Caffeine – use it or lose it?

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I have an experiment for you:  type “benefits of caffeine” into a Google search, and skim the first few articles. Next, type in “dangers of caffeine,” and check out THOSE articles.

We’re a tad undecided about this issue.

Like every other nutrition topic, you need to figure this one out for yourself. The problem is, there’s no black and white, either/or solution. Regular caffeine consumption comes with risks AND potential benefits.

Some of the those benefits include increased metabolism, lower risk of depression, antioxidants, and quicker post-workout recovery.

The risks include poor sleep (which creates a whole host of additional issues), irritability and mood swings, digestive problems, anxiety, and adrenal fatigue.

Coffee is in a class by itself – the acidic profile of coffee can affect bone density and worsen inflammatory conditions in the body. Both coffee and tea can interfere with hydration. Also, it’s much harder to kick coffee than tea or soda. I know this from experience.

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Let’s talk consumption. “Moderate” caffeine intake is considered around 300mg/day for men, slightly less than that for women. For perspective, check out the caffeine content of some popular beverages:

  • Starbucks Tall Drip Coffee: 260mg (Grande is 330mg)
  • McDonald’s Large Coffee: 145mg
  • Coca-Cola (1 can): 34mg
  • Diet Coke (1 can): 45mg
  • Mountain Dew (1 can):  54mg
  • Monster Energy Drink: 160mg
  • 5hour Energy: 200mg

Not sure what to do? Here are some potential benefits of reducing your caffeine intake:

  • Better sleep
  • More energy throughout the day, fewer ups and downs
  • Increased focus
  • Clearer skin, less dryness
  • Mood regulation
  • Reduced symptoms of PMS and menstrual cramps
  • Shrinking of cystic breast tissue

Personal anecdote: I worked in coffee shops, including Starbucks, from ages 16-21. I drank cappuccino like it was my job. (It kinda was my job). For years, I relied heavily on large amounts of strong coffee to get me through the day. Giving up coffee was probably the most challenging dietary change I’ve made to date, and it took me about three years to really kick it. (I still enjoy a cup every now and then).

But I feel better. I don’t get stomach aches every afternoon, for instance. My sleep is uninterrupted and restful. And my energy feels more even throughout the day.

So here’s your challenge, if you choose to accept it.

Take two weeks to wean yourself off coffee. Start by cutting it in half – either swapping half-decaf, or just consuming half as much. Drink a large glass of water first thing in the morning.

From there, cut it in half again. The third week, try to go without it completely, or switch to black or green tea. If the withdrawal is too much for you, have a VERY SMALL AMOUNT of coffee (you only need a few tablespoons to relieve a caffeine headache). If you can make it through the first three days, you’re golden. Try to go for a fourth week.

Drink tons of water (add a lemon for extra credit), and see how you feel after a few weeks of reduced caffeine.

If you already favor tea over coffee, you can do the same thing – your withdrawal should be a little milder.

How much caffeine do you consume every day? Are you up for this challenge?

 

Written by Sam

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