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    You Ask, I Answer: Caffeine

    coffee-beansThe only unit of energy, nutritionally speaking, is a calorie.

    But caffeine is supposed to give people energy, and I’ve felt its effects myself.

    That said, you can’t gain weight from caffeine alone, so what causes that energizing sensation without calories?

    — Corey Clark
    (Location withheld)

    As a stimulant, caffeine increases dopamine production, which in turn prevents adenosine (a neurotransmitter associated with tiredness) from performing effectively.

    Think, if you will, of adenosine as a lightbulb and caffeine as a dark-tinted cloth that prevents the lightbulb from transmitting sufficient light.

    Caffeine also affects the nervous system by contracting muscles, increasing blood flow to the muscles, and increasing heart rate.

    These nerve impulses can be helpful as far as physical activity goes, which is why a small amount of caffeine prior to a workout is considered beneficial.

    While we’re at it, let’s clarify the term “energy”.

    Calories provide not only “physical energy” but also energy for a variety of bodily functions and cellular processes.

    Caffeine, in and of itself, affects the nervous system and brain and ultimately provides a burst of physical — and mental — energy, but does not contribute to metabolic processes and pathways in the same way calories do.

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