Coffee was so important in wartime America during World War II that the government rationed it briefly so soldiers could get enough. Coffee was one of four staples for Civil War soldiers, along with beans, beef and hardtack. After Boston Tea Partiers dumped that tea in the harbor during the Revolution, coffee drinkers were considered patriotic.
Coffee can give a soldier the alertness he needs in times of prolonged sleep loss or during dangerous combat situations.
When people think of caffeine, they often think of the coffee beverage or coffee beans, which today are indeed the biggest source of the stimulating chemical in the world. But several popular plants worldwide contain caffeine that have been made into delicious food and drinks from antiquity.
Caffeine can boost athletic stamina and speed so much that the International Olympic Committee once limited how much of it Olympic athletes could take. Caffeine was categorized as a performance-enhancing substance.
The regular athlete might not be able to run a marathon in 2:02.57 like Dennis Kimetto, but maybe after an invigorating jolt of java you can one run just a little bit quicker and burn some fat in the process. Caffeine can improve performance by 1.5 to 3 percent, recent studies show. And the amount needed to give the boost is no more than that in an 8-ounce cup of coffee or an energy drink or two.
Caffeine keeps you alert, enhances concentration, alleviates fatigue—so it would only be good to drink copious volumes of caffeinated beverages before an exam in school, right?
Wrong, say experts. In fact, too much caffeine can interfere with memory processes. On a history exam, when you’re juiced on java you may be floundering around trying to remember just who won the Battle of Waterloo (it’s complicated, but allied troops under the Duke of Wellington defeated Napoleon Bonaparte’s Grand Armée, if anyone can be said to win in a war).
Sages and philosophers from various world traditions have counseled “Everything in moderation,” and, stated another way, “Nothing in excess.” These aphorisms apply to caffeine, too, because too much of this otherwise beneficial chemical can cause insomnia, nervousness, muscle tremors and stomach upset.
When people talk about having “a cup of coffee,” they don’t necessarily mean 8 ounces (236 milliliters). For example, many people go for the large size of coffee at McDonald’s restaurants and Starbucks, at 20 ounces (591 milliliters). Or at home, they may have a 12- to 16-ounce mug.
So when you read guides online that say an 8-ounce cup of drip java has about 163 mg of caffeine, you can more than double the amount of the stimulating chemical for a 20-ounce size. Drip coffee is the kind that drips through a filter to produce that cup or mug of the elixir that so many people say they can’t start their day without.