2008-12-13

Drink Up, Batman

I made a mistake yesterday.

I drank an espresso and an americano. They were decaf so it was ok, right?
Wrong!

Getting off of caffeine wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I had a couple of restless nights and a few days with minor headaches but really it wasn't so bad. Since quitting I had drank a few decafe coffees here and there when others went for coffee and I wanted a break.

If I had just checked Wikipedia first I would have known that the international standard of decaffeination is only 97%. That means that my espresso and americano gave me about 45mg worth of caffeine (calculated from this website) which is equivalent to about a can of diet coke.

This is terrible! I was up until early this morning (I read some of a book called Varieties of Religious Experience by William James which I would recommend highly as a must read to anyone who just loves lecture series from over a hundred years ago on the psychology related to religious experiences. Oh and I also reread Justice) and had to sleep in this morning all because of the equivalent of a pop?

So what do I do? Drink no coffee so that when I do finally drink it (as is bound to happen since its the most consumed drug in the world) I'm messed or need it every single day so that if I don't get a cup I have withdrawl?

It depends on the other side-effects of coffee. Are there long term problems? Long term benefits? Is there a way to be immune to caffeine? That last idea would be best but try as I might, I could not find a believable method of becoming immune (which is different than normalizing and being able to sleep again or drink more without getting jittery which is called caffeine intoxication).

It seems one major side-effect is that caffeine makes it harder for your body to retain calcium which means weak bones. But it sounds like this is not really serious if you drink milk. Despite your kidneys doing all the processing of caffeine, coffee doesn't seem to pose any health concerns for your kidneys.

Children and pregnant women might not want to drink tonnes of coffee since caffeine is a drug that primarily effects the nervous system and children's nervous systems are still developing. That being said there are no documented longer term effects due to drinking coffee while pregnant.

So what about benefits? Caffeine seems to have poorly understood but positive effects on athletes
and metabolisms. I suppose that this would appeal to a crimefighter without superpowers.

To the obvious benefit: caffeine is a stimulant. People use it to increase energy, decrease fatigue and make them more focused. Fine. But there is something else here. Studies seem to say that caffeine boosts short term memory retention.
That's amazing. Even better, not only does it improve short term memory, caffeine may also reduce memory decline in the elderly (especially women) and prevent memory loss.

Conclusions: There's enough benefits to caffeine not to stop. From this little experimental diet of mine, it seems that I can stop anytime I'd like given three or four days. But the moral of all this seems to be "All things in moderation." Governments seem to take a pretty conservative stance of saying that you shouldn't ingest over 400mg a day if you are a healthy adult (that's a venti at you local Starbucks). So here is my revised plan. I'll finish the month-of-no-caffeine but after that I won't be so strict. However, I won't drink coffee daily, making sure it isn't a habit. In this way, I'll cash in on the benefits by being able to chose when I wish to drink it instead of "needing my coffee to get through the day" while avoiding worrying about caffeine intoxication in everyday situations.

2 comments:

mohitparikh said...

Beware! underlying assumption:
+ve effects even when consumed occasionally.
-ve effects only when u consume regularly.

neways, i m really motivated. the way u r all inspired to change/ develop urself at such rate with such enthu...i wish i was that steady.
keep the good work on! u already Becoming batman.

Bruce said...

Did it sound like that was an underlying assumption? I didn't think that to begin with (I thought it would be best to quit altogether) but after doing some reading, I concluded that moderate amounts of coffee would not only help me avoid unwanted side effects but also be healthier.