Decaf Alex

Caffeine1.pngAbout two months ago, I completely eliminated caffeine from my diet. Why on earth would I do such a thing, you say? Well I wanted to see what would happen - that's the simple answer. The rest of the answer is that I wasn't sleeping as well as I would have liked and I had a feeling that caffeine was a contributing factor. Couple that with all the stress at work and of selling the house, etc, the last thing I needed was to be even more wired. So I decided to stop drinking anything with caffeine in it.Now for a lot of people, this wouldn't be that much of a challenge, but remember I'm a geek, and geek's thrive on caffeine. My consumption of Diet Coke had reached epic proportions, eclipsed only by that of my wife, whose Diet Coke habit keeps the Coca-Cola Company in business. So when I embarked on this endeavor, many people said I wouldn't last a week, and I must admit, towards the middle of the first week, I thought they might be right. For those of you who haven't given up caffeine, it can be a pretty brutal task. For caffeine junkies, missing a regular intake of soda or coffee during the day can result in a "caffeine headache" - a particulary nasty headache that is only tamed by, you guessed it, caffeine. "Continued consumption of caffeine can lead to tolerance. Upon withdrawal, the body becomes oversensitive to adenosine, causing the blood pressure to drop dramatically, leading to headache and other symptoms.1" For the first few days of my experiment I was prone to these headaches, but I quickly discovered that a couple of glasses of water would put them at ease. I don't believe in taking pain killers for headaches - they do too much damage for the short term relief they provide. Anyway, after I got through the first week, things started getting much better. The headaches were gone and I was feeling pretty good. The most noticable and immediate benefit was that I was sleeping much better than before. I wouldn't wake up with my mind racing at 4:30am and not be able to go back to sleep. "Any accumulated sleep debt will be fully felt on withdrawal as well. 2" I was able to go to bed at a reasonable hour and not fidget for ages before eventually falling asleep. I was waking up refreshed and ready for the day. Secondly, I noticed I was able to relax more. I didn't get stressed out at work as easily, I was calmer and able to concentrate for longer. "Caffeine intoxication can lead to symptoms similar to those of panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.3" Thirdly, it's resulted in me drinking a lot more water. Before, whenever I was thirsty, I would just run down to the vending machine and grab a soda. Now, I have no choice but to drink water. I fill up my pitcher and usually end up drinking the whole thing over the course of the day. So after enjoying the obvious benefits of zero caffeine intake for a few months I decided to do another little experiment. I wanted to judge what would happen if I gradually and sporadically re-introduced caffeine into my diet. During my caffeine binge days, one soda would not effect me at all - it wouldn't make my hyper or alert or anything like that. I wanted to see if this was still the case now that I had purged my system of caffeine. Around 2pm one afternoon I was starting to drag. "I need a pick me up," I thought to myself. That's when I decided to see how caffeine would affect me. So I grabbed a Diet Coke and waited to see what would happen. It definitely had the desired "pick-me-up" effect. I was impressed - caffeine actually works as advertised.....but only if it's not coarsing through your veins already. But will that get me back to regularly drinking caffeine? I don't think so. The benefits of removing it from my system far outweigh the benefits of drinking it regularly. And the occasional "pick-me-up" actually has meaning now. 1 - 2 - 3 -