Monday, December 17, 2007

Thoughts on Caffeine

I'm a caffeine addict. Without much thought, I can easily put away two 20oz. bottles of Mountain Dew, a cup of coffee, and some green tea throughout the course of a busy day. I suspect that I am not alone in this consumption of "mass quantities" and I would guess many, many people consume more caffeine than that on a daily basis.

I have no facts or statistics whatsoever to base the following statement on, but I would bet a good chunk of change that Americans today, on average, consume twice as much caffeine than they did 30 or even 20 years ago. Think about it - twenty years ago had you even heard of Starbucks? Redbull? The closest thing to any of that was Jolt! cola and even though it had a cult-like following, I didn't know a single person that drank it daily. One has to wonder what kind of consequences our speed freak culture will reap from long-time excessive consumption of caffeine.

It is no secret that Americans have sleep problems. Certainly caffeine consumption isn't the root of all of them, but it's probably a factor in most of them considering the half-life of caffeine is 3-4 hours. Now, I know I'll get some flack for saying this and everyone will bring up "tolerance" and the "caffeine is the most studied drug in the world" argument, but do we honestly believe that years of overconsumption will have no negative consequences? No consequences to sleep? to mood? to cardio-vascular health?

About two months ago, I was doing some high-rep work with kettlebells - this was after a long day at work with more than my usual dose of caffeine. I was tired after I finished the training session and, honestly, I felt dangerously tired. If it's possible to feel "heart heavy" in a very literal sense, that's the way I felt. I have since stopped drinking soft drinks almost entirely - not a small feat for someone who LOVES Coca-Cola and Diet Mt. Dew. I still drink my share of tea and have an occasional cup of joe, but I'm on the road to moderation and plan to stay on it.


Brett Jones said...

I've basically got myself down to 2 cups of joe in the morning (not 8oz cups but you know what I mean) because I went to a Chiro/AK guy in California who pinned me as a sugar and caffine abuser in about 30 seconds of looking at me - we should have the energy we need from our lifestyle not be trying to "energize" our life through caffine etc...
Great stuff and important topic.

Boris said...

Thanks Brett!

I think it really is a subject that's important. I teach high school and it's crazy how much caffeine some of these teens take in daily. I don't know about you, but I was drinking juice, milk, and water in high school - I realize it's been a while, but my how times have changed!

Dr. Mark Cheng said...

I used to abuse caffeine a lot in high school (class of '90) and college due to AP courses and the like. At one point, I was pulling all-nighters so many days on end that I'd start the day with coffee, drink Mountain Dew throughout the day, and pop No-Doz for dinner.

One night, feeling totally overwhelmed in college, I tried to stay up all night, and tried my usual mix of liquid & solid caffeine, only to fall asleep at my desk and feeling my heart hammering through my chest (in my sleep).

These days, it's the very rare Mountain Dew when I'm out for fast food, and drinking tea.

I'm not sure if it's the caffeine that's the problem or the lifestyle demands that make us feel like we need the caffeine that's the problem.

Boris said...

You were probably one of the smart kids in high school ;) I certainly wasn't taking AP courses and early morning practices until I was 20 made staying up late an impossibility.

After I eventually quit sports, I did start sacrificing sleep for studies and upped the caffeine intake sometimes w. No-Doz or pseudoephedrine or cigarettes, or a combination of them...

Anywho, good question you pose Doc. I'm sure all of us would consume less if we didn't have a dozen or more ways to get it in our system and it wasn't available in check-out aisles of just about every store you walk into and every 50 yards of mall space.

Life is faster paced than ever though and I'll be hitting up the egg nog and Captain Morgan a little later! I have that Asian turn-red-as-a-beet thing, so only in moderation, of course.

Dr. Mark Cheng said...

Boris, I certainly did my stint with putting away a pack and a half of Camel lights a night. Usually those were the nights when I was hellbent enough to put away a bottle of Bacardi to get myself to sleep.

Actually, I used to have the occasional smoke right up until I started training with Pavel. After like 40 squat-cleans with the 53, followed by his "smokers", the last thing I wanted to see was a cigarette.

I still imbibe, however, so you & I are going to have to knock a few back the next time we get together.

Boris said...

Sounds good Doc!