MY NAME IS HANNAH, AND I’M A COFFEE-HOLIC

CAFFEINED

A caffeine fiend. Someone that consumes an extortionate amount of coffee.

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Australia excels in its coffee offerings. There are only two Starbucks I’ve seen in Sydney where superior independent coffee shops reign. The culture of ‘going for a coffee’ runs through all the generations eligible to drink the caffeine infused beverages. I have a coffee shop by my house where I know the owners, they keep up to date with my health and my trips overseas while I know when they’re getting married and hang out with their new puppy. By my old office I have another favourite where I would go for a reprieve from my computer screen, have a laugh, show one owner in particular my recent paintings before returning to my desk with a smile on my face.

With it being such a delightful and personable experience, and that addictive streak rearing it’s ugly head again, I would have four strong coffees most days; hard core, man.

Caffeine is a stimulant. It affects the central nervous system and is psychoactive drug. Caffeine is the only psychoactive drug that is legal and unregulated meaning we collectively consume an extortionate amount.

My former coffee drinking self is rolling her eyes so far back and sarcastically shoving two fingers in her mouth feigning to be sick. I used to find those who preached about the harmful affects of coffee boring and too “health-strict” for words. An ex-colleague of mine would annoyingly say as I gulped down my long-black at 3pm that ‘A coffee before midday gives you extra energy but a coffee after midday robs you of energy for later’. I now know this to be true! I used to flippantly boast that coffee doesn’t affect me that strongly and I could have one before bed and fall straight to sleep. Exaggerate, much?

Anyway, with my stubborn blinkers firmly on tight, I ignored the warnings about excessive consumption – well, I actually didn’t realise the effects my simple little long-black could have on my system, my body, my emotions.

Caffeine causes the following less than desirable side effects:

Dehydration

When I was chugging large long-blacks I thought I was being healthier than everyone else that was having sugary milky alternatives. I also thought as the majority of my concoction was made of hot water that it would by hydrating. Not the case, evidently. I was constantly amazed at how much water I would drink and still feel ferociously thirsty. This also affected my sleep because I’d be downing H20 until I passed out and then would wake up super early because I’d need the bathroom. Dehydration working wonders in my life. This happens because caffeine is a diuretic which means it rids your body of extra salt and water by making you urinate more often. So I’d wake up, rush to the bathroom, then make myself a nice cup of hot diuretic to start the day and the cycle again.

Insomnia

Which nicely leads me on to another beauteous side effect that ruins all of our favourite past-time; sleeping. Within an hour of digesting caffeine the effects will be in play; these can last for four to six hours. Unsurprisingly it stimulates the brain and makes it more difficult to switch off. Even with Chronic Fatigue brewing in my system I had difficulty having undisturbed sleep. I’d wake up multiple times in the night and blamed my ‘busy mind’.

Anxiety

In a similar vein to how it worsens insomnia, by over stimulating the brain and the central nervous system and increasing your heart-rate it also causes bad anxiety. This is something I really suffered from. I had never really experienced anxiety until I stopped drinking, alcohol does the reverse in some ways. However once I had dried up I felt the negative affects of anxiety-inducing caffeine severely. I’d feel lethargic at work, drink more more more coffee to feel alert, then become so jittery and buzzy and anxious that I couldn’t focus and was more inefficient than I was when just slow and tired. My colleagues would have to soothe me and help me make a to-do list at times. Now that’s a good look in the work place.

The shakes! & Restlessness

Caffeine can literally cause a rapid heart beat. I don’t know about you but the thought of my Almond Cappuccino causing similar side effects to my heart as say, speed, is somewhat unsettling. Heart palpitations don’t feel good, leading you to get more anxious and the anxiety causing you to lose sleep… Oh the vicious cycle.

Dependency

Like all the bloody good stuff in life, it’s easy to become dependent on coffee. We rely on its stimulant abilities to get through the working day but I found that the more I consumed the more I appeared to need to get the same affect as before. Alas, a dependency has formed.


