Caffeine is probably one of the best things to happen to night owls. When you have to wake up early in the morning, caffeine will save you from all the sleep grogginess. But that’s not where it ends. Caffeine has helped students to trans-night and study ahead of their exams. A 75-mg serving of caffeine can increase attention and alertness, and a 160 to 600-mg dose may improve mental alertness, speed reasoning, and memory.
However, before you reach out to that cup of coffee, tea, or that energy drink, there are a few things that you should know. Daniel Amen, a doctor who practices as a psychiatrist and brain disorder specialist says, “A lot of people don’t know the brain is 85% water, so anything that dehydrates you like caffeine is bad for the brain.”
The problem is that caffeine is a mind-altering drug and it’s addictive. It operates using the same mechanisms as cocaine and heroin use on the brain, with caffeine having milder effects. If you try to stop taking caffeine, you get tired and depressed with a terrible, splitting headache. These negative effects force you to run back to caffeine even if you want to stop and you become a certified caffeine addict. If you are hooked, you may notice physical withdrawal symptoms like headache, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, lack of appetite, listlessness, depression, and a strong urge for your favourite beverage.
Perhaps one of the extreme side effects of caffeine addiction is muscle breakdown. This condition can cause damaged muscle fibres to enter the bloodstream, leading to kidney failure and other problems. Research has linked this condition to excessive caffeine intake.
For this and other reasons, you probably want to reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet. Here are a few tips on how you can do so gradually but effectively.
- Analyze your caffeine intake
The problem with caffeine addiction is that most of us are unaware that we are in fact addicted. The first step to recovery is awareness. That said, you start by analyzing just how much caffeine you put in your system, either daily, weekly, or monthly. You may be overlooking some sources of caffeine. While many are obvious like coffee, tea and soda, others are less clear. According to registered dietitian Melinda Johnson of Arizona State University, “Energy drinks can contain large amounts of caffeine, and they’re not required to tell you how much caffeine is in a serving.” Chocolate and gum are other sources, as are common over-the-counter medications
- Reduce your intake gradually
Removing caffeine from your diet abruptly may do you more harm than good because it leads to withdrawals. For this reason, you probably want to reduce your intake gradually. If you regularly use one teaspoon, start by cutting it down in half. Then less than that, and even less. Try mixing caffeinated coffee with decaf, or progressively adding more water to your coffee maker each morning.
- Substitute caffeine with other liquids
It’s hard to keep away from caffeine when that’s all your body craves at that moment. So what you should do is substitute caffeinated beverages with water. Water is a healthy choice and satisfies the need for drinking a liquid. Water also naturally flushes caffeine from your body and keeps you hydrated. 7 Tricks For Keeping Yourself Hydrated Every Day
If you are a coffee drinker, gradually switch from regular coffee to decaf. The first alternate between decaf and regular, then slowly change to more decaf and taper off regular coffee.
- Try something new
If you are used to a warm beverage early in the morning, then this time trick your system with a new healthier choice. Herbal teas are great, in terms of taste and scent. Green tea, for example, is a much healthier alternative that has significantly fewer amounts of caffeine than regular tea or coffee.
A 230-ml cup of green tea contains between 30 and 50 mg of caffeine. The recommended maximum amount of caffeine per day is 400 mg, which is equivalent to around 8 cups of green tea. If this isn’t your cup of tea (pun intended), you could try other alternatives like chamomile tea, Purple Tea, or even fruit teas.
Speaking of green tea, here are 11 Health Benefits Of Green Tea