Java dive: Stimulants like coffee give us short-lived enhancement but leaves us with negative side effects. *Photo supplied
Java dive: Stimulants like coffee give us short-lived enhancement but leaves us with negative side effects. *Photo supplied

We are all guilty at times of reaching for stimulants, whether it is your early morning fix of espresso, an energy drink at lunchtime or that irresistible chocolate bar to get you through the afternoon slump. 

Stimulants conveniently give us the boost we need to get through a hard day’s work but, depending on drugs like caffeine and sugar, make it impossible for us to rebuild our emotional vitality. 

Even weight loss pills are full of caffeine and unpronounceable ingredients.

The part of the seduction is that stimulants give us this short-lived enhancement. We feel happy and euphoric when we consume them but it leaves us with negative long-term side effects just like any drug.

When we use stimulants on a daily basis, it’s like taking one-step forward and three steps back.

The brain secretes the happy neurotransmitter serotonin, which makes us feel lively and upbeat.

When caffeine stimulates the brain, it floods our system with serotonin making us feel fantastic and like we can take on the world. 

After all, stimulants are a drug.

The problem is serotonin resides in the body after this effect wears off and takes us behind the base line of where we felt in the first place. 

The more serotonin we use the further it depletes the brain of its serotonin stores, so we end up in serotonin debt.

Think of the brain like a sponge. The less serotonin in the brain, the more we have to squeeze it to get the neurotransmitter out. 

This means we need more serotonin next time to get the same fix. Starting to sounds like a drug now?

Serotonin also suppresses our appetite and in particular our need for
protein. 

Protein is the building block of the body and rejuvenates serotonin so we are inhibiting its production by abusing it all the time.

This inevitably leads to a downward spiral of vitality and our outlook on life. We become reliant on stimulants and need them more and more. 

Our medicine becomes our poison.

This is why so many of us are prescribed Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors or SSRI’s. This class of drug helps those of us who feel depressed or anxious by manipulating the brain to hold on to serotonin. It’s a very popular drug to be prescribed among children and adolescents.

This age group lives on sugar and Americans consume 158lbs of sugar per year. 

In Bermuda we are not far off that figure. Children and teens love sugar so we have to be cautious about the amount of stimulants our kids are taking. It may be a lot more than you think!

I am not saying prescribing SSRI’s is a good or bad thing and this is always the territory of a medical professional but we do need to look at how stimulants affect our body and make conscious decisions the next time we reach for that can of Diet Coke, order that double espresso or swallow a weight loss pill. 

Colin Ayliffe is a certified Personal Trainer and Holistic Lifestyle Coach with over 10 years experience in training clients. He graduated from the University of Surrey with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sport Science and is also a CHEK Practitioner, Golf Biomechanic and accredited by the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

Colin now blogs at CoconutFitness.com