Coffee and Breasts: Good News and Bad News

26 03 2013

Sometimes I feel like my blog can get a bit too serious, so let’s lighten things up. This one is for all the female coffee drinkers out there. A recent study has shown a correlation between coffee consumption and cup size; the more coffee you drink, the smaller your breasts are likely to be.  This could be devastating news for some women, but could actually be very interesting for women who love coffee and feel they might have a bit too much up top.


Regardless of cup size however, there is a more important finding at hand: the more coffee you drink, the lower the risk of breast cancer, especially in women with a genetic predisposition for the disease. The moral of the story? Unless you’re absolutely obsessed with the size of your breasts, get that beneficial liquid into your body and take advantage of all the health benefits it provides! (And if you think the size of your breasts is more important than warding off cancer, you’ve got bigger problems to deal with…)

And since we’re on the topic, let’s address 10 Coffee Myths and possibly the best product ever created.

Do I love coffee? Yes, I do. Also, bacon.

That’s all for now, happy caffeinating!



Coffee Quality & Mycotoxins

7 02 2013

I was going to edit the piece I wrote on coffee this morning, but decided that this topic deserved a short post of its own.

Let me start by making one thing very clear: I am not an expert when it comes to coffee. I do however know a lot about nutrition and the human body and have done a fair amount of research on this subject. Also, I drink a lot of coffee, and think you should too!

What are mycotoxins?

Mycotoxins are toxic chemical products produced by fungi that readily colonize crops. They are not unique to coffee beans, but can grow on any type of crop and be found in any type of food or beverage created from contaminated crops. Ochratoxin is the mycotoxin found in coffee beans and has been labeled as a carcinogen and a nephrotoxin (poisonous to kidneys). Basically all you need to know is that they are undesirable and can cause health problems.

Good beans.

Good beans.

Cancer beans.

Cancer beans.

How are mycotoxins produced?

When coffee cherries are picked, the pulp is removed in order to leave the green coffee bean to dry. There are different processes for doing this, and they have a huge effect on the growth of mycotoxins.

Wet process: The fruit covering the beans is removed before they are dried. This method requires substantial quantities of water. The skin of the cherry and some of the pulp is removed by pressing the fruit by machine in water through a screen. The bean will still have a significant amount of the pulp clinging to it that needs to be removed, and this is done either by classic fermentation or mechanical scrubbing. The beans must then be dried to a water content of about 10% before they are stable. It is during this drying stage where mycotoxins can begin to grow; if the beans are not sufficiently dried or are dried and then rehumidified during packaging or shipping, mycotoxins will develop.

Dry process: This is the oldest method of processing coffee. Immediately after harvesting, the cherry is cleaned and is set out to dry. This process can take up to 4 weeks, and if the cherries are overdried they will be too brittle and produce broken beans, whereas beans that are not dried enough will be extremely susceptible to the growth of mycotoxins (especially because after drying, the cherries are then typically bulk-stored in silos until hulling, sorting, grading and bagging take place). All the outer layers of the dried cherry are eventually removed in one step by the hulling machine.

The dry method is used for about 90% of the Arabica coffee produced in Brazil, most of the coffees produced in Ethiopia, Haiti and Paraguay, as well as for some Arabicas produced in India and Ecuador. Almost all Robustas are processed by this method. It is not practical in very rainy regions, where the humidity of the atmosphere is too high or where it rains frequently during harvesting. Although the majority of coffee beans are processed by the less expensive dry method, these beans are far more susceptible to mycotoxin growth than those processed using the wet process.

For more detailed information, please refer to the FAO’s Guidelines for the Prevention of Mould Formation in Coffee.

How to choose mycotoxin-free coffee

This is far from an exact science, but from what I can deduce from the research at hand, here is the best strategy:

As I mentioned this morning, you should be buying coffee beans and grinding them yourself. The absolute best method would be to buy green coffee beans (unroasted beans), and then roast them at home. Coffee beans begin to degrade as soon as they are done roasting, and their quality will last no longer than a week; green coffee beans maintain their quality for upwards of 2 years.

Determining the quality of beans is an entirely different ballgame, but the criteria to look for are beans that have the following characteristics:

1. Mechanical Process or Wet Process; preferably machine washed and machine dried.

2. Little to no fermentation.

3. Arabica beans over Robusta beans. Though Robusta varieties do have higher levels of caffeine, they also contain more mycotoxins.

