Officially it acts as an antagonist at the adenosine receptors – particularly A2 receptor.
Unless you’re into pharmacology, antagonist at the adenosine receptor means nothing – so let me try to explain how caffeine works in more familiar terms.
Money makes the world go round. The substance that makes your body “go round” is called ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Your body takes the food you eat and turns it into ATP, in a process known as respiration (respiration is not breathing / gaseous exchange it is a chemical reaction which creates ATP). ATP is the “currency” used to “pay” for all the transactions (reactions) in your body.
The ATP molecule is a big spender
He releases energy in a complex chemical reaction.
ATP to ADP + Pi + ENERGY
This energy drives all the reactions in your body from muscle contractions to moving molecules from one place to the other etc.
Unfortunately Mr Money Bags doesn’t save for a rainy day, so when the energy has been consumed, he is left penniless in the form of a substance known as adenosine.
If any of you have been in this financial predicament, then you will know how demoralizing this is. You really aren’t able to go out on the town, so the best thing to do is to head for “bed”.
This is what happens in your body. You start the day (hopefully) full of energy, but as the day wears on, and you do all the things you need to do, that energy is used up. Eventually there isn’t too much energy left and your body is full of adenosine.
The penniless adenosine then goes to his “bed”. The “bed” is an adenosine receptor, a special molecule located on membranes throughout your brain. Once adenosine hops on the receptor/bed this signals your body that you should do the same.
The more adenosine molecules being created and calling it quits for the day, the more tired you’re body feels, as your energy levels drop off.
Certainly your get up and go has got up and went. Your sunny disposition has also left the building so you become increasingly grouchy and aggressive. You become a bit of a cluts and lose the “Yes we can” attitude.
Time to catch a few Zeeeeees
The superwise use this signal to have a snooze. However, unfortunately your boss / teacher or other slave driver, may not be willing for you to take the much needed rest.
So you reach of your caffeine fix
The caffeine fix may be in the form of coffee, cola or an energy drink.
The caffeine comes along and tricks the signalling system. It hops on the bed and starts bouncing away preventing the adenosine molecule from binding and going to sleep.
The end result your body is deceived into thinking that you still have lots of energy available, so you can go, go, go. It takes approx 10 minutes to begin to feel a little perky and the effect will usually last 4 – 6 hours.
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