeared after an “A.” They also had to do mathematical equations (subtraction) and had to watch a screen and point out when odd numbers appeared in a row.

Those who drank cocoa had quicker response rates than those who drank flavored water. Those participants who drank cocoa plus caffeine had even higher accuracy rates than those who drank straight cocoa. The results were published in the journal BMC Nutrition.

After the study, which was sponsored by the Hershey Company, the research team from Clarkson and the University of Georgia, concluded:

Brewed cocoa can acutely reduce errors associated with attention in the absence of changes in either perceived motivation to perform cognitive tasks or feelings of energy and fatigue. Supplemental caffeine in brewed cocoa can enhance aspects of attention while brewed cocoa can attenuate the anxiety-provoking effects found from drinking caffeine alone.

“The results of the tests are definitely promising and show that cocoa and caffeine are good choices for students and anyone else who needs to improve sustained attention,” says Boolani.

Starbucks Releasing Bottled Cold Brew In July

Starbucks already offers a variety of bottled beverages for sale at grocery and convenience stores around the country. But if you’re looking for something a little less sweet than a White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino, you don’t have a ton of options, until now. The coffee giant will begin selling bottles of its unsweetened cold brew at stores starting next month. 

Starbucks began shipping bottles of the cold brew to retailers earlier this month and expects the on-the-go drinks to be on shelves starting July 1.

Cold brew, the cool kid on the caffeinated block, is brewed slowly with coffee grounds that are steeped in cool water for an extended period of time — in Starbucks’ case, 20 hours.

Many consider cold-brewed coffees to be a smoother, less bitter drink than hot-brewed coffees, while packing a more caffeinated punch. Like traditional hot coffee, the drink also comes free of sweeteners and creams, as customers can add their own.

Starbucks first began offering cold brew in its coffee shops last July. More recently, the company announced it would add Nitro Cold Brew to the menu at 500 locations starting this summer.

Nitro Cold Brew infuses nitrogen in cold-brewed coffee, which gives it a “smooth and creamy sweetness,” the company said at the time, noting that the drink almost comes out looking like a Guinness beer.

Starbucks isn’t the only coffee shop to jump on the cold brew bandwagon. Dunkin’ Donuts announced this week that it would begin offering the beverage nationwide this summer, Fortune reports.

To begin with, the drink will be available in restaurants in New York and Los Angeles on June 27. More areas will sell the drink throughout the summer. Dunkin’ says the cold brew will be served each day in small batches while supplies last.

Wake Up: 13 Drinks With More Caffeine Than a Can of Red Bull

And you thought Red Bull was bad.

It turns out that while a can of the vilified energy drink has 80 milligrams of caffeine — just one-fifth the maximum amount you should have each day, according to the Mayo Clinic — one small cup of Starbucks drip coffee has more than three times that amount.

Regardless of how you get your caffeine, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s a stimulant withsome positive and negative effects.

And the amount of caffeine that’s in various drinks — or even the same drink from a different chain — can vary dramatically.

Here are 13 drinks with more caffeine than a single can of Red Bull:

  1. One Tall Starbucks coffee
  2. A small Dunkin’ Donuts coffee
  3. One 5-hour Energy shot
  4. One 5-hour Energy shot
  5. One can of Rockstar
  6. A Grande Starbucks iced latte
  7. A Tall Starbucks iced coffee
  8. One bottle of Turkey Hill iced tea
  9. A small cup of McDonald’s coffee
  10. One cup of Pacific Chai
  11. A Mountain Dew Kickstart
  12. One cup of Yerba Mate
  13. A bottle of Naked Juice energy smoothie

Just One Energy Drink Could Increase Risk of Heart Disease, Experts Warn

The jury has been out on energy drinks for some time. The high amounts of caffeine in the drinks can be dangerous in large quantities, which is why health professionals – and these days the bottles and cans themselves – caution you should limit your intake to one or two drinks per day at most (a warning many people, especially young people, disregard).