4. Grown at high altitude/elevation. Mold is less likely to grow at higher elevations; the mountains of Central America generally produce excellent coffee beans.

A few other tips:

5. Avoid decaffeinated coffee; Caffeine actually protects coffee beans from the growth of mycotoxins.

6. Stay away from blends. Though blended coffees may taste good, there really is no  way of telling where the different bean varieties have come from. Try to stick  to single estate products rather than the major brand names.


Is drinking coffee worth the risk?

Yes. Oui. Si. The trick is to find coffee that makes you feel great, rather than coffee that brings you down (if coffee is making you feel terrible, it either contains mycotoxins or you are a slow-metabolizer of coffee, which is a story for another day. Try higher-quality coffee to see if it makes a difference). It will take a bit of research on your part to pick the coffee beans and local coffee shop that are right for you, but the research will be more than worth it when you notice a difference in how you  feel.

Am I still going to drink Tim Hortons and Starbucks from time to time? Absolutely I am. I can’t say I really like the taste, nor do I believe the quality of the beans used in these chains is anywhere near where I would like it to be, but mycotoxins or not the benefits of drinking coffee far outweigh living coffee-free. With that being said, when I’m in the comfort of my own home and have control over exactly what I put in my body, I am absolutely going to do whatever I can to ensure that it is of the highest quality- and I suggest you do the same!

Again, I’m not a coffee expert, but I’d be happy to discuss the topic further if you have any questions!


More Reasons to Drink Coffee- and Why Quality Matters!

6 02 2013

coffee-energyAs you all know, I’m a huge proponent of caffeine. Since drinking coffee seems to be the best delivery method for this wonderful substance, I’ve been doing some homework to try and determine how to get the most out of my coffee.

First, take a look at the following articles to really bone up on the benefits of drinking coffee:

Poliquin’s tip on coffee for fat-loss

The Globe and Mail’s health benefits of coffee

Top 10 Benefits of Coffee to Health, Performance and Body Composition

Linus Pauling Institute Coffee Study

Secondly, as the Globe and Mail points out, it is important to first assess your current state of health before ramping up caffeine intake. Coffee intake should be limited if:

– You have heartburn or reflux disease (GERD)

– You’re pregnant (increased risk of miscarriage).

– You have low bone density or osteoporosis (caffeine can diminish calcium in bones, if your diet is lacking the mineral).

– You already have high blood pressure or insomnia.

Finally, it is only logical to me that drinking high-quality coffee will provide more benefits than a low-grade cup.

Most studies that correlate coffee to fat-loss use green coffee extract (not a regular cup of coffee) as the test substance. These studies have found that there is indeed a correlation. Green coffee bean extract has two useful acids: chlorogenic acid and caffeic acid. Chlorogenic acid seems to be the compound responsible for most health benefits of coffee, due to its antioxidant properties. It helps to decrease free radicals, which are very harmful to cell membranes, and has shown a high potential for boosting metabolism (fat-loss). Chlorogenic acid can also inhibit the release of sugar into the blood.

The issue is that green coffee bean extract comes from unroasted coffee beans, unlike the coffee that we drink. This means that green coffee extract has less caffeine, but more of the compounds that are beneficial to your health. Roasting coffee beans (ie, all the coffee we drink) causes them to lose a lot of their chlorogenic acid. It’s also true that the quality of roasted coffee beans diminishes very quickly after roasting- the beans continue to emit CO2 for roughly a week after roasting. This primarily affects the taste of coffee (bitter coffee is stale coffee), but it would also reason to think that stale coffee beans would have less of an impact on health as well.

With all of this in mind, it only makes sense to me to try and consume the highest-possible quality coffee. This will always be very difficult to do when out at restaurants or even coffee shops, but here are some rules of thumb to high-quality home brewing:

– Choose Arabica coffee beans; these are the highest quality coffee beans. Robusta beans can contain more caffeine, but are of a lower quality.

– Consume coffee within 1 week of roasting

– Consume coffee within 3 hours of grinding

– Consume coffee within 15 minutes of brewing


This means no buying packaged, pre-ground coffee, nor buying large bulk containers of beans. This also means that you’ll need a coffee grinder. It makes the process of coffee drinking a bit more intense, but since I’ve made the change, it’s really no more cumbersome than before- I just have to make a trip to the coffee shop once a week to buy freshly-roasted beans. Oh, and the coffee is much better. Significantly better.

To conclude, coffee is a great substance and (health-permitting) should be enjoyed by everyone- especially by those of us interested in fat-loss.