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I had never even contemplated having less coffee because as I explained before, I didn’t want to hear it. I had mused over spending less than $16.80 on coffee a day but then resolved that thought by telling myself I can’t afford many treats, so coffee was a financially acceptable one and I love it too much to deny myself (uhum, dependent).

When I fell severely ill with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome I immediately stopped drinking coffee. I didn’t want to be operating on fake-energy when I was collapsing every day from exhaustion. When I saw my god-send of a naturopath she also confirmed that eliminating caffeine from my diet was imperative. Coming off the hard stuff can mean withdrawals which last 2-3 days. Since gaining strength I have been out and about and I still go-for ‘a coffee’ in the proverbial sense. Instead I’m drinking decaf long blacks or chai latte’s with almond milk.

Admittedly these alternatives still have some caffeine in them. However with such low quantities all of the above symptoms have ceased.

I’ve had a look at the numbers…*

One shot of coffee has on average about 100mg of caffeine in it. So I’m calling one shot, one unit…

COFFEE
A small coffee (take away) 1
A regular coffee (take away) 2
A large coffee (take away) 3
1 nespresso pod 0.5 – 1.2
1 mug of instant coffee (2 heaped teaspoons) 1.2
1 mug of french press (caffettiera) coffee 1.1
1 mug of drip / filter coffee 1.5
DECAF COFFEE
1 shot of decaf coffee 0.12
A small decaf coffee (take away) 0.12
A regular decaf coffee (take away) 0.24
A large decaf coffee (take away) 0.36
1 decaf nespresso pod 0.03
1 mug of instant decaf coffee (2 heaped teaspoons) 0.02
1 mug of drip / filter coffee 0.15
TEA
1 earl grey tea bag 0.4
1 english breakfast tea 0.4
1 green tea tea bag 0.25
1 chai tea bag 0.5
A regular chai latte (powder) 0.35
SOFT DRINKS
1 can of Red Bull 0.8
1 can of Coca Cola 0.34
1 can of Diet Coke 0.46
1 can of Coke Zero 0.34
1 can of Sprite 0
1 can of Fanta 0

 


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How much can you safely drink?

You weigh 50kg or less:
You can safely consume up to 300mg of caffeine a day, so that’s one large coffee, or three small take aways.

You weigh 60 kg:
You can safely consume up to 360mg of caffeine a day, so that’s seven chai teas, if you have some weird chai fettish.

You weigh 70kg plus:
You can safely consume up to 400mg of caffeine a day, so that’s two instant coffees, one can of coke and one small take away coffee.

This is considered a ‘safe’ amount, however even this would be too much for me now. Purely because I want to avoid the symptoms written about above. This is what I have now instead!

DRINK CAFFEINE UNITS
Lemon & hot water 0
A small decaf coffee (take away) 0.12
1 earl grey tea bag 0.4
A regular chai latte (powder) 0.35
TOTAL 0.87

I still start my day with a hot drink that wakes me up and gives me spark. I still get to have the magical connection one can only achieve over a hot brew in a quaint café-come-book shop in Paddington or an espresso bar in Darlinghurst. My total caffeine consumption on a hot-drink-heavy day is under a quarter of the recommended daily amount for someone of my size. My anxiety is so much more manageable and my sleep is infinitely better.

I actually had a coffee recently, well, no, I had four because… addict… but it was hellish! Sure, it smelt aromatic and enticing. It certainly felt familiar and favourable as I drank them, one, two, three, more… I stayed up a little later off the back of the coffees but then was reprehensibly fatigued by the time I got to bed. My sleep was shallow and I woke supremely early with the feeling one can only describe as being akin to having to many Jager Bombs when you’re 17. My eyelids were flickering and my dreams were awful!

After four months predominantly caffeine free I’m no longer arguing it’s negative affects. I’m a de-caf-convert. For lyf.

*Numbers based on averages from www.caffeineinformer.com

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