Coffee – Who can drink it and who should avoid it?

Coffee is one of those things – you either love it or hate it. You know if you like the taste or not (or if it’s just a reason to drink sugar and cream). You know how it makes you feel (i.e. your gut, your mind, etc.).

Not to mention the crazy headlines that say coffee is great, and the next day that you should avoid it!

There is actual science behind why different people react differently to it. It’s a matter of your genetics and how much coffee you’re used to drinking.

NOTE: Coffee does not equal caffeine. Coffee contains between 50-400 mg of caffeine/cup, averaging around 100 mg/cup.

Coffee is one of the most popular ways to consume this stimulant. But… a cup of coffee contains a lot of things over and above the caffeine. Not just water, but antioxidants, and hundreds of other compounds. These are the reasons drinking a cup of coffee is not the same as taking a caffeine pill. And decaffeinated coffee has a lot less caffeine; but, it still contains some.

Check out my interview with coffee expert Tania Renelli here

First, let’s look at caffeine metabolism, its effects on the mind and body, and whether coffee drinkers have higher or lower risks of disease. Then I’ll give you some things to consider when deciding if coffee is for you or not.

Caffeine metabolism

Not all people metabolize caffeine at the same speed. How fast you metabolize caffeine will impact how you’re affected by the caffeine. In fact, caffeine metabolism can be up to 40x faster in some people than others.

About half of us are “slow” metabolizers of caffeine. We can get jitters, heart palpitations, and feel “wired” for up to 9 hours after having a coffee. The other half is “fast” metabolizers of caffeine. They get energy and increased alertness and are back to normal a few hours later.

This is part of the reason those headlines contradict each other so much – because every body is different!

The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body

NOTE: Most studies look at caffeinated coffee, not decaf.

The effects of coffee (and caffeine) on the mind and body also differ between people; this is partly from the rate of metabolism, as mentioned. But it also has to do with your body’s amazing ability to adapt (read: become more tolerant) to long-term caffeine use. If you’re just starting to drink coffee, you’ll feel the effects a lot more than people who have coffee every day.

Here’s a list of these effects (that usually decrease with long-term use):

  • Stimulates the brain
  • Boosts metabolism
  • Boosts energy and exercise performance
  • Increases your stress hormone, cortisol
  • Dehydrates your body due to its diuretic effect

Some of these effects are desirable and some aren’t. You need to see how coffee affects you and decide whether or not it’s worth it.

Coffee and health risks

There are a ton of studies on the health effects of coffee, and whether coffee drinkers are more or less likely to get certain conditions.

Here’s a quick summary of what coffee can lead to:

  • Caffeine addiction and withdrawal symptoms (e.g. a headache, fatigue, irritability)
  • Increased sleep disruption
  • Lower risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s
  • Lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes
  • Lower risk of certain liver diseases
  • Mixed reviews on whether it lowers risks of cancer and heart disease

Many of the health benefits exist even for decaf coffee (except the caffeine addiction and sleep issues).

NOTE: What’s super-important to note here is that coffee intake is just one of many factors that can affect your risks for these diseases. Please never think regular coffee intake is the one thing that can help you overcome these risks. You are health-conscious and know that eating a nutrient-rich whole foods diet, reducing stress, and getting enough sleep and exercise are all critical things to consider for your disease risk. It’s not just about the coffee.

Should you drink coffee or not?

There are a few things to consider when deciding whether you should drink coffee. No one food or drink will make or break your long-term health.

Caffeinated coffee is not recommended for:

  • People with arrhythmias (e.g. irregular heartbeat)
  • People who often feel anxious
  • People who have trouble sleeping
  • People who are pregnant
  • Children and teens

If none of these apply, then monitor how your body reacts when you have coffee. Does it:

  • Give you the jitters?
  • Increase anxious feelings?
  • Affect your sleep?
  • Give you heart palpitations?
  • Affect your digestion (e.g. heartburn, etc.)?
  • Give you a reason to drink a lot of sugar and cream?

Depending on how your body reacts, decide whether these reactions are worth it to you. If you’re not sure, I recommend eliminating it for a while and see the difference.

Recipe (Latte): Pumpkin Spice Latte

Serves 1

6 tbsp coconut milk
1 ½ tsp pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon)
¼ tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp pumpkin puree

½ tsp maple syrup (optional)
1 cup coffee (decaf if preferred)


Add all ingredients to blender and blend until creamy.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use strong chai tea instead of coffee, if you prefer.


What is Metabolism?

This word “metabolism” is thrown around a lot these days.

You know that if yours is too slow you might gain weight.  But what exactly does this all mean?

Well technically “metabolism” is the word to describe all of the biochemical reactions in your body. Yep, your body is a walking chem lab, there’s a lot going on in there. Your metabolism refers to how you take in nutrients and oxygen and use them to fuel everything you do.

Your body has an incredible ability to grow, heal, and generally stay alive.  And without this amazing biochemistry you would not be possible.

Metabolism includes how the cells in your body:

  • Allow activities you can control (e.g. physical activity etc.).
  • Allow activities you can’t control (e.g. heart beat, wound healing, processing of nutrients & toxins, etc.).
  • Allow storage of excess energy for later.

So when you put all of these processes together into your metabolism you can imagine that these processes can work too quickly, too slowly, or just right.

Which brings us to the “metabolic rate”.

Metabolic rate

This is how fast your metabolism works and is measured in calories (yup, those calories!).

The calories you eat can go to one of three places:

  • Work (i.e. exercise and other activity).
  • Heat (i.e. from all those biochemical reactions).
  • Storage (i.e. extra leftover “unburned” calories stored as fat).

