A fresh cup of coffee, seen from above against a cream-coloured background.
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Is coffee good for you?

Centr x Lifespan.io

Centr has partnered with Lifespan.io, a nonprofit leader in longevity science journalism and advocacy, to bring you the latest research on aging and rejuvenation. Learn more about our partnership below.

Starting the day. Going into a meeting. Catching up with friends. Afternoon slump. Staying up late. What do we turn to? COFFEE.

No matter how badly the barista butchers our name or how often they get our order wrong, we keep coming back for more – consuming more than two billion cups of coffee around the world each day.

A quick glance at the Centr community also tells us that coffee has fueled countless workouts for members. But is coffee good or bad for us?

And while we’re on the topic, are there any decaf coffee benefits? And is coffee better for us than energy drinks? And most importantly, how many cups per day can we get away with?

Put the pot on to brew and let’s answer all your coffee questions.

Centr trainer Alexz Parvi stands in a kitchen holding a fresh cup of coffee, with a pleased expression on her face.

Highly-caffeinated fact: the people of Finland consume the most coffee per person, at a whopping 26lbs (or 12kg) per year.

The health benefits of coffee

First up, caffeine is not the only thing in your morning cup (and we’re not talking about that big scoop of sugar you added). Coffee actually contains more than a hundred biologically active chemicals, including polyphenols – potent antioxidants with multiple health benefits.

A recent study tapped into the UK Biobank and found that coffee intake of up to 5 cups per day was associated with significant reductions in the risk of cardiovascular disease, heart failure, coronary artery disease, stroke and various arrhythmias (where the heart beats abnormally).

That’s great news for your health in the long term, but what about the day-to-day benefits?

“Research has shown that caffeine can increase mental alertness and concentration,” explains Centr nutrition expert Angie Asche. “It’s also been shown to help improve athletic performance – boosting power and endurance, and helping you push further before you reach exhaustion.”

How does caffeine give us a lift? It all relates to neurotransmitters – tiny chemical messengers that carry signals from one nerve cell to the next. We’ll let Angie explain the neurotransmitter trio behind the boost:

  • Adenosine is the ‘calming’ neurotransmitter. When caffeine binds to it, it overpowers the feeling of relaxation, helping to boost focus and attention.
  • Caffeine also increases the release of the ‘happy’ neurotransmitter dopamine, boosting motivation and excitement, therefore lifting our mental alertness and performance even further.
  • Levels of epinephrine (which you may know better as adrenaline) also lift, boosting your exercise performance largely due to its effect on heart rate and blood flow.

Centr trainer Alexz Parvi sits on a couch with a Macbook on her lap and a cup of coffee in her hand.

Coffee and focus time: a classic combo.

Instant coffee vs ground coffee

The kind of coffee you drink matters. The UK Biobank study compared ground coffee against decaf and instant – finding ground coffee had the greatest health benefits.

As well as being the least processed, coffee ground from beans consistently outperformed the other two types, providing greater protection against all causes of death.

What about the health benefits of decaf coffee? While you may presume the ‘decaffeinated’ factor strips away the effects of coffee, it was linked to reduction in cardiovascular disease and death. But decaf coffee benefits did not extend to arrhythmias.

Now we know a bit more about the benefits, let’s get to the number we’re really hanging on: how much you can drink.

How much coffee is too much?

Give your favorite mug a rinse and get ready: the sweet spot seems to be 2-3 cups per day.

In the study mentioned above, those who drank 2-3 cups made from ground coffee per day saw the biggest risk reduction – they were 27 percent less likely to die from all causes than people who did not drink coffee.

Drawing on her experience with athletes, Angie agrees that this is a good guideline.

“The average cup includes about 100mg of caffeine, so three cups would be about 300gs per day. That’s enough for most people to notice the benefits, without any negative side effects,” she says.

“To get the most benefits, timing is just as important as amount. You will probably need to go through a bit of trial and error to find what works best for you personally. People metabolize caffeine differently and tolerance can vary – while 300mg may be too much for one person, it may not be enough for another.”

Angie also notes that the “dose” of coffee in 1 cup can vary dramatically depending on the brand, beans used, if it’s home brewed and the size of the cup. For instance, while one cup is generally considered to be 8oz, a ‘tall’ from your favorite coffee joint could be 12oz and pack 240g or more of caffeine.

