Here's Why You're Really Craving Caffeine

Can't fathom starting your day without the boost of a delicious cup of coffee? You're in good company: A total of 44 percent of Americans say they enjoy two to three cups a day, while just 26 percent says they have one cup or none at all, according to the Statista Global Consumer Survey. But beyond the rich aroma and taste, there just might be something else driving your daily desire for a coffee fix, and it's exactly what you think it is. Caffeine, a stimulant that affects your central nervous system, leaves you feeling more alert and energized — two big reasons why many of us crave it. But those aren't the only side effects that leave us longing for the stimulant.

Surprisingly, one factor behind your caffeine craving may be its ability to help you manage stress. Turns out, the stimulant may help block certain brain receptors from reacting to stressors, per a study in the scientific journal PNAS. Basically, caffeine helps your brain respond less to stress, helping you avoid its symptoms, including anxiety and depression. And who wouldn't crave something that could do those things?

More reasons behind your caffeine cravings

Not only can it lift your spirits by helping you better cope with stress, but caffeine also increases your levels of the feel-good hormone dopamine, reports Translational Psychiatry. When this hormone is elevated, the pleasure center of your brain is activated for longer — a mood-boosting effect that may encourage you to consume more caffeine.

Also, since you tend to crave caffeine when you're tired, your body may be telling you that you're low in iron, a vital nutrient. An iron deficiency or anemia leads to weakness and fatigue, per Healthline. Unfortunately, a cup of Joe is the exact opposite of what you need if this is the case. That's because tannins in coffee actually block your body's absorption of iron from foods. If you think you have low iron, try eating more iron-rich foods, including red meat, eggs, and even chickpeas, according to Everyday Health. Also, it's vital to talk to your doctor if you feel anemia is behind your exhaustion.

Now that you know the reasons why you might be craving caffeine, it's important to know you can drink too much. Medical experts at the Mayo Clinic suggest no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day, the equivalent of four cups of coffee. Keeping that in mind, bottoms up!