I’ve always been one to discourage the use of caffeine and officially, in general, I still hold that position. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t occasionally indulge and, under certain instances, and with great caution, allow for its use on occasion. So let’s look at the good, bad and ugly of caffeine:
Caffeine is prevalent in so many of our common indulgences like coffee, soda, energy drinks and chocolate. But it’s also a bona fide stimulant, not unlike cocaine, that affects the central nervous system. Accordingly, this addictive substance can play a role in many health maladies like heart palpitations, high blood pressure, constipation, diarrhea, ulcers, restlessness and sleeplessness. And to the extent that you “get by” on less sleep due to your caffeine intake, you then open yourself up to all of the potential issues associated with inadequate rest, like premature aging, among other things.
Caffeine is also a known diuretic, depletes your body of iron, potassium, calcium and trace minerals, causes a quantifiably acidic reaction in the blood, and can be heavily addictive.
On the other hand, when the chips are down and you need a boost, caffeine can be like a long lost friend, dropping by to liven up the party, just in time. And so – presuming you’re in excellent health and have a pretty clean diet and lifestyle – I say a little caffeine can come in handy for those “emergency” situations.
For me, that’s meant things like enduring crazy travel, on very little sleep, and then finding myself a couple hours out from showtime, fried. In some of those cases, boom – I’ll grab a hit. Or maybe it’s midnight after a rough couple days and I have no choice but to saddle up to the desk for an all-nighter and get some writing done. Boom – I’ll grab a hit. Or maybe it’s been an insane few days of little sleep, but I have a chance to catch a workout, and it has to be a quality, intense one. Again… boom – I’ll grab a hit.
In metaphorical terms, I think of caffeine like I think of anger. Anger can be a healthy emotion on occasion because it can get your ass off the couch and out into the world fighting for something you believe in. However, if you allow anger to be the central, motivating energy source that drives you, I believe it will soon overtake you, and the chemical releases associated with this powerful emotion will do more harm to your body and mind than good you can do for the world. So engage in some anger on occasion, but upgrade to a more productive, sustainable emotion as soon as you can… once things have been set in motion.
Same with caffeine.
Caffeine is a great fire-starter or “desperate hours” sustainer, and if you can truly limit it to these special scenarios, I think it will be very difficult to find any quantifiable, long-term issues with the use of a little caffeine.
BUT – that’s if, and I mean IF, you can limit your overall use of it. And here is where the problems come in.
The addictive nature of caffeine can create a vicious cycle in and of itself because, like many other kinds of stimulants, your body will typically develop an immunity to caffeine and you will often need increased amounts to get the same pick-me-up effect that you got with considerably less. This is why the serving sizes and/or frequency of caffeinated products tend to increase over time for most caffeine consumers. Eventually, a hefty amount of, say, morning coffee, simply becomes the norm. And while you might feel a light sense of alertness and elation, there is no big jolt like there use to be. Why? Because of this immunity factor. So now, you need way more quantity to feel any real difference – or to sustain the effect for the desired length of time – and that’s when you get stuck in the cycle of addiction.
And make no mistake about it; it’s a serious fucking addiction. If you disagree, or if you want to test yourself, just drop everything from your life that has caffeine in it.
Welcome to hell.
So, to review:
♦ If you can live without caffeine, that’s best.
♦ If you want to utilize the buzz on special occasions, radically limit your use of it to 3 or 4 times a month, max – less if possible.
♦ If you are already consuming a shitload, try to find some substitute beverages to alternate with your caffeinated ones (herbal tea, Teecchino, decaf, etc.) and ease down to a nominal amount. Or – try to go for a month without, then cautiously try to resume a way more occasional use. (Easier said than done, for sure!)
PS. This is blog #14 in my 20-blogs-in-30-days series for June 2014. Just got my laptop back from a motherboard issue. The days are numbered. Will I hit 20 by July 1? We shall see…