All Caffeine is Not Created Equally
What is the deal with caffeine? Is it good for me, or is it bad for me? Isn’t it a natural derivative of some of the best natural ingredients in the world – tea leaves and green coffee beans? Studies claim both positive and negative health benefits and, like a lot of natural products – the benefits of New Zealand Grass-fed Whey Protein versus non-Grass-fed, antibiotic-fed Bovine protein, for example – small differences in sourcing and production can make a big difference in the health benefits of the product.
Studies have shown that moderate intake of caffeine in a natural form, such as coffee or yerba mate, can have positive health benefits. These include a reduction in risk of heart attack, reducing risks associated with high blood sugar levels, and lowering the risk of colon issues. However, if you experience hypertension, eliminating caffeine (or reducing it to less than 100mg a day) is recommended to avoid problems associated with raised blood pressure.
Natural sources of caffeine like coffee, many teas and yerba mate (yer-bah MAH-tay) are rich sources of Chlorogenic Acids, a phytonutrient that actually slows caffeine absorption rate and changes gut hormones responsible for insulin secretion. This process can help in lowering blood sugar levels. All-natural sources of caffeine can also be a great source of magnesium, which enhances insulin sensitivity, lowers blood pressure, and is a key mineral that nourishes the brain.
Artificial Sources – Anhydrous Caffeine
Because of the popularity of caffeine, it is not surprising that there are synthetic forms of it as well. But as noted above, a little difference in the sourcing of a product can make big differences in its effect on the body.
One of the most common forms of synthetic caffeine is called anhydrous caffeine. Anhydrous means “without water,” but anhydrous caffeine is synthesized produced by first boiling plant parts (stems, beans, and leaves) in water. When the plants are removed and the water evaporates, a white, crystalline powder remains – anhydrous caffeine.
The process greatly concentrates caffeine’s potency. Anhydrous caffeine is a pharmaceutical substance mixed into medicines, weight-loss and energy products, and a full range of dietary supplements. When it’s an ingredient in foods or beverages, nutrition labels list it simply as caffeine. But in its pure state, the bitter-tasting powder is a highly concentrated drug.
Because of the ability to consume large quantities of caffeine is such small doses, anhydrous caffeine has been linked to negative health effects like increased risk of cardiovascular event and increased risk of type 2 diabetes.
How Much Caffeine is Too Much?
400 mg of caffeine a day is generally considered to be safe for most healthy adults. That is roughly the equivalent of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola or two "energy shot" drinks. A 5-Hour Energy Drink has about 242 mg of caffeine in it.
A lethal dose of caffeine depends on many factors, including a person’s weight, age, and health status. But whether the caffeine is in powdered form or in a cup of coffee, amounts as low as 300 mg can lead to adverse reactions in some people. To approach lethal doses, one would have to consume about 100 cups of coffee before the caffeine in it would kill them, and they would probably be shaking too much after the first few cups to continue (not to mention the nausea and gastric reactions).
Anhydrous caffeine powder, though, is concentrated enough to produce toxic and even lethal effects within minutes, and in as little as a spoonful. Suppliers of anhydrous caffeine powder recommend using a gram scale to accurately measure dosage.
The concern is that many young athletes are now using anhydrous caffeine as an energy boost and pre-workout supplement, yet are unaware of the requirement to keep dosage low. They are accustomed to adding one “scoop” or one heaping tablespoon of a supplemental energy powder to provide the desired energy boost. If they did that with anhydrous caffeine, it could kill them.
The safety warnings on anhydrous caffeine products vary. Some note that 200 mg is the limit, while others warn that 200-500 mg per day is the max.
Yerba Mate vs. Anhydrous Caffeine
If you monitor the correct intake, isn’t the effect of all caffeine the same? While natural yerba mate may be natural compared to anhydrous caffeine, don’t you get the same energy results (assuming I take note of the appropriate dosage amount)?
Research indicates caffeine has different effects depending on its plant-based source. Yerba mate is a holly shrub that naturally contains caffeine. It is native to Paraguay, Argentina, Southern Brazil and Uruguay. The indigenous Guaraní Tribe of Paraná has used it for thousands of years, and the Tribe considered its restorative, uplifting, and medicinal benefits an integral part of the plant’s properties.
Proponents proclaim it has more healing compounds than green tea and, with similar but slightly less amounts of caffeine as coffee, yerba mate possesses unique properties that stimulate the body without inducing crashing or jittery side-effects often experienced with coffee. A 2009 LA Times article noted that some people found they didn’t experience as much of a crash after drinking yerba mate as they did after drinking other natural or synthetic caffeine.
Yerba Mate Benefits
Stimulates the mind and body—induces a sense of wellbeing.†
May support reduction of risk of high blood pressure, bad cholesterol, colon issues, blood sugar issues, obesity, osteoporosis†
Acts as a natural laxative and anti-inflammatory†
High antioxidant (neutralize destructive molecules), with 24 vitamins and minerals, and 15 amino acids.
Appears to be adaptogenic, with high saponin (restorative compounds) and chlorogenic acid content.
Yerba Mate’s Use in Fitness and Athletic Training
Mate has had a long history of use among athletes—including runners, triathletes, rugby players, and footballers—in Argentina, Uruguay, and southern parts of Brazil. As an indigenous shrub native to South America, it is consumed as much or more than coffee.
Recently, yerba mate has gained attention in North America, appearing as Yerba Mate Energy Shots in checkout lines, and even bottled in natural drink sections. The products state they provide performance-enhancing buzz that’s similar to coffee’s. Some well-known athletes, including ultra-marathoner Scott Jurek, and women’s U.S. ski racer Laurenne Ross, have chosen yerba mate over coffee for its energy-producing properties and potential health benefits.
Two points to keep in mind when consuming yerba mate: serving yerba mate at very hot temperatures, as is sometimes done in South America and Asia, has been shown to cause esophageal issues, and like all natural products, sourcing is a key component to consider.
Nutrology Uses Yerba Mate in its Beet Natural Pre-Workout
Nutrology uses 1250mg of premium-sourced yerba mate in each serving of its Beet Natural Pre-Workout. Utilizing this natural source of caffeine, Nutrology incorporates the additional health benefits and antioxidant properties of yerba mate as part of its approach to providing the ideal, all-natural, pre-workout supplement.
†These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.