As you can imagine, the more calories you burn as work or creating heat, the easier it is to lose weight and keep it off because there will be fewer “leftover” calories to store for later.

There are a couple of different ways to measure metabolic rate.  One is the “resting metabolic rate” (RMR) which is how much energy your body uses when you’re not being physically active.

The other is the “total daily energy expenditure” (TDEE) which measures both the resting metabolic rate as well as the energy used for “work” (e.g. exercise) throughout a 24-hour period.

What affects your metabolic rate?

In a nutshell: a lot!

The first thing you may think of is your thyroid.  This gland at the front of your throat releases hormones to tell your body to “speed up” your metabolism.  Of course, the more thyroid hormone there is the faster things will work and the more calories you’ll burn.

But that’s not the only thing that affects your metabolic rate.

Your physical size counts too!

Larger people have higher metabolic rates; but it’s crucial to take your body composition into account.

As you can imagine, muscles that actively move and do work need more energy than fat does.  So the more lean muscle mass you have the more energy your body will burn and the higher your metabolic rate will be.  Even when you’re not working out.

Hint: This is exactly why weight training is often recommended as a part of a weight loss program.

Cardio burns calories at the time, but building muscle continues to burn calories once you leave the gym. When you think of it this way, muscle building activities (resistance training, lifting weights, etc.) become the obvious choice for toning and weight management. These types of activities build your muscle mass so your muscles burn calories for you.

The thing is, when people lose weight their metabolic rate often slows down which you don’t want to happen.  One way to offset this slowing metabolism is by building more muscle mass.

Aerobic exercise also temporarily increases your metabolic rate.  Your muscles are burning fuel to move so they’re doing metabolic “work”.

What About Nutrition?

The type of food you eat also affects your metabolic rate!

Your body actually burns calories to absorb, digest, and metabolize your food.  This is called the “thermic effect of food” (TEF).

You can use it to your advantage when you understand how your body metabolizes foods differently.

For example:

  • Fats increase your TEF by 0-3%
  • Carbs increase it by 5-10%, and
  • Protein increases it by 15-30%

By trading some of your fat or carbs for lean protein you can slightly increase your metabolic rate.

Another bonus of protein is that your muscles need it to grow.  By working them out and feeding them what they need they will help you to maintain a healthy body weight for years to come.

And don’t forget the mind-body connection.  There is plenty of research that shows the influence that things like stress and sleep have on the metabolic rate.

This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to metabolism and how so many different things can work to increase (or decrease) your metabolic rate.

I want to hear from you. What metabolism boosting exercise is your favourite? How do you make regular ecercise a part of your daily routine? Do you notice a difference in your metabolism when you’re not exercising? Share in the comments below.

Recipe (Lean Protein): Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken Breasts

Serves 4

2 lemons, sliced
1 tablespoon rosemary
1 tablespoon thyme
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 chicken breasts (boneless, skinless)
dash salt & pepper
1 tablespoon coconut oil

Preheat oven to 425F.  Layer ½ of the lemon slices on the bottom of a baking dish.  Sprinkle with ½ of the herbs and ½ of the sliced garlic.

Place the chicken breasts on top and sprinkle salt & pepper.  Place remaining lemon, herbs and garlic on top of the chicken.  Drizzle with melted coconut oil.  Cover with a lid or foil.

Bake for 45 minutes until chicken is cooked through.  If you want the chicken to be a bit more “roasty” then remove the lid/foil and broil for another few minutes (watching carefully not to burn it).

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can add a leftover sliced chicken breast to your salad for lunch the next day.


Grain-Free Chicken Tenders Recipe

September is here! That means routine and healthy eating are back in style (had they ever really left?). Each year the start of the fall months is a reminder to me to stock up on healthy freezer meals for the busy months to come. This is especially easy with all the fresh herbs and spices ready to pick in the garden.

I spent my September long weekend in the kitchen batch-cooking, jarring, and preparing ahead for what I know will be a busy (and exciting) fall. Want some help getting set up in the kitchen? No problem. I offer In-Home Cooking Sessions where we’ll decide on recipes in advance and then spend 3 hours together batch cooking so that you’ll be set up with healthy meals for weeks to come. Interested in having me help you in the kitchen, just ask.

Grain-Free Chicken Fingers one of my favourite freezer recipes to get you prepared for the busy school nights ahead…and they’re kid approved (tested by my nieces).

Channel your inner child with this fun and easy-to-make recipe. A coating of nuts and seeds gives them an extra crunch and a boost of protein and healthy fats. These will leave you feeling energized (instead of weighed down like their fried friends from your childhood).

Tip: These chicken tenders freeze well, so make a large batch to cook and then freeze so you can take them out during a busy week.


10 Chicken breasts (raw, never frozen)
2.5 cups Ground almonds
½ cup Hemp hearts
2 Tbsp. Sea salt
1 Tbsp. Ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. Paprika
1 tsp. Turmeric
2 Tbsp. Dried Oregano
1 Tbsp. Dried Basil
Parchment paper


  1. Preheat oven to 350F. Cover a baking tray with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together ground almonds, hemp hearts and all spices. Set aside.
  3. With a sharp knife, cut your chicken breasts lengthwise into strips about 1” thick.
  4. Spread your “breading” mixture into a pie plate, or similar dish for coating.
  5. Using tongs, coat each chicken strip with the almond flour mixture and place on parchment lined baking tray.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes per side, or until cooked through and slightly brown on the outside.
  7. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  8. Once the chicken tenders are cool you can store them in an air tight container (I recommend lining the bottom with paper towel to absorb condensation) in the fridge.
  9. Once they’ve completely cooled in the fridge, transfer to the freezer for storage up to 4 weeks.

Serve with either of my Mustard Dips (