But what else do energy drinks do to your body? To find out, researchers from the Mayo Clinic looked at the effects of consuming just one 480 ml (16 oz) energy drink, and their conclusion was alarming: the recorded increase in blood pressure and stress hormone responses were so significant that they could conceivably trigger new cardiovascular events.

“Energy drink consumption has been associated with serious cardiovascular events, possibly related to caffeine and other stimulants,” the researchers write. “We hypothesised that drinking a commercially available energy drink compared with a placebo drink increases blood pressure and heart rate in healthy adults at rest and in response to mental and physical stress… which could predispose to increased cardiovascular risk.”

To test their theory, the researchers gave 25 healthy volunteers aged 18 years or older a 480 ml can of Rockstar (pictured above) and instructed them to drink it within five minutes. The group had fasted beforehand and also abstained from alcohol and caffeine for 24 hours prior to the experiment.

On another testing day two weeks removed (in a random order), the same participants drank a placebo beverage designed to resemble the energy drink in taste, texture and colour – but lacking any of the caffeine or other stimulants found in the Rockstar drink, which includes 240 mg of caffeine, 2000 mg of taurine, and extracts of guarana seed, ginseng root, and milk thistle. Gotta love that milk thistle!

What the researchers found when they compared the results of the two drinking sessions was that consumption of the energy drink saw a 6.4 percent increase in average blood pressure.

Further, the average norepinephrine level – the hormone responsible for mobilising the body into action, especially with regards to the fight-or-flight response – increased from 150 picograms per millilitre to 250 pg/mL in those who consumed the energy drink, whereas the placebo elicited only a 140 pg/mL to 179 pg/mL increase (a 74 percent vs 31 percent change, as the researchers point out).

The authors concede that their study is small and is limited to measuring the effects of just one serve of an energy drink, saying more study is needed to measure how harmful these acute changes in stress hormone responses could be in the bigger picture. Nonetheless, the results they’ve already seen may be of concern – especially to those who consume energy drinks in large amounts.

“These acute hemodynamic and adrenergic changes may predispose to increased cardiovascular risk,” the authors write. “Further research in larger studies is needed to assess whether the observed acute changes are likely to increase cardiovascular risk.”

This Caffeinated Peanut Butter Could Replace Your Morning Coffee

You can now eat a caffeinated peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead of drinking a cup of coffee. The food product company STEEM now offers caffeinated peanut butter with as much caffeine as two cups of coffee in one serving, according to the company’s website. If you’re expecting a coffee flavor, though, you’ll be disappointed: The caffeine has been extracted from coffee beans sourced from a Virginia company that specializes in any type of vitamin or supplement that might call for caffeine in a tasteless form.

To find out how much of an energy boost you can get from STEEM peanut butter versus other products, we compared the amount of caffeine in various products, both caffeinated and decaffeinated.

STEEM peanut butter is right at the top of caffeinated options, second only to a 5-Hour Energy shot, though one thing to keep in mind is that caffeine levels do vary in individual products (the Mayo Clinic has a roundup of the potential variations).

Owners Keith Barnofski, Chris Pettazzoni, and Andrew Brach don’t expect everyone to replace their morning coffee, though. Barnofski says he still drinks coffee because he likes the taste of it. But when he compares the benefits of caffeine in coffee versus STEEM peanut butter, he says it’s not quite equal, citing jitters, heart palpitations, and stained teeth as potential downsides of drinking coffee for some people.

“You almost get a concentration of the caffeine, and it wears off quicker,” he says about drinking coffee. “The peanut butter lasts for a longer time so it tends to be a little bit more mellow of a caffeine experience.”

If you’re not willing to give up your early mornings sucking down the evil bean, Barnofski recommends eating the peanut butter plain as a snack. “You basically you have your snack and your pick-me-up all at the same time.”

The Best Coffee Freebies You Can Get Today for National Coffee Day

If you need caffeine every day like you need air to breathe, today is your big day: National Coffee Day is Sept. 29, and with it comes a slew of offers from U.S. java joints for free or discounted coffee. We’ve got the goods on where to score your cheap fix in honor of such an important day.

