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Caffeinated college student discourse

Caffeine body implication analysis

Published: Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Updated: Wednesday, July 25, 2012 23:07

Red Bull

Josh McKenna — THE BATTALION

Red Bull has biological, chemical implications to our wellness

Highlighting the benefits of a dynamic and healthy lifestyle, this wellness blog serves to educate Texas A&M students about smart food choices and strategic exercise.

Caffeine's triumph

Voltaire, Balzac and Johann Sebastian Bach. In addition to the three having the greatest minds in history as a commonality, they also loved themselves some coffee. From a medical standpoint, caffeine is known as a mild diuretic, a psychoactive substance and a cardiac stimulant. My personal experience with caffeine is one that is deeply-rooted, personal and…well, I'm drinking coffee right now.

Call me crazy (or one of the greats), but without caffeine I just don't have it! And whatever it may be, whether that's staying awake in my fifth class of the day, folding clothes, or travelling for long distances, I just feel secure with caffeine in my body; I feel capable.

Caffeine is extremely useful to students (and professors), especially with our first rounds of tests coming for this semester. But as we sip on the Monsters, the Red Bulls and the 5-Hour Energies, my question will always be: What are the biological, chemical implications of drinking these to our wellness?

Here's a simple analogy to how our brains work without caffeine: In basketball, when a ball enters the hoop, the score increases, and the shot clock is reset. At the end of the time, there are no more shots fired because the time limit has been reached.

Here's our brains: For any moment of the day that you are awake, the neurons in our brains are firing (this is the ball entering the hoop). While all the neurons are firing, adenosine is produced as a by-product (the score registers). Then, these adenosine concentrations are monitored by receptors up to a certain point until your body starts hounding you to sleep (the time limit has been reached).

Caffeine joins the game: A caffeine molecule (C8H10N4O2) has a very similar make-up to adenosine (C10H13N5O4) functioning as a supremely talented adenosine doppelganger. With caffeine in our system, it goes straight to the receptors, saying, "I love you," and the receptors accept it as the real thing. Caffeine doesn't stop there—it actually adheres to the receptors and blocks them from doing their job, allowing other stimulants in our bodies to work more freely. The general consensus is that caffeine is stomping the pedal to 150 mph. This is false. If anything, it just presses the brakes in our mental processes so that we are constantly stimulated for the caffeinated duration. It gets better. Studies show caffeine can increase quantity and quality on straightforward work. It can also improve our abilities to retain and create short-term (declarative, procedural, mechanical) memory, or the memory that helps college students vomit out their information on test day.

Caffeine's dilema

As I was trying to conceal earlier (or, at the very least, I definitely can't hide from it anymore), caffeine is an addictive drug. Among the clarity it brings during study sessions (or going to that 8am), it's almost freaky to understand — caffeine foments activity in the brain using the same mediums as amphetamines, cocaine and heroin. Although this is mild (and thank goodness for that), caffeine is still there, in that classification.

Okay, my coffee cup is down (because I drank it all), but let's think about this.

Caffeine, in its purest form, is from nature. But like all things of evolution, did you ever think or wonder if caffeine was put on this Earth to just give us the opportunity to seize the day? Our Stone Aged ancestors certainly agree, (as they salute with one hand, hold a half-chewed caffeinated tree bark in the other) but no, seizing the day was never in the original format. Caffeine is actually a defense mechanism that developed to kill insects on contact; it first paralyzes them, and then kills them. So I suppose this evolution was never televised because, for humans, it takes a ridiculous amount of caffeine to make us start pushing up daisies. (Please don't try this at home folks.)

The avenues in which college students grab caffeine are numerous. What I want you to be cognizant of is on some bottles, you'll see some obtuse percentages of B3, B6 and B12. In order for these to cause damage, are concentration and mainstream energy bottle equivalents:

B3 (Niacin): In order for Niacin to cause abdominal pain, you need to consume 3000 mg. That's 100 5-hour energies, 150 Monsters, or 200 Red Bulls.

B6: In order to cause minor neurological problems, you'll need 500 mg. That's 13 5-hour energies, 250 Monsters, or 133 Red Bulls.

B12: You'll also need, somewhere between, 100 to 1 billion 5-Hour Energies, Monsters, or Red Bulls to instill something,because as of today, there are no known side effects to too much B12.

(For more information on your favorite energy drink, click here.)

Joey Roberts is currently the 800 meter school record holder of Texas A&M's track team. Upon achieving his bachelor of science in civil engineering in May 2012, Joey plans to explore a master's and doctorate's degree in environmental engineering.  As an avid runner, Joey is passionate about his wellness, which sparked developments in his personal attitude, fitness, and diet.

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