Saturday, May 14, 2016

cutting caffeine - part 1: background and basic thoughts

I am a healthy guy.  I care about what goes into my body, though with an approach that takes mental health into consideration as well - meaning, if it's going to cause me considerable stress to not consume or do something, I probably won't worry about it.  That said, my two primary vices, as with most Americans, are booze and caffeine (I'll tackle booze in another article, some day).  My caffeine consumption is by no means serious, but my addiction is strong; a morning without caffeine finds me with a dull headache in the afternoon, and a pounding one the following morning - because of this I don't go many mornings without.  My thoughts on this are extremely conflicted, since I know there are few long-term physical downsides to moderate caffeine consumption, but I always wonder if I would be better without it.  Here are my thoughts:

Studies continue to show few, if any, physical health concerns for moderate caffeine consumption, and many benefits can be associated with safe levels.  But I'm less interested in the physical health aspects, and more interested in the overall mental health picture.  There are plenty of people who consume their 1-3+ cups of coffee every day, and lead happy and healthy lives; I feel like I'm among their ranks.  But as a curious guy with an overactive mind, I always wonder if I'd feel better without it.  And maybe "better" isn't the right word, but more consistent.  If I could feel the way I feel mid-way through that second cup (mmmmm), all day long without caffeine, that would be amazing.  No big ups or downs, just sustained energy throughout the day - that's the goal, right?

Quite side note on the fiscal side of this addiction.  Many Americans hit up Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, or some other place every business day, spending anywhere from $2 - $5+ daily, or $520 - $1300+ yearly.  Many retirement advice articles have even focused on this, urging that a reduction in this cost, compounded over 30 years, turns into hundreds of thousands for retirement (crazy!).  Since 2005, I've brewed my own coffee at home; I buy fairly nice beans online (I've used since 2007), and brew a pot every morning.  It ends up being around $50 / month, or $600 / year - not as bad as buying a daily Starbucks, but it's still a nice chunk of change.

I've tried to quit before.  In 2007, working at and tired of the crap coffee they were serving in the break room, I set up a coffee pot at an empty desk in my row, and brewed a pot each morning....which I finished off by 11am each day.  At some point I realized how much I was drinking (700mg+, which is a lot for anyone, but especially for a smaller guy), so I stopped cold turkey.  Five days of pounding headaches and sweats and I jumped back on the horse, though at a lessened pace.  I tried again to quit in 2012, dosing down over the course of a week, which left me with only a couple days of headaches, but then when I tried to drink a cup of coffee socially, I had a headache the next day - huge bummer!

Now I want to try again.  I'm older, wiser (ehhh, sort of), and just hate the feeling that caffeine has beaten me each time.  Right now I'm drinking two 12oz cups / day, or around 400mg of caffeine per day.  June is my test month.  Week 1 is coffee / tea / coffee / tea, back and forth (tea will always be green, to limit the caffeine).  Week 2 is 100% tea (and no more than two cups of green tea per day, or less than 100mg of total caffeine).  Week 3 and 4 are caffeine free.  In week 5 I'd like to try an experimental cup of coffee to see if I can enjoy it without rushing back to headache hell the following day - if I do, I might try another couple weeks completely off.  I'd also like to test my mental aptitude now, midway through, and end of June, to give this personal experiment some shred of validity.

General Goal: to feel like I'm not addicted to caffeine, which simply means being able to miss a day and not suffering consequences.
Assumed Future Happy Point: green tea most days, coffee once in a while, and days without anything that don't feel like hell.

Has anyone else experimented with this?  Does anyone want to join my masochistic month?  Any thoughts on a good online mental aptitude test?

More to come in 2 weeks, as the pain begins....

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