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Caffeine - Should You Kick the Habit?

Ah, caffeine. I know it's a lifesaver for many of you and everyone has their own favorite caffeinated beverage. For me, it’s coffee. And I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love to savor my cup of coffee - the smell, the taste, the nostalgia of sitting around the dining table with my parents and grandparents chatting over a freshly-brewed cup. It just makes me all warm and fuzzy inside!

We are all juggling too many things on our plates and constantly multitasking - even at night when we are supposed to put those blue screens away. Many of us end up sleep-deprived, walking around like zombies all day, so without that caffeine fix, you just won't make it, right?

Well, I’m sure you know this, but I’m going to say it anyway. Caffeine is a drug and just like all drugs, caffeine has an adaptive factor. The more you consume, the more your body needs to get the same effect. What you might not know is the mechanism of how it works:

  • You have a neurotransmitter, or a chemical messenger, called adenosine that’s released to signal your brain that it’s time to go to sleep, making you relaxed and sleepy.

  • Caffeine actually fits on the same receptors as adenosine, but rather than make you feel relaxed and sleepy, it makes you feel awake and energetic.

  • When you have a bunch of caffeine floating around, it hogs up all the adenosine receptors, so it blocks the effects from adenosine.

But, what’s the problem, you say? This is exactly what you want, right? To block the tired feeling and get energized! The problem is that the effect is short-term.

  • First of all, when the caffeine wears off, you have all this extra adenosine floating around that floods those receptors and makes you feel like you want to fall flat on your face.

  • Then, your body isn’t stupid. It knows that you are overstimulated and wants to get that adenosine in there to make you rest, so it produces more adenosine receptors and more adenosine.

  • Now, you have to drink more caffeine to fill those extra receptors and it just becomes a vicious cycle. You need to drink more and more caffeine to keep filling up those extra adenosine receptors your body is making.

  • Eventually, you end up feeling below-normal energy and clarity than baseline because your body is starting at less than zero. At this point, you need that coffee to just get back to baseline again (you know, you need that cup of joe in the morning before your brain starts to function).

Now that I’ve explained why you should cut back on caffeine, I’m going to tell you how. Like I said, it's a vicious cycle and the only way to kick it is by detoxing. I know, I know, not what you wanted to hear. I have to be honest and say that the detox makes you feel like crap - brain fog, fatigue, and it takes a good week or two, depending on how much caffeine you have been consuming a day, to start feeling normal again. It IS a drug, after all, so the detox process is painful, just the same. And you really should detox for around six to eight weeks to get it out of your system.

If you are saying, “hell no, I just can’t deal with that right now,” there are ways around it to ease the pain a bit. Stop upping your caffeine intake; don’t keep adding more and more caffeine to get the boost you need. You can slowly decrease the amount of caffeine you are consuming a day by drinking decaf coffee or other caffeine-free beverages. I personally love drinking coffee, so I want to at least feel like I’m drinking it! Some options you can try is:

  • Decaffeinated coffee - I recommend drinking coffee that’s decaffeinated using the Swiss Water Method.

  • Chicory coffee - not if you are pregnant or lactating

  • Herbal coffee substitutes

Check out the brands I love here.

If you hit that mid-morning or afternoon slump and need a boost, try these tips:

  • Move around a bit, stand up and stretch, put on your favorite songs and sing or dance - exercise and movement always give an energy boost.

  • Go out for a walk after lunch - the movement will perk you up.

  • Watch or listen to something so funny it makes your belly hurt.

  • Put some peppermint-scented oil on your temples, in an infuser or drink a cup of peppermint tea (watch your milk supply if you’re breastfeeding).

  • Take a cold shower (if you are home and can do so).

  • I personally love to drink coconut water for a bit of energy.

Whatever floats your boat is fine, as long as it’s not loaded with added sugar and caffeine!

The good news is that you can still enjoy your caffeine! Just don’t have it every day. If you need a boost, have the caffeine, but the next day, go decaf. If you are on vacation for a week and want to enjoy your normal cup of joe, lay off the caffeine for a week when you get home. Just like everything, moderation is key!

If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, I have a whole section in my book about caffeine and its effects while breastfeeding/having a newborn in the house. Get your ebook or paperback copy here!


Caffeine and the Central Nervous System: mechanisms of action, biochemical, metabolic and psychostimulant effects


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