Caffeine – pleasure or poison?

One topic that almost always comes up in my early talks with a new client is caffeine. It isn’t usually the first thing on their mind as it relates to their health but eventually they wonder aloud if they are consuming too much…and if so, what effects it might be having on their body and their life.

I’ll leave the full discourse on caffeine’s bodily effects to medical doctors, but I do have a point of view on how it can jeopardize our ability to achieve a healthy lifestyle with balanced energy throughout the day.

The biggest challenge caffeine presents is that it creates what I call “Fake Energy”. It essentially tricks the body into THINKING it has energy when in fact, just the opposite is true!

Consider a fictitious person who stays up late at night working or watching TV or suffering from insomnia and consequently wakes up in the morning feeling a little sleepy. She’ll say that while she is not hungry in the morning, she simply can’t leave the house without that first cup of coffee or tea (or two). She can then “go for hours without eating” simply refilling her cup of caffeine periodically throughout the morning. She may grab lunch and then find she hit a mid-afternoon lull which she gets through with….an afternoon Starbucks run! Then she wonders aloud why she is always the so wide awake in the evening, even to the point of having difficulty falling asleep at night.

If I deconstruct this pattern, it becomes clear that while the person above is tricking her body into thinking it has energy, in reality the things that TRULY provide energy are being withheld — namely, nourishing food and adequate rest.

A healthier pattern might look like:
1- Getting 7-8 hours of sleep
2- Starting the day with a balanced breakfast
(protein, high fiber carbohydrate, fruit or vegetable)
3- Getting some exercise
4- Eating every 3-4 hours throughout the day
(to maintain stable blood sugar and energy levels)
5- Sufficiently hydrating throughout the day with caffeine-free beverages

But caffeine so thoroughly masks the natural desire for this pattern that a person can completely disconnect from it and instead survive (but importantly not thrive!) on mug after mug of good ol’ “Fake Energy”.

So let’s say you recognize yourself in the scenario above…what exactly should you do? Start by reducing the post-lunch caffeine you consume until you can get to sleep at an hour that gives you 7 or 8 solid hours of sleep. Then, eat something within an hour of waking up…whether or not you feel hungry. You may need to retrain your body to accept food in the morning but over time you will reclaim a healthy, natural rhythm for hunger that is not masked by caffeine. Then pick up the recommended pattern above to derive energy from REAL sources. If I can support you in this journey, please reach out to me! Together we can kick the Fake Energy habit and get you on a path to a life full of the energy you deserve.

I have to end by saying that for many of us (myself included!) morning coffee provides a delightful ritual of warmth and comfort. There’s nothing quite like holding a favorite mug steaming with aromatic goodness to start your day…and there is no reason to give this up! You can gradually convert to decaffeinated coffee, preserving all the joy and pleasure of the ritual, or even keep that one cup a day of caffeinated coffee with little ill effect. The key is simply to ensure that you are not using caffeine as a substitute for real nourishment that provides energy to fuel your life!

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