For some, having a cup or two of regular coffee or a few energy drinks seems more of a necessity than a habit. This statement is especially true if the drink isn’t decaffeinated. Staying on the go, especially during the college years, isn’t uncommon. As people, the need to stay active in our activities and schoolwork should be treated as a top priority. With this in mind, there isn’t any doubt that caffeine is so vital for many because of the stimulating effects it provides. Don’t believe me? The statistics may in fact surprise you.
According to medicinenet.com, caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive drug in the world, with approximately 80% of the world’s population consuming it daily. It is also the most convenient psychoactive drug as it is found in quite a few drinks we consume today, especially coffee, energy drinks, and even tea. Specifically with Americans, the average daily caffeine consumption is at least 280 milligrams per day; 20%-30% of Americans drink more than the aforementioned average intake.
Caffeine can show some positive effects, such as decreasing drowsiness and increasing motor skills, according to the Health Services of the University of Michigan. However, caffeine can also have its negative side effects, especially if not used in moderation. If someone is sensitive to caffeine or has consumed at least more than 250 milligrams of caffeine, minor side effects such as insomnia, restlessness, headaches, and extra heartbeats can be present. This amount of caffeine intake is about the equivalent to more than two 6-oz. cups of coffee or five 12-oz. colas (i.e., Pepsi or Coke). Larger amounts of about more than 1000 milligrams a day may have more serious and long-term detrimental side effects; this can include infertility, bouts of heartburn, and changes in bowel and sleeping habits.
But if you are outside of the norm and currently not consuming caffeine, it can be tough. There are of course side effects to giving up on caffeine. Quitting caffeine, especially in large amounts, can show symptoms of what is known as caffeine withdrawals. According to an article on wisegeek.com3 about the subject, caffeine withdrawals can include symptoms of moderate to severe headaches, mood swings, and fatigue; although it isn’t widely reported on many occasions, other symptoms can include bouts of muscle tension and nausea as well. These symptoms can be present for at least 12 to 24 hours after the very last intake of caffeine.
For those who are willing to reduce the amount of caffeine used daily, here are some tips to help make the transition of limiting your intake easier:
1) Don’t give up on it completely. Take gradual steps as you give up on coffee. If you do, your chances of experiencing severe caffeine withdrawal symptoms will increase. You definitely don’t want this to happen!
2) Decaffeinated products as an alternative. If giving up on coffee isn’t much of your thing right now, but you would still like to make some changes to your diet, try de-caffeinated products. Although some traces of caffeine are there, they are in lesser amounts as compared to regular caffeinated drinks.
3) Try other various alternatives. You can experience different kinds of alternatives to coffee and even other alternative drinks. Try yerba matte, Chai tea, green tea, black tea, or even hot chocolate. Even if you’re not in the mood for a drink, food and other alternatives like music or participating in another activity can be just as stimulating.
4) Always keep water at hand. Increased consumption in coffee can lead to decreased hydration in the body, thus creating changes in bowel habits. Water can also help gradually cleanse out caffeine from both your blood and the liver.
5) Extra sleep is necessary. If adjusting to life without caffeine, at least a couple of more hours of sleep will be necessary to help get your body back on schedule. Though many have busy schedules, finding ways to sleep a little bit more may be beneficial for adjusting.
6) Exercise. From personal experience, I know going to the gym can be easier said than done sometimes. However, if you don’t have time to head to Carmichael or any of the mini-gyms on campus, there are other ways of staying active. Take a walk. Do some warm-ups exercises before class. Pick up on a game of basketball. For the gamers out there, even Dance Dance Revolution and Wii Fit can be a substitute.
7) Be aware of what you’re getting. Some products may have traces of caffeine in it without your awareness. For example, the average amount of caffeine found in even three tablespoons of cocoa mix can be as much as 5 milligrams.
While some believe that caffeine isn’t totally bad for you, consuming it in low to moderate amounts is much better as compared to higher doses. For those that are currently trying to limit their intake, keep the tips above in mind, and of course, best of luck on your transition.