As always, some deals might not be offered at your local restaurant or chain, so call ahead to make sure you don’t get there and face disappointment.

Dunkin’ Donuts: Customers can get a free medium cup of Dunkin’ Donuts hot or iced dark roast coffee, with a one-per guest limit at particpating locations.

Cumberland Farms: Customers can text the word FREECOFFEE to 33733 using their smartphone to receive a coupon for a free hot or iced coffee, in any size, all day long. The coupon must be redeemed on National Coffee Day, Sept. 29.

Peet’s Coffee & Tea: Free small cup of Peet’s Major Dickason Blend with any purchase of a baked good, oatmeal or fresh food item.

Panera Bread: Rewards members have been able to score a free coffee every day of September, so that deal will still be in place for National Coffee Day.

Wawa: Free coffee in the size of your choice.

Krispy Kreme: Customers can get a free small coffee (12 o.z.) aaaaand a free original glazed donut. Krispy Kreme awards members get double points with purchase on Tuesday when you purchase any coffee drink.

Whole Foods: Stores nationwide are offer 12-ounce cups of coffee for $0.25 through September.

Tim Hortons: Get any size coffee in Regular or Dark Roast for just $1 at participating U.S. restaurants.

McDonald’s: Participating McDonald’s restaurants in Connecticut and Western Massachusetts are giving out free small coffees, so it’s worth calling your local restaurant to check if they’re offering a similar deal.

Sheetz: Free Kick in the Beans coffee at Sheetz locations in Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Ohio and North Carolina.

Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf: Iced coffee, flavored iced coffee and iced Americanos for half off all sizes all day at participating locations. Iced, because this is Southern California we’re talking about.

Maui-Wowi: Customers shopping online can get 50% off with the coupon code ALOHACOFFEE. It’s not immediate coffee in your mouth, but it is a discount.

Caribou Coffee: Instead of giving people free coffee, for every cup of Amy’s Blend coffee purchased on Sept. 29, Caribou will donate a cup of coffee to nurses and families in cancer centers throughout the country.

Starbucks: The mega-coffee chain is also eschewing the free coffee route, and instead says it’s celebrating the occasion by honoring the families and farmers behind your cup of morning coffee. It’s launching an initiative called “Starbucks One Tree for Every Bag Commitment.” Over the next year, every time someone buys a bag of coffee in a Starbucks store, a tree will be planted in a community that needs one on their behalf. Starbucks is also planting 1 million coffee trees in farming communities that need help.

Science Explains That You’re Probably Drinking Coffee at the Wrong Time

So many of us wake up in the morning and immediately seek out coffee like the brown water addicted fools we are. ASAP Science, however, explains that that is completely the wrong way to do it. We’re not maximizing the caffeine or our body’s natural energy, instead, the right way to drink coffee is to wait.

It sounds blasphemous but science ain’t always what we want to hear.

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Signs That You’re Actually in a Relationship With Coffee

1. Your idea of a perfect date is just you, a cup of coffee (with a full pot on standby), and a good book.

2. It’s the first thing you think about every morning. The only thing that convinces you to get out of bed is the beautiful coffee aroma that wafts into your room every morning. You would take that smell over sweet nothings whispered in your ear any day of the week.

3. You think it’s beautiful at all hours of the day, no matter what it looks like. Hot, iced, latte, black, any form it chooses to take, you love it just as it is.

4. If you ever had to choose between the boyfriend/girlfriend and coffee, you would choose the coffee. A life without coffee is no life at all.

5. You spend all of your extra money on it. Oh my gosh, this mug would look great around my Morning Joe. I should really upgrade my grinder to make sure my coffee is getting the absolute best treatment…

6. You can’t imagine a future without it. It’s always been there for you; it will always be there for you. Your life will always include coffee. Always.

7. It’s constantly on your mind. Constantly. Where’s the closest coffee shop? Do I have time to go grab a cup? What kind should I get? Oh god, I miss it…

8. You only want to go places if you know coffee will be there. Every event invitation you get is immediately followed by the question, “But will they be serving coffee as well?”

