Hey Lady, Step Away From The Caffeine!

Shortly after signing up for the Longest Game of Hockey for CF, I came to a stark and unwelcome realization: I have to stop consuming caffeine! Playing hockey all day, every day means I won’t have time for such things as drinking coffee. And I know that whenever I go a day without drinking coffee, I get a caffeine withdrawal headache. From what I’ve read, those last for several days – unless of course, you go back on the caffeine, which I won’t have the option to do given the aforementioned playing of hockey all day, every day. Since the last thing I want is do is suffer through several days of headache while I play hockey, I figure I should stop with the caffeine already.

Day 273 Consuming less caffeine – ur doing it wrong.

I have been a caffeine addict1 for my entire adult life. It started when I got a job in a coffee shop at 14 years of age. Having to be up at 5 a.m. to get the store opened + access to an unlimited supply of free coffee = one bad coffee habit. University didn’t help, with its several all nighters per week in undergrad and its round-the-clock lab sessions in my doctoral studies2. Thus, coffee has long been a staple in my life. In addition to coffee, I’m also a big drinker of diet Pepsi. And black tea. A typical day of caffeine consumption3 for me looks like this:

Item Amount of Caffeine
pot of coffee in the morning4 (800 mL) 450 mg
Diet Pepsi at lunch5 (355 mL) 38 mg
Pot of tea at night (1000 mL) 224 mg
TOTAL: 712 mg

To put that into context for you, Health Canada’s recommendation is:

For women of childbearing age, the recommendation is a maximum daily caffeine intake of no more than 300 mg, or a little over two 8-oz (237 ml) cups of coffee. For the rest of the general population of healthy adults, Health Canada advises a daily intake of no more than 400 mg.

Holy crap. I knew I consumed a lot of caffeine, but I didn’t realize I was getting more than TWICE as much as is recommended6. And this doesn’t even count days that I go to Starbucks or Esquires7 for an afternoon cup of joe.

Day 275

Coworker came into my office with chocolate covered espresso beans. Mmm, chocolate covered espresso beans!

Obviously, I need to do something to bring my caffeine consumption into check. My first action on this front has been to mix my regular coffee beans with decaf ones8. This brings my daily total down to a mere 487 mg. Still too much, but it’s a start. My initial plan was that I would gradually up the decaf-to-regular ratio over the course of the spring/summer, and switch to decaf Diet Pepsi9 and decaf tea in order to gradually wean myself off caffeine. But now I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be better to just go cold turkey, suffer through a week long headache and be done with it. I guess I still have some time to decide. But I’m curious – anyone out there have any experience with giving up caffeine? Any thoughts/recommendations for me?

  1. Technically, I should say that I’m “dependent” on caffeine rather than addicted, as my requirement for caffeine does not really fit the definition of addiction, primarily in that I don’t “compulsive[ly] drug seek[…] and use, despite harmful consequences.” []
  2. When we had experiments running, our schedules were totally dependent on the circadian rhythms of the rats – we needed to weigh and feed them in the afternoon, take blood samples at midnight, and be back in the lab very early for the morning sampling, which would last until it was time to weigh and feed them again. []
  3. Source of these caffeine contents data: Centre for Science in the Public Interest. It was easier to Google it than to get up and retrieve one of my textbooks. []
  4. I drink one mugful while I’m getting ready in the morning and put the rest in my travel mug to take to the office []
  5. Or sometimes at dinner, if I don’t have one at lunch []
  6. Even if I go with the fact that I know I’m not knocked up and use the “regular” healthy adults recommendation, rather than the one for “women of childbearing age,” I’m still consuming 178% of the recommended amount!! []
  7. Which are rare, thanks to my cheapness. []
  8. This was something that a naturopath recommended to my ages ago. []
  9. Or, really, just cut out the Diet Pepsi altogether. []