Some of you may bash me for saying this, but caffeine is a highly addictive drug and it's time for us to come to terms with this. Caffeine has become the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world and unfortunately, much like obesity in our country, it is not showing signs of slowing down anytime soon.
In fact, its consumers seem to be getting younger while the drinks are getting stronger and therefore more dangerous. When used in moderation, caffeine can be perfectly harmless. The way it's being used by and marketed towards our youth, however, is setting them up for numerous health and behavioral problems. Whether it's coffee, tea, or any number of the energy drinks out there, it's safe to say that most of this country is in some way addicted. "Relying on caffeine and especially garbage energy drinks for stimulation is a poor choice which can lead to adrenaline resistance (and tandem insulin resistance) which can perpetuate weight gain and otherwise discourage good health," states Mike Mahler, a strength coach who specializes in hormone optimization. It baffles me that there is no age limit for kids to purchase these highly caffeinated and dangerous beverages, but there is an age limit to purchase cigarettes and alcohol. Cigarettes are addicting and can eventually cause lung cancer. Energy drinks are just as addicting and can eventually lead to a long list of health ailments including heart problems, insomnia, osteoporosis, behavioral problems, panic disorders, IBS, migraines. So why is there no legal age limit when it comes to purchasing coffee and/or energy drinks?
Are we, as a society, going to do anything about this? If more people knew that long-term consumption of high doses of caffeine were harmful, would that change anything? For years, tobacco companies have been marketing cigarettes towards younger generations. Energy drink manufacturers are simply applying the same successful formulas with their popular canned energy blasters. When someone drinks especially strong coffee or "crack in a can," they experience immediate neurological and physiological changes. Caffeinated drinks usually provide instant gratification thanks to a rush of energy and pleasant feelings, but within a few hours most people will eventually crash. Crashing can consist of feeling like crap, experiencing a major drop in blood sugar, craving junk food, and the overall feeling of needing another drink in order to make it through the rest of the day. This is how the vicious cycle begins. The caffeine will likely have a negative effect on one's sleep cycle as well. Falling asleep naturally becomes quite difficult as does managing to stay asleep for the entire night. Those that are able to stay asleep may not experience quality REM sleep, which is necessary for proper recovery. Upon waking most will generally feel sluggish and tired, which may lead to beginning the entire cycle of caffeine all over again. This can eventually lead one to believe that their own body cannot carry them through a full day without artificial stimulants.
There are some positive benefits concerning moderate uses of caffeine. There have been studies that show that consuming 1 cup of coffee can enhance athletic performance. At the same time, however, if too much is consumed some common side effects can be heart palpitations, jitters, anxiety, and GI distress. Since caffeine is a drug, it really needs to be dosed properly if one wants to fully enjoy its benefits. There are far too many coffee houses out there that brew coffee 3 times stronger than what one needs. Those coffee places, of course, are the most popular because once people start on the caffeine kick, their body generally craves more and more. Consumers will usually seek out coffee houses that pack the most punch in their morning java.
Breaking the caffeine addiction can definitely be a challenge, but the benefits are amazing. You will feel more energized from a good night's rest and will eventually be able to lead a more stable life. Your energy will come from proper nutrients that are not being robbed or stripped by the high doses of caffeine in your system. You should start feeling energized after a workout without experiencing the harsh caffeine crash. Our bodies naturally get tired in the late afternoon and therefore many cultures set aside time for a nap in order to give our bodies the mental and physical rest they need. If you are not drinking caffeine, your body may allow you to take a quick 30 minute nap for a natural recharge.
Personally, I love the taste, the smell, and almost everything about coffee. I do, however, save it for special occasions. If consumed in moderation, you should find that your body doesn't need it everyday. I can easily go a day without caffeine and not experience any negative side effects. I do notice that sometimes the next day after my occasional cup of coffee, I will feel more sluggish and/or slightly more irritable. I also tend to feel depleted as if I haven't gotten the quality rest that my body requires. The power of addiction can take hold pretty quickly and it's easy to see how fast one can turn to another cup in order to get out of the "funk." Sometimes it just seems easier to throw in the towel, but if everyone felt that way then our entire country would be clinically obese as well. It takes lots of work to focus on quality nutrition, good water for hydration, and consistent exercise in order to feel the "highs" in life that we all crave. But it's definitely worth it. If you rely on one or more cups of coffee and/or any type of strong energy drink everyday, you may want to think about weaning off them; if you are drinking a 20 oz. cup of very strong coffee, that does not count as just one cup. You will notice significant changes in your health once you begin to detox your body.
Through the years, I have had many of my clients wean themselves off of high doses of caffeine. It definitely requires a commitment and a solid plan of action. You have to understand that eliminating this part of your daily ritual will most likely have negative side effects at first. If you cut down in slow doses, however, your body should not go into as much shock as quitting cold turkey. Like most drugs, you should try to find a safe way to taper off. You wouldn't just suddenly take heroin away from a heroin addict because chances are they could die from the shock. It's pretty similar for caffeine, except a little less severe. Whether you wean off energy drinks by replacing them with weaker coffee or replace coffee with less caffeinated teas, your body will begin to function better. You will eventually have more natural energy, less stress hormones, less feelings of being depleted, and will experience more efficient and beneficial workouts.
|This article was featured in the December 2010 Issue of the My Mad Methods Magazine. "Is Crack in a Can Aptly Named?" was written by Lauren Brooks. You can purchase this issue by Clicking Here.|
|Lauren Brooks is the founder and owner of On the Edge Fitness. As a RKC instructor and Clinical Nutritionist, Lauren has helped thousands of people to get into shape, and stay that way. She specializes in kettlebell training and is a pioneer of the training method within the United States. Find out more at www.OntheEdgeFitness.com|
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