Recently, I was doing some holiday shopping at Menlo Park Mall and had a gift card to Starbucks so I decided to treat myself to a Honey Citrus Tea. The shop in the food court was closed but to my surprise the barista told me there were 2 other locations in the mall. It just amazed me because I couldn't understand why one mall would need 3 Starbucks. Then this led me to recall how Starbucks have popped up all over and on any given day you can see their drive thru line wrapped around the building no matter the time of day; and not just for your morning cup of Joe. I know that is Dunkin’s slogan but they are just as strategic on making us think that we should “Run on Dunkin”. That slogan always trouble me a bit because most Americans literally run on caffeine all day-every day for a lifetime.
We all take in coffee for different reasons. I started relatively late. I somehow made it thru nursing school, working nights, 12 hours shifts and having children with no caffeine. I didn’t find myself drinking coffee until I took on a predominantly desk job and my latest schooling adventure where I had to get through a large amount of coursework and writing assignments. I found coffee made those papers so much easier to write and also helped get through my office days. With this less active role my body was telling me it was tired so I found myself indulging in morning cups of coffee more often to maintain my stamina. You would think that doing less physical work would give me more energy but in fact its the complete opposite. How is that possible you say? Simply put, if you don't use it you loose it. And the more I sat, the more I was loosing my energy cells that kept my body moving effortlessly so I started making up for this loss with caffeine stimulation.
I find myself grabbing a cup of coffee because it is quick & easy, wakes me up, curbs my appetite, warms and soothes me. But if I'm not conscious I can go on a caffeine binge to get me through a busy period of time. The problem is that with the demands of life never really stopping you can always find a reason to need more coffee to keep up. This in turn can easily turn into years of unnatural stimulation with large amounts of caffeine intake. Time keeps moving. Maybe days, weeks, months and even years before you realize you are sleeping less, working more and taking in more caffeine to keep going.
The other concern with caffeine is that regular consumption leads to tolerance, meaning that larger doses are required to achieve the same positive effects over time. It also leads to being dependent on it to get through your daily activities. And unfortunately, we know that stopping it cold turkey does not make us feel good. Symptoms can range from headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating to even a bad mood.
So, you must be thinking what can I do to cut back or stop? How can I replace this caffeine stimulant with a more “natural” stimulant?
My #1 effort to combat this is to try to maintain a regular physical activity routine which over time gives me the same benefits of increased energy and alertness as caffeine but in a natural way. I’m using my energy cells so not losing them the same way as when I stay sitting in front of my computer all day. Regular exercise is known not only to decrease your need for stimulants like coffee, energy drinks and sodas but at the same time you will be building your physical fitness, decrease stress levels and improve your mood.
Some other intentional ways to maintain energy levels while monitoring caffeine intake can be to:
-Stop and rest when needed instead of taking in that extra cup while also trying to get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep nightly.
-Be conscious of the amount your intaking. 1 cup of coffee averages about 100mg of caffeine. I like to dilute my coffee by using the large cup setting on my Keurig, using milk or even using half decaffeinated.
-Jumpstart your day with a nutrient rich fresh smoothie instead. This requires a bit more time and preparation but you body will appreciate it more in the long run.
-Drink water as your main beverage so that you're not taking in extra caffeine with sodas, energy drinks or powders.
-Choose caffeine free sodas such as root beer or ginger ale. This gives you that fizz your looking for without the extra caffeine intake.
-Read labels to know how much caffeine you are taking in and not haphazardly consuming high levels. For example, I get migraines and take Excedrin Migraine for relief. But if you read the label you will find it contains caffeine. So the days I need to take this medication I am conscious not to have a cup of coffee.
Life changes constantly and we want to meet its demands all while being intentional in what we are consuming.
Reassessing your physical activity level to see if incorporating more of it into your daily routine can help decrease your need for caffeine intake is a great start. Making these small lifestyle changes one day at a time can help you maintain lifelong natural positive energy levels.