9. It’s always your first priority. If you’ve got a to-do list that includes: grab a cup of coffee, pick Mom up from the airport, and save a cat from a tree, you’re grabbing that cup of coffee first.

10. You ache when you’re apart for too long…. Ok, so this might just be a sign of addiction withdrawal. But really, when you’re crazy about someone, don’t you kind of feel addicted to their presence? I’m counting it. It’s not a problem.

11. Ninety-percent of your Instagram includes pictures of you with your coffee.

12. You feel more comfortable when it’s around. There’s just something about walking around with a mug full of coffee that just puts you at ease. You can talk with people without having to worry about what you’re doing with your hands; it’s great!

13. It’s one of the few things that’s guaranteed to cheer you up on a bad day. It gives you that welcome kick to get through every other obstacle in your day, and no matter how poorly the day’s been going, it’s impossible for you to feel sad when you’re sipping on pure happiness.

14. When you clicked on this article, you took a moment to gaze at the coffee picture, and thought, God damn, that’s beautiful. I should go get some coffee.

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

“Caffeine intoxication” became official in the medical community when the “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders,” known as DSM-5, added the diagnosis last year.

So do cappuccino lovers need to worry about limiting their consumption?

One expert, Matthew Johnson, associate professor in the department of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University, explains how caffeine works in the body and when to cut back.

Caffeine works by blocking adenosine, a neuromodulator in the brain that puts the brakes on excitatory neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. “Caffeine allows these stimulating chemicals to flow, which can have a rousing effect, even at very low doses,” says Dr. Johnson, a psychopharmacologist who studies the influence of drugs on behavior and mood.

Some people will get edgy from a weak cup of tea. For others, a double espresso is required to get them into the shower in the morning.

Most coffee drinkers are familiar with at least some symptoms of overindulging—nervousness, excitement, insomnia, rambling thoughts. But a large majority of people who consume caffeine don’t experience severe consequences, Dr. Johnson says.

There are some case reports of students experiencing major anxiety after drinking a dozen cups of coffee, Dr. Johnson says. But overdosing would be difficult, “unless folks took multiple caffeine pills or drank many cans of energy drinks” such as Red Bull.

It is possible for a person to die from too much caffeine, “but that would mean about 14,000 milligrams, or around 140 8-ounce cups of coffee in one day,” Dr. Johnson says. Consuming that much would be difficult because of coffee’s self-limiting nature. “One cup makes you feel good and alert, but five cups may make you feel like your stomach is cramping,” he says. “You feel wired and you wouldn’t typically be able to go overboard.”

While clinicians may observe benefits and risks of caffeine intake, the effects are still being debated in academic circles, Dr. Johnson says. “The evidence that unfiltered coffee increases LDL cholesterol levels is convincing,” he says, referring to the “bad” type of cholesterol. “But it’s the mortality studies that count the most,” he says.

One study suggests mortality benefits at up to six cups of coffee a day, Dr. Johnson says. Another suggested mortality risks in people under 55 who drink more than four cups a day. As a result, “I would be hesitant to say that we’ve reached any final answer,” he says.

Current research into depression has looked closely at glutamate, one of the neurotransmitters affected by caffeine, Dr. Johnson says. “In a recent study, those who drank two to four cups of caffeinated coffee had fewer depressive symptoms, and the opposite was true for those who lowered their intake,” he says. That doesn’t mean depressed patients would benefit from a steady diet of triple lattes. “If a patient is depressed and predisposed to panic attacks, for example, caffeine might make the condition worse,” he says.

The most convincing evidence indicates you’re probably not at risk for major side effects if you consume up to about four 8-ounce cups of filtered coffee, or around 400mg, early in the day, Dr. Johnson says. “If you’re drinking under four cups a day and not having any side effects, then you’re probably OK,” he says.

Source: Coffee & Bean (Part of the TwinStar Media Network)