Like Dave Munger of Seed Magazine, I have been a coffee addict for the better part of my life. I discovered the dark brew’s magic toward the end of high school, and probably would have slept through the bulk of college were it not for the Starbucks conveniently located on the way to the English department. And let’s just say that during the first few years of my son’s life, the contribution was central to my level of sanity. Or so I thought.
However, Munger raises some interesting points about coffee, which is particularly apropos of what I’ve been trying to do: kick coffee all together. I know, I know. What is a geek without her caffeine? And why would I want a world without it? I’ve kicked caffeine for two reasons: I want to sleep better at night, and I don’t want to crash in the afternoon. I have a four year old, and I work from home part time, and often the lure of the nap is too great. I end up far less productive, and then can’t sleep at night since I need more coffee to stay awake. A vicious circle, indeed.
But kicking caffeine is a lot harder than you might think. I had headaches for almost a week, extreme fatigue, and almost felt like I was coming down with the flu. Then, miraculously, it passed. And instead of waking up feeling like I could do with another six hours of sleep, I’m up at 7am—even before my son is up. That’s some vast improvement!
According to Munger’s article, even 100 milligrams of caffeine a day can cause withdrawal symptoms when stopped. And the amount of caffeine in your beverage varies drastically from cup to cup. Munger says:
…researchers found that depending on where you get your coffee and how it’s prepared, the caffeine content in a serving can vary from 58 mg to 259 mg. Espresso shots in general had less caffeine than brewed coffee, ranging from 58 to 92 mg per shot; the 259 mg of caffeine was in a 16-ounce cup of Starbucks brewed coffee.
In other words, you might be pumping a lot more caffeine into your blood system than you think!
In general, research indicates that taking quick shots of high-potency drinks isn’t the way to go, either (if you’re not looking to switch to decaf and want to get the most out of your caffeine molecules). Small doses over the long haul actually work far better than quick “energy” drinks.
But that’s not to say everyone is the same. I’m the kind of person who can feel a slight buzz from decaf, while my husband can knock back a Red Bull and fall asleep right afterward. I’m likely one of those people who just shouldn’t drink caffeine to begin with, and honestly I’ve felt much better in general since I’ve made the switch (and not to fear, there is some very good decaf out there!)—but there are those among us for whom caffeine is but a drop in a very large bucket.
So, whichever way you drink it, cheers! Coffee and tea both have a variety of other benefits, other than caffeine, including packing plenty of antioxidants! So drink up!