The coffee formula that could save your life.
Let me first start by saying that I love my coffee.
From the moment the beans go through my grinder at home my body starts it's little internal dance, the smell is delicious, the black water always inviting. I warm the cup, then use a stove top percolator or a french press (depending on how I feel). It's a wonderful little ritualistic act. Coffee has been my friend only recently, prior to that it was my adversary, I just didn't know it.
Drinking roasted and crushed coffee beans is not a modern day phenomena. Its history dates back to North Africa over 400 years ago. The extensive distribution, availability and cultural drive however is resulting in a growing problem that the majority of us are unaware of.
Coffee today is seen as the perfect panacea for a busy modern life. Our early hit of coffee wakes us up, gets us ready for the busy day ahead. By mid-morning we crave our second dose, to boost concentration and for many, a third hit in the afternoon keeps us buzzing along. By evening, there's the obligatory coffee for some just to comfort or relax us.
It's never seen as a problem because most of us, have no trouble falling asleep, completely exhausted. By morning, we wake up bleary eyed, still feeling tired and our best mate (coffee) wakes us up again and gives us life. We're off, another day ahead. If we get a bit flat during the day, we whistle up another cup and off we go, back into maximum productivity again.
So where's the problem you ask?
Most of us won't see a problem with this formula or the busy life at all. In fact, for many the notion of coffee as a biohack is spot on. It's the drug that keeps on giving...
...but what it giveth with one cup, it taketh with another.
We don't often think of coffee as a drug. It's crushed up beans from a coffee plant that's all. Coffee however, like many drugs has two key components that effect us differently: the half-life and the therapeutic threshold.
The therapeutic threshold is the amount, or concentration of a particular drug that is present in our system before our body responds to that drug. A small amount of caffeine might have no noticeable effect on someone, while it might be very noticeable on someone else. My wife claims to feel jittery with shaking hands on a single cup of milky coffee, while for me, I could have a double shot of espresso and have no noticeable effect.
Interestingly and not widely known, is that between 10-14 grams of caffeine (not coffee, but caffeine) is considered a fatal dose in humans. The standard shot of espresso contains around 63mg of caffeine so, make no mistake, this stuff can kill you. However if you do the math, you'd need to drink 159 shots of it. I imagine your barista would see the warning signs!
The other side of equation, the half-life, refers to how long the drug remains within our system before 50% of its initial concentration is excreted by the body. For coffee, the half-life is around five hours and that can loosely range from 1.5 - 9.5 hours.
If you have one cup of coffee in the morning at say 7am, then another at 10am, you could have the effect of two cups of coffee still in your body at midday. With your afternoon shot at 3pm, that's another accumulation of coffee. An evening shot and you've been running on almost 2 cups of coffee in your system for most of the day.
It's not surprising you need a few glasses of wine/beer/spirits to help you relax at the end of the day! What you're needing there is something to counter the stimulatory effects on your central nervous system in order to relax.
You're running a mix of uppers and downers to balance your energy. To this point, it sounds like a brilliant strategy of biohacking your body with socially acceptable substances. But...once you fall asleep that's when the evil hand of caffeine starts to take over.
The half-life of caffeine could be up to 9.5 hours but that doesn't mean the amount still in your system isn't having an effect. You could have a low therapeutic threshold to caffeine. Your exhaustion (and wine) might get you to sleep but the quality of your sleep will be low. You simply won't fall into deep (restorative sleep).
Without good quality of sleep and full recovery overnight, you'll wake up feeling tired. Guess who's always there waiting for you when you feel tired? Your best friend...
I know this coffee dance well. This was exactly my pattern for years. The effect of poor restorative sleep had a very painful impact. Teeth grinding! My dentist told me I was grinding and recommended a mouthguard to be worn at night. I don't know about you, but my nocturnal activities aren't hardcore enough to warrant a mouth guard!
Two years later, while at another stressful workplace, I had two teeth fracture (likely due to the grinding) and both had to be removed.
I finally got the message - I needed to work out the cause, as I was running out of teeth! I did my research and tried a couple of weeks off the brown stuff. The result was immediate. I woke up feeling more rested. So I cut down, permanently. One shot per day and only before midday.
It's now rare that I wake up with a sore mouth/jaw.
While I'd love a coffee in the afternoon, I now have a peppermint tea instead. I wake up feeling more energetic and am able to relax much better during the day and don't need wine in the evening.
To ensure I don't 'need' coffee, I worked through a number of sleep hacks to get myself having a consistently better quality of sleep. It's also much easier for me now to get up early and start each day with some exercise.
So if you 'need' a coffee hit after midday I'd suggest you explore our simple sleep hacks and then cut coffee out altogether for a couple of weeks. See what happens, then ease back in.
It will be tough, you might get headaches and slight withdrawal-like symptoms and yeah life's short, I get it. But poor sleep is highly correlated with an increase in multiple chronic diseases...and in my case, two lost teeth (which, I'll need to sell a bloody kidney on the black market to afford to replace).
Coffee is now my friend, it's part of my morning ritual, a pattern of behaviour that brings me comfort and stabilises the start of my day.
Start each day with maximum energy and vitality and you'll improve your quality of life immeasurably.
There's a bunch of biohacks on the Wellteam site to help with that and make sure coffee remains your friend...not your enemy.
Take care and go well.
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