For more info, you know how to reach me!


Caffeine? Yes please!

13 01 2013

caffeineFor the better part of my life, I was anti-coffee, and didn’t understand the need for caffeine.  It wasn’t until I started strength training that I  began to acknowledge the advantages of caffeine in the diet- taking a caffeine pill prior to my workouts seemingly gave me more strength, and certainly gave me energy to do more work. Eventually I began to drink coffee outside of my workouts, and I now drink a cup or two of coffee most days- along with my cups of green tea and my pre-workout caffeine pills. Yes, I am a large proponent of caffeine, however it seems to get a bit of a bad rap in today’s society, and I don’t understand why. Is it because it is a substance that the majority of us rely on every day? Is it because drinking coffee is linked to other unhealthy lifestyle choices and some chronic disease? Well, yes, this probably has something to do with it, but let’s educate ourselves before jumping to any conclusions.

Why I personally love caffeine

DH Keifer outlines his love for coffee here, and I echo his sentiments. To summarize:

– Caffeine stimulates catecholamine efficiency and sensitivity in your body. Catecholamines (think: adrenaline and noradrenaline) break down fat stores and burn fat. Without the presence of carbohydrates at the same time (read: do not put sugar in your coffee) caffeine  will both stimulate your catecholamine sensitivity and increase fatty acid release from cells.

– Caffeine temporarily increases cortisol levels- which most of us assume is a bad thing- but this raised cortisol means you are breaking down fat, means you have an increased pain threshold (making it easier to get through intense lifts at the gym) and recent research has shown that elevated cortisol during training actually correlates to increased training efficiency; not to mention, caffeine has been shown to increase endurance and make strenuous activities seem easier.

– Caffeine does not spike your insulin and will not make you fat. Sugar in coffee does this. Caffeine + no carbs = fat-burning + muscle-building.

– Taking caffeine pre-workout has shown to increase testosterone levels while training. Enough said.

Other benefits of caffeine

– Evidence suggests that drinking coffee is associated with higher Insulin Sensitivity and a lower risk for Type II Diabetes- drinking 3 to 6 cups each day can significantly decrease the risk of Diabetes (although this is also associated with the antioxidants and phytochemicals in coffee, not just caffeine).

– Caffeine is used in migraine and headache medications, and has been shown to decrease the risk of developing certain chronic diseases (Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s)

– Caffeine does not severely dehydrate the body- this is a myth- as most caffeinated beverages put more fluid into your body than take out of it. As long as you’re drinking a normal amount of water, caffeine won’t have any negative effect on your hydration.

– Have I mentioned the fat-burning properties of caffeine?


How much caffeine should you take?

There is no correct answer for this. We all react differently to caffeine. Some people suffer caffeine intoxication symptoms (restlessness, nervousness, insomnia, and gastrointestinal issues) after ingesting just 100mg (roughly 1 cup of coffee). People with a decreased tolerance for caffeine should not try and force the issue. As with most issues, don’t try to fit a square peg into a round hole- work within your means!

I personally typically drink 2-3 cups of coffee and/or green tea daily. I make a point to drink at least 1 cup of each. On training days, I take an additional 400mg of caffeine pre-workout (or 600mg if I’m feeling crazy).  This adds up to anywhere between 200mg on non-training days and upwards of 1000mg on workout days. I have a high tolerance for caffeine (I don’t find that it makes me more alert, but drink it for the fat-burning and performance-enhancing effects), and most people can tolerate the same doses as me.

I would address caffeine dependence and addiction in this post, but I have little-to-no sympathy for anyone that thinks they’re addicted to caffeine. Get a hold of yourself- only you control your actions.

NOTE: Caffeine overdose does exist. The LD50 (median lethal dose) of caffeine in humans is dependent on individual sensitivity, but is estimated to be about 150 to 200 milligrams per kilogram of body mass or roughly 80 to 100 cups of coffee for an average adult. Although it is nearly impossible to reach this amount through coffee alone, it is possible to get carried away with caffeine pills and other caffeine-containing substances. Don’t be an idiot.

Take-home message

Unless you have a pre-existing heart condition, are pregnant, or have an extremely low tolerance and for the substance, you should definitely try adding caffeine to your diet. The benefits far outweigh the risks and caffeine could be the missing ingredient to achieving your weight-loss or performance goals.

As always, don’t hesitate to send me a message for more details!

Happy caffeinating!