Three glasses of Chocolate Espresso Snack Smoothie, from the Centr meal plan, sit on a table in a tray of ice.

Our Chocolate Espresso Snack Smoothie combines caffeine with quick-release carbs and protein for the ultimate pre-workout boost.

Are there any risks to caffeine?

If you’ve ever felt jittery or struggled to get to sleep after a few cups too many, you know that caffeine can have its drawbacks.

The risks of too much caffeine on Angie’s watchlist are:

  • Increased heart rate and blood pressure, which can be a concern for people with pre-existing cardiovascular disease.
  • In large amounts, it can cause nervousness or increased anxiety in some people.
  • High levels can induce heart arrhythmias, and interfere with calcium levels and glucose metabolism.
  • May cause gastrointestinal issues like gas, bloating and diarrhea, especially in people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
  • High doses can increase your need to pee and lead to dehydration.
  • Some studies suggest there may be adverse effects on fertility and early childhood development.
  • Can cause insomnia and sleep disturbances.

To reduce the impact on your sleep patterns, Angie suggests you keep your coffee consumption to the morning and early afternoon. “Consuming caffeine after 5pm has been shown to interfere with your total sleep time and how long it takes you to fall asleep.”

Should I avoid caffeine?

If you have a heart condition, or have found that caffeine worsens your anxiety or sleep quality, Angie recommends limiting your intake or cutting caffeine altogether.

“Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should also limit their intake,” she adds. “The recommendations for pregnant women are to drink no more than one 12oz cup of coffee per day, or no more than 200-300mg of caffeine.”

Coffee vs energy drinks

If you’re reaching for a can instead of a cup to get your caffeine fix, you may want to stop and rethink.

“Even though they’re called ‘energy’ drinks, these cans often lack all the nutrients you actually need for energy – carbohydrates, fats and proteins,” Angie explains. “While some of these drinks do contain an excessive amount of sugar (which unfortunately won’t give you the long-lasting energy you’re looking for), the majority use artificial sweeteners.”

The caffeine content in these drinks often exceed Angie’s recommended daily limit of 300mg, resulting in unwanted side effects.

“I have noticed that many athletes who consume energy drinks experience sleep disruption,” says Angie. “The drinks usually also contain a proprietary blend of other stimulants on top of what you’d find in a cup of plain old coffee.”

If not a can of energy drink, what does Angie suggest reaching for to keep your motor running?

“Ensure that you’re getting plenty of sleep, consuming a good balance of carbohydrates, protein, fat, then choose natural sources of caffeine like coffee or tea. If coffee tends to give you the jittery feeling, tea may be a better choice as it also contains l-theanine, an amino acid that can improve mental clarity when combined with caffeine.”


Matcha powder, like the kind we use in our Vegan Matcha Latte, is another way to get your caffeine fix with an extra l-theanine boost.

Should I drink coffee pre-workout?

While some take pre-workouts – supplements in which the main energy-boosting element is caffeine – Chris’s trainer Luke Zocchi keeps it simple and swears by his pre-training coffee.

“If you're new to caffeine, I recommend first trying a small amount from a natural source – such as coffee or tea,” says Angie. “For best results, plan ahead and have your coffee 45-60 minutes before your workout. That’s around the time it takes for levels of caffeine to peak in your bloodstream.”

If it’s performance you’re looking for, it’s also important to know your limits.

“Studies have shown that excess caffeine does not give you a further boost in performance, but actually decreases it,” says Angie.

It’s not just coffee

One more thing… Don’t forget that caffeine isn’t limited to coffee, tea and energy drinks. It can also be found in varying amounts in:

  • Cocoa and chocolate

  • Coffee or mocha flavored foods (e.g. ice cream)

  • Some sodas/soft drinks (not just cola!)

  • Kombucha

  • Sports supplements

  • Headache and cold & flu medications

Disclaimer: This Centr content is adapted with permission from articles written by Lifespan.io. The content herein represents Centr’s interpretation of the original source material: 1, 2.

Centr x Lifespan.io

Centr has partnered with Lifespan.io to bring you the latest in longevity research. Lifespan.io is the leading source of industry news and a nonprofit advocacy foundation whose mission is to accelerate progress toward overcoming age-related diseases. Since 2014, the organization has focused on responsible journalism, high-impact advocacy, and media initiatives that make longevity research and education more accessible to all.

Centr x Lifespan.io

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