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I’m going on ten years of not consuming any caffeinated beverages. Like zilch, nada, nothing. It really hasn’t been too difficult to avoid since I have never liked the smell or taste of coffee or tea. One time, my mom let me try some of her sweet tea, and I immediately spit it out. It was repulsive to me. Furthermore, I’m also just plain weird in that I hate the taste of all alcohol as well. I think we can all agree that I have extremely picky taste buds.
Big Caffeine Consumption
I am currently in the minority when it comes to caffeine consumption according to this study by my Alma Mater, Johns Hopkins. 80% of adults in the US have some sort of caffeine each day. Starbucks clearly benefits from this as 35.2 million people, or roughly 10% of the US population, has visited a Starbucks within the last 30 days in the US. The stock since Starbucks’ IPO has gone up over 17000%. Boy do I wish I had bought some of that stock when I was younger.
Clearly people love their caffeine, namely coffee. So whenever people make analogy of saving money through cutting back on lattes, it never resonates with me because I don’t understand the allure.
Ah, but the sweet nectar that is Coca-Cola. Now that is a caffeinated beverage that I was very addicted to. I loved Coke and only Coke (no Diet versions or any other brand). I drank so much Coke that I once took a blind taste test and easily pinpointed Coke out of its lowly competition. Even though I haven’t had a drop in years, I feel like I could still pass a taste test.
According to Brandon Gaille, “the average person will consume at least one Coca-Cola product once every 4 days,” and “7% say that they drink 4 or more servings of soda every day.”
I included that 7% stat because I was definitely in the 7% population that drank way too much Coke. I would get a headache by noon if I hadn’t consumed Coke at lunchtime. On top of that, it was an expensive addiction. Every time I would eat out, it would cost me an additional $2-$3, which over a month would really add up. I can still remember the taste of a McDonald’s Coke with french fries. That was my perfect combo.
I also drank a two-liter bottle of Coke every day in addition to restaurant purchases. Since I wasn’t a savvy shopper, I rarely shopped sales, so that bottle costed around $2 per day. That’s roughly another $700 per year spent to satisfy my Coca-Cola habit. Not my finest financial moment.
Negative Side Effects
Many of you are probably disgusted at my Coca-Cola addiction. Trust me, I am too as I recall it. The real reason that I gave up drinking Coke though had nothing to do with finances. It had to do with anxiety. Growing up, I didn’t drink Coke since my mom never had it at the house. However, like most kids, when I got to college, I started to make my own food and drink decisions.
Besides the fact that I gained some extra weight probably due to drinking 250 calories of soda at a time and now I am trying to make up for it, I became very anxious, and it affected the way that I lived.
I thought initially it was due to typical college stress and trying to fit in. But as time went on, I thought, this anxiousness might be more serious as it began to escalate. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until about ten years after college that I figured out that there was a direct correlation between my anxiety and the soda that I was drinking.
Quitting Cold Turkey
I have to admit that when I gave up Coke cold turkey, it was not pretty. I felt sick for a couple of days with night sweats, dry-heaving, and pounding headaches. The withdrawal was terrible, but then I noticed a shift in my emotions. I started to feel less anxious, and I felt more energetic and less irritable than before.
It all makes sense though. Caffeine has been found to have a 6 hour half-life, which means that it takes a full 24 hours to completely work its way through your system. So, the caffeine from my lunchtime Coke at noon would still be at 50% strength at bedtime. According to Coffee and Health, increased caffeine results in people sleeping less, poorer perceived sleep quality and waking up more frequently during the night.
Decreased Cognitive Performance
I’m sure you are thinking you could never give up your morning caffeine. You may think that it gives you the jolt you need to make it through the day and helps you work harder. However, a recent study by the University of British Columbia found that excessive caffeine may actually make you slack off.
The Johns Hopkins study I mentioned before found that once the morning high wears off, the residual caffeine actually reduces your cognitive performance and negatively impacts your mood, much to the chagrin of your colleagues.
There is a connection between caffeine consumption and irritability since caffeine causes the release of adrenaline, which puts your body into a hyper-aware state causing your emotions to overtake your mood. This is why when you don’t have your routine morning caffeine that you may be prone to irritability.
Increased Stress Levels
For those that believe that caffeine helps cope with stress, according to James Lane, “The caffeine we drink enhances the effects of the stresses we experience, so if we have a stressful job, drinking coffee makes our body respond more to the ordinary stresses we experience.” He goes on to say, “Everyone accepts that stress can be unhealthy. Our results suggest that drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks can make stress even more unhealthy.” With that amount of stress we’re all already under, why would we undertake any additional stress than we don’t have to?
Some argue that caffeine is good for you. Interestingly enough, some newer studies now contradict those that previously claimed that drinking caffeine in moderation was good for you.
I know I bring this up as I end this article, but my wife also gave up caffeine and has a similar success story. She developed a deep affection for coffee and Diet Coke in college and relied on caffeinated beverages to stay up late studying. She kept up her addiction until I encouraged her to drop it to see if her anxiety decreased. For her, switching to non-caffeinated Zevia flavors helped her eventually transition into drinking La Croix and Pellegrino to satisfy her carbonation fix, while totally eliminating sugar and caffeine.
Both of us agree that eradicating caffeine from our lives has yielded amazing results. Those include: diminished anxiety, clarity of mind, better sleep, and interestingly enough for me, several promotions at work.