Do coffee and sugar really give us energy?

Do coffee and sugar really give us energy?

Do coffee and sugar really give us energy?

Have you noticed how much coffee, sugar, caffeine and energy drinks we as a society are consuming? Have you ever wondered why in the last few years there has been an explosion of energy drinks, coffee making machines and people drinking take away coffees out of paper cups? And it seems that a new type of chocolate bar or sweet snack appears on the supermarket shelf almost on a weekly basis?

Perhaps you are one of the people drinking several cups of coffee a day and tucking into sugary snacks, so for you this is a normal way of life and you have never given it a second thought or ever wondered why you/we need so much coffee and sugar. After all, you love a good cappuccino or shot of espresso and what harm could a bar of chocolate at morning tea and a cake in the afternoon be doing, as we need sugar for energy, don’t we?

But is that true? Do sugar and caffeine really give us energy?

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Do you need or love your coffee?

When we start being honest we see things from a completely different angle.

Did you know that coffee is the second most traded commodity in the world? And that sugar is ‘hidden’ in nearly all our processed and produced foods, even the ones that are supposed to be a ‘healthy’ choice like a muesli bar, for example?

The average young person today in western countries may consume the equivalent of up to 40 teaspoons of sugar a day[i]. This is 8 times the recommended daily intake [ii].

Caffeine and sugar are stimulants – that means they make us feel as if we have more energy. However what they really do is elevate the nervous system, giving us an artificial or fake rush of energy that is hard for the body to sustain.

So what coffee gives us is not energy, but a big burst of stress

Yes that’s right, caffeine and other stimulants don’t give us energy – they give us stress.

A near miss in the car in an emergency wakes us up by putting us into a state of ‘fight or flight’, but it’s not good for us to feel like that constantly. A hit of caffeine produces the exact same ‘fight or flight’ stress effect in the body by causing an over-production of adrenal hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones cause a destructive type of ‘energy’ metabolism called catabolism and accelerate ageing. Repeated long-term stimulant use adds to the stress of modern life, which can result in exhaustion, which was the feeling you were trying to counter in the first place by having a coffee ...

But have you considered that we reach for coffee, energy drinks and sugary treats because we are already tired and exhausted, and these provide an artificial way of keeping us going during the day?

Sure, sugar may give us more energy and make us feel good because of all the hormones it releases, but it is short-lived, just like the buzz of a coffee, leaving us with a sugar crash that makes us feel more tired and lethargic than we did in the first place.

Could it be that there has been an explosion in energy drinks, coffee and sugary snacks and hidden sugars in our food because we are actually living with too much stress and are burning ourselves out too quickly, so that being tired is now a hidden epidemic?

An epidemic hidden under a sea of stimulants that mask how we are feeling – giving us artificial bursts of energy that stress our nervous system, adrenal glands, liver and pancreas as they have to deal with the aftermath of these chemicals in our bodies that leave us more depleted, drained and exhausted than we were before we consumed them.

So next time you want a coffee or a bar of chocolate ask yourself: do I love it or do I need it?

If you need it, then consider why. Could it be because you are exhausted and can't make it through the day without the hit of caffeine or a sugar fix?

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Exhaustion – a modern day plague

If we are feeling exhausted at the end of the day, how we do what we do in our day may be the reason why.


  • [i]

    Retrieved from

  • [ii]

    World Health Organisation. 4 March 2015. Retrieved from

Filed under

SugarStressWork life balanceExhaustion

  • By Dr Rachel Hall, Dentist

    Dentist, business owner, writer, author and presenter. Family woman, guitarist, photographer, passionate about health, wellbeing and community. Lover of Vietnamese food, fast cars, social media, café culture and people.

  • Photography: Dean Whitling, Brisbane based photographer and film maker of 13 years.

    Dean shoots photos and videos for corporate portraits, architecture, products, events, marketing material, advertising & website content. Dean's philosophy - create photos and videos that have magic about them.