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One Small Change

Why Give Up Caffeine?

madame.furie / flickr

Why would anyone want to give up caffeine?

It’s a valid question, especially since it’s being asked by Jose Antonio, Ph.D., the chief executive officer of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. He points out, and rightly so, that caffeine enhances athletic performance, health, cognition, productivity, metabolism, sociability, mood…If it sounds like he’s rambling on that’s because he’s a caffeine disciple himself, drinking a cup or two of coffee every morning to wake up, an occasional Coke during the day as a pick-me-up, and a caffeinated energy drink before exercise to insure a power workout.

I don’t dispute any of this. In fact, the reason I use and enjoy caffeine (mostly coffee) is because I’ve experienced all these effects firsthand, and I’ll be discussing each one during the course of this experiment. But I’d still like to loosen its hold on me for a number of reasons:

It’s a dependence, and any dependence is a form of weakness. Can you tell I’m the son of an ex-Marine who refused to take even an aspirin? I suppose the fact that he died of a heart attack at age 62 should be a lesson to me, but I still can’t shake the belief that all drugs, no matter how benign, are Achilles heels. Men, especially, should be able to power through.

It’s a costly habit, at least at the level I’m into it. I recently bought a $1,699 Saeco Talea “brewing system” to replace the $899 KitchenAid Pro Line Espresso Machine I nearly wore out. No sir, no Mr. Coffee for me. Plus, I won’t think twice about dropping the better part of $5 for a specialty coffee at Starbucks. In this economy and with a kid I college, that’s foolish.

It’s an impurity in my otherwise pure self. Let me explain this one because it’s a little weird: I watch what I eat, I work out, I test my well water quarterly, and I’m even thinking about getting my house ducts cleaned. (Have you seen the photos of the mites that can live in there?) In other words, I try to keep my system pristine, but yet here is this black sludge that I voluntarily dump into myself daily. I suppose this might be the reason I buy high-end coffee machines and organic beans, thinking they’re somehow mitigating things. But then I look in the bottom of the mug I forgot to wash last night and wonder if the inside of me is similar.

It has icky side effects, such as stained teeth, bad breath and unsightly spots on my good silk ties. Worse yet, it makes my stomach rumble during yoga.

It keeps me up, especially if I drink a cup or have a Coke late in the afternoon or evening. And there’s nothing worse than lying in bed trying to fall asleep when you know you have important stuff to do in the morning—like drink more coffee. Poor sleep is an underlying cause for many illnesses and disease, so anything that disturbs it can’t be good.

It makes me nuts. Some Saturday mornings I get so cranked up on coffee that I actually prowl the house with a hammer nailing popped drywall screws, unseated door hinges, and bent patio furniture. My wife contends this is a good thing while slipping more chore lists into my pockets, but I just feel my heart pounding and this urge, this drive, to do something—anything—and I don’t like it. I want to relax. I want to live in the moment. I wonder how much caffeine contributes to the ongoing level of stress in my life, which science claims can eat away at health like rust does a bucket.

It could kill me, because I live in Pennsylvania, and this year we’ve had a hellish winter. Each snowstorm has been followed by a period of freezing rain that literally puts icing on the cake. The stuff is impossible to shovel, and there are regular reports of middle-age guys like myself who dropped dead trying. Doctors say coffee can increase your chances of having a heart attack under these conditions because it constricts blood vessels and makes the heart work harder. Although I love coffee, this has made me contemplate buying a snowblower—or at least not clearing the driveway.

So as you can see, I have lots of good reasons to quit. Now the question is can I actually do it?

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Caffeine