How To Break Your Daily Caffeine Habit And Use Coffee Strategically

Caffeine is a trickier substance than we generally acknowledge. Here's what you need to know to get more out of caffeine--starting with a suggestion to go cold turkey.

Lumbergh with Coffee

Caffeine seems so simple, even if you're a veteran user. You drink it, you get amped up for a short period, and you inevitably come down a bit when it wears off--or so you think. But caffeine is a more subtle substance than we give it credit for. Knowing how it works on your body and brain, and how it is most effective, can give you an edge at concentrating, while still keeping the jittery edge off.

The best way to get the most from caffeine is to start from scratch. There are a lot of factors that play into how a dose of caffeine affects you, but there's no stronger factor than the tolerance you've developed, morning after morning. Give yourself a week to 10 days to recover, scaling back slowly if necessary, then start fresh with coffee as an occasional, smart pick-me-up.

Note: Biological and genetic factors also play into your caffeine interaction, and it may not be for everybody. This is just a starter's guide for those who want to stop feeling like one cup isn't enough.

Yes, you probably have a caffeine tolerance. Learn to adjust it.

Patients waking up from surgery in which they went under anesthesia often wake up with a killer headache. Doctors used to blame their own knock-out juice, until research showed how effective a post-surgery cup of coffee could be. Most of us are used to having our regular coffee or tea, occasional sodas, and bits of chocolate, but when asked by doctors not to eat or drink anything for long stretches before surgery, then sleeping off the drugs, your body wakes up to a system without any caffeine, and it's a mite unhappy.

Knowing this, and having days or weeks where you know you're going to need reliable energy boosts, try to keep yourself caffeine-neutral and wean yourself from dependency. It takes between a week and 12 days to build up a tolerance and dependency on caffeine (even at just one cup a day), and an average of 10 days to work it off. Once you're past the rough mornings and headaches, you're able to strategically deploy the stuff when you've got a big day ahead and need better attention and memory performance. But keep in mind ...

Caffeine unlocks your potential energy, it doesn't create energy

Stephen R. Braun, author of the excellent explanatory tome Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine, told me in an interview at Lifehacker that caffeine's effects were best described as “taking the chaperones out of a high school dance.” Caffeine does its magic not by directly stimulating your cells, but by being extremely similar to adenosine, a cell by-product that your body monitors as a kind of gauge for exhaustion. Caffeine's molecules plug up your receptors for adenosine, so your body stops getting signals that it's tired.

But if you're running on just a few hours sleep and living off pizza and Clif bars for hours, caffeine will only tweak your behavior a bit, not reinvigorate you. So, it's best to set up an optimal deployment scheme for caffeine. It can't hurt after that near-all-nighter, but it won't be as helpful, either.

Combine naps and caffeine for ultimate midday refreshers

Got 15 minutes and a cup of coffee or tea handy? You'll be glad you do, and that you're keeping yourself from developing that daily tolerance. Because then you'll have access to the “caffeine nap” discovered by U.K. researchers. Drink some coffee fairly quickly (assuming you aren't already buzzing on the stuff), then take a 15-minute nap. That gives your body just enough sleep to feel slightly refreshed, and the caffeine enough time to start taking effect the minute you wake up.

Drink good, seriously de-caffeinated coffee at non-critical times

Now that you're good and caffeine-free, what happens when everybody at the table wants a cup after dinner? What happens when you just want a cup of good coffee, regardless of brain impact? Go with decaf, but go with a “Swiss water” blend that's 99.9 percent free of caffeine.

It might seem a bit severe, but read up on proper decaf making, and realize that other coffee compounds, like GABA, are also impacting your alertness and energy levels, and you'll see the importance of keeping unplanned caffeine away from your fine-tuned system. Spend the time shopping around for good decaf roasts that you'd spend on standard beans. The Swiss Water logo is a good starting point, but not the only conveyor of serious decaffeinated intent.

 

Now that you've mastered your caffeine habit: Should You Let Your Employees Work From Home?

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15 Comments

  • John Raymond Collado

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  • tkeela625

    Ahhh, caffeine... that other drug - along with tobacco - that you need not worry about being addicted to. 

  • Lalala

    Decaf is NASTY! I'd rather drink no coffee at all than settle for the bilgewater called decaf.  Actually, I had to cut down bigtime on caffiene because of my diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia, so what I did was switched over to ~get this~molasses and hot water. It was just as satisfying and it actually helped me build up my iron again.

  • VelezBrett

    I paid $22.80 for an iPad and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $670 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. 

  • VelezBrett

    I paid $22.80 for an iPad and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $670 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, HERE

  • VelezBrett

    I just paid $22.87 for an iPad2-64GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumix GF 1 Camera that we got for $38.76 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $675 which only cost me $62.81 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it all from, PennyJump.com

  • Michael Brown

    Unfortunately I'm one of those poor souls for whom caffeine has zero effect.  Doesn't do a darn thing to help keep me alert or awake.  In fact, once back during my freshman year of design studio courses I had every entention of pulling an all-nighter.  It must have been around 11:30pm and I could barely keep my eyes open when someone suggested a cup of black joe. 

    I drank it, and 15 minutes later I was sleep on my drafting table!  Goodbye all-nighter...

    Now-a-days I've just gotta psyche myself up and push through my all-nighters, because not even a double shot of 5-hour energy helps me out.

  • Anneka Rice

    Coffee made me the multi millionaire that I am today - do you think I was running around, errecting schools and hospitals with nothing but a helicopter and a shell suit?  No way, just out of shot there was my trusty coffee cup and let me tell you - I was drinking FULL ON COFFEE, non of this defcaff bs.  Remember kids, say no to drugs, unless it's caffine.

  • Michael Jensen

    Lots of people I know use a healthy replacement to kick the coffee habit, like Choffy (drinkchoffy.com) is a brewed chocolate drink that is healthy AND actually tastes really good (heck, it's chocolate!)

  • JakeAdams123

    I  paid $23.88 for an i Pad 2 32-GB and my girlfriend loves her Panasonic Lumiix GF 1 Camera that we got for $ 38.41 there arriving tomorrow by UPS. I will never pay such expensive retail prices in stores again. Especially when I also sold a 40 inch LED TV to my boss for $ 635 which only cost me $ 61.74 to buy. Here is the website we use to get it al from,
     EgoWin.com

  • NoahRobischon

    Normal decaf coffee - not the Swiss water variety - is supposed to be at least 97% caffeine free. But back in 2008 Consumer Reports tested the decaf joe at a variety of popular chains and discovered much higher concentrations than 2-4mg.

    "More than half of our decafs had less than 5 mg of caffeine, but some had quite a bit more. One of the six cups from Dunkin' Donuts had 32 mg; one from Seattle's Best had 29 mg; and one from Starbucks had 21 mg. Levels of caffeine in the decaffeinated coffees we tested varied within chains, but in our sample, McDonald's decaf consistently had less than 5 mg." 
    http://consumerist.com/2008/06...