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My Love Affair with Caffeine

by on November 2012

I am addicted to caffeine. There, I said it, but I think anyone that knows me would just yawn at that statement. Nothing feels quite as good as the warm, glowing hug of caffeine in the morning. But, some killjoys have attempted to besmirch my good friend. They say that it causes heart disease, hypertension, cancer, bone loss and dehydrates you. All those things are crap and not true. Don't believe me? Well here are some stone cold scientific facts.

A great article in the New York Times (Sorting Out Coffee’s Contradictions) discussing some real facts about caffeine. All of this is backed up by some really good science and statistically significant samples sizes. i.e. we are not talking 24 people, we are talking 400,000 people in some cases.

Now, I don’t want to see any comments saying "but I heard blah blah blah" or "somebody I know has this problem with caffeine blah blah blah". Science is what got us to the 21st century that we know. That nice car you drive (or bus you ride) was made possible by science. Clean drinking water, science. The bottle it comes in, science. Your $120 vodka….science (plus marketing). Actually distillation is all science. Computers? Science. Medicine? Science. Planes, trains, space stations? Science. Twinkies? Absolutely science (more scientists than NASA to create those).

I know a lot of people like to argue based on individual experiences, BUT, for the majority of the population, these scientific results don't hold true. If you have a bad time with caffeine, fine, but it doesn’t mean everyone else will.

Back to my addiction. Most days I have three or more cups of coffee, plus assorted other caffeinated beverages. The first cup is my "high octane" fuel. For a long time I would add a 100mg scoop of pure caffeine powder to the coffee. At one point in time I did a 200mg "caffeine shooter" (with cranberry juice) at 6:00AM, when I wanted to get to the gym in the middle of the winter. Pitch black and negative thirty degrees just isn’t motivating.

By the way, that 200mg caffeine jump start was inspired by a pharmaceutical product I was developing in 2001. It is the proverbial "wake-up pill". You take the caffeine pill before you go to bed and eight hours later it releases the caffeine into your system while you sleep. Then BAM!, you’re wide awake and ready to go. The problem was I could never get it to a reliable 8 hours. There was a really nice 6 hour release, but every once-in-a-while it would go off in three or four hours. That’s no fun, sitting in bed, fully charged at 3:00AM. The project has become my "when I get around to it" thing. Making pharmaceuticals is expensive.

Anyway, I still had 15kg of caffeine in my office so I decided to make the cranberry caffeine shooters with it. Now with an 18 month old I just can’t be bothered to get up that early. A properly functioning wake-up pill would be nice though.

The one point in the New York Times article that I’d like to highlight is the fact that caffeine does not have any diuretic effect at less than 550mg of caffeine (i.e. it won’t start dehydrating you until your fifth cup of coffee). That means when you have a hangover it is absolutely okay to have a coffee. In fact, I seriously recommend it. Caffeine withdrawal is nasty, and causes headaches and lethargy.

So, you may be saying "how do you know about caffeine withdrawals Mr. Caffeine Addict?".

Well, I work part-time at a medical research facility (it pays the bills) and of course there is always a need for "research samples" and "subjects" to do research on. The usual approach of the researcher is to ask you if you’d like to make $20 bucks, or in one case $350 bucks. Blinded by greed, I tend to take the money and ask questions later. I’ve learned over time that the more money they offer you, the more it’s going to hurt.

In the case of the $350 project we needed to give blood about a dozen times in a 30 day period, plus spend 12 hours in the hospital giving blood every 2 hours. That’s all fine and dandy, even though I hate needles, I’m used to them. The hard part was the little clause at the bottom of the page that read "no alcohol or caffeine 24 hours prior to blood draws".

I followed the rules, but since we gave blood really early (7AMish) it meant no coffee for a whole day. After doing this a half dozen times, I decided to give up coffee for the rest of the month. Caffeine withdrawal really does cause headaches, lack of motivation and general grumpiness.

Anyway, back to my point, caffeine is a perfect companion to a hangover, even more so if you are a regular coffee drinker.

In moderation caffeine is a relatively health vice.

I’ve decreased my caffeine consumption to a reasonable 300mg per day and feel just fine.

* unless you live in an area where waterborne diseases are prevalent, stop drinking bottled water! It is a bigger rip off than ultra premium vodka’s. Really, you pay more for a litre of water than you do for a litre of gasoline. And we know how everyone complains about gasoline prices. Plus the bottles are an environmental nightmare. I’ve started to spend my evenings taking Fionn (my son) for a walk to the park, and while he plays, I pick up an endless number of those stupid plastic bottles! Tap water is just fine, really it is, and it doesn’t cost a buck a cup. Rant over. Cheers!