If you are a coffee or energy drink addict, I have some good and some bad news for you. Let me give you the bad news first.
Bad News – Your Addiction Is Leading You to a Burnout
If you look up “caffeine,” which is the main active ingredient in virtually all energy drinks, you will find that it is a stimulant of the central nervous system.
As a stimulant, caffeine acts by pretty much squeezing the last remaining juices out of your energy storage. In fact, when you seem to have no more energy left, it gives you a “boost” by mobilizing your entire system into an emergency mode.
If you are not familiar with the term “fight-or-flight response,” it is a state in which your brain and the rest of your physiology are mobilized for a situation in which your life is threatened.
Several hormones, such as adrenaline, are released fast, leading to a state of extreme agitation and possibly panic, depending on how exhausted your endocrine (hormone-producing) system is.
Having a caffeinated drink triggers your fight-or-flight response because caffeine stimulates your adrenals. This is the same kind of a response you get when you:
- Have a heated argument with somebody
- Are about to get into road rage
- Have your manager threaten to fire you
- Are attacked by a wild animal
- Undergo other forms of stress
As you may be noticing, drinking caffeine has the same effect on you as some of the most radical stressors. In other words, caffeine is a stressor.
This means that every time you have a sip of coffee, you put your body under additional stress, as if you didn’t have enough stress already.
Yes, you will get a temporary boost of energy, will be more sharp and alert for a period of time. But when the stimulant is out of your system, it will leave you drained and in need for more stimulation.
That, in turn, leads to more stress, which leads to the need for more stimulation. And this vicious cycle is a sure road to burnout and possibly a nervous breakdown.
Good News – Getting Rid of Caffeine Is a Major Step Towards Higher Energy
Once you understand that caffeine doesn’t “give” you anything but only takes away, you should be motivated to take steps to come off the habit.
As your intake of caffeine diminishes, you will notice several things:
- You may feel a little low on energy for a period of time, after which your energy levels will start smoothing out. You will find that you don’t experience extreme lows any more.
- You will find that you are less edgy when communicating with people. If you have been curt with your loved ones, this behavior will gradually begin to fade.
- If you’ve been experiencing panic attacks, they will begin to diminish in frequency and severity.
- Your mood will begin to improve.
While the drama of energy ups and downs plays itself out on the surface, your body and mind deep inside will reward you in the following ways:
Your adrenals will finally get to breathe a little. This is a very important first step to recovery from the effects of extreme stress and to preventing a burnout or even a nervous breakdown.
Your blood sugar levels will begin to normalize. Caffeine has been sending your insulin on a roller-coaster because its release is connected to the release of adrenaline, which is stimulated by caffeine. This will begin to give you steadier levels of energy (provided you don’t eat too much sugar but more about that in another article).
Your blood vessels will thank you by taking a needed break from all that dilation that has been leading to high blood pressure and its associated damaging effects.
Your body’s ability to store and distribute glycogen will gradually improve and lead to even smoother levels of energy, which will result in your body gradually getting out of the “war zone.”
Steps to Decreasing and Eliminating Caffeine from Your Diet
Frankly, my friend, I am a big believer in quitting cold turkey. This is how I quit smoking, dropped a sugar addiction, and beat caffeine dependency.
I advocate one step – STOP.
If what you’ve read so far in this article is not enough motivation for you, that’s fine. I could have scared you more in the Bad News part by telling you what you can really expect down the line – a nervous breakdown, which is what I experienced. A total crisis of the nervous system, which is not fun, very dangerous, and hard to get out of.
If you must do it gradually, then here are the steps:
Step 1. Count how many kinds of caffeinated drinks you consume.
These could be a cup of coffee, a Red Bull or other energy drink, or a Coke. Just count how many of these you drink on a daily basis.
Step 2. Begin diminishing the number of the types of drinks you have.
If you drink coffee, Red Bull, and Coke, start out by eliminating Red Bull or Coke. And when I say eliminate, I mean just stop drinking it. If you are drinking more than one source of caffeine, eliminating one of the sources is not that hard.
So, instead of having three types, now have two. Then set a goal to get down to only one. Coffee is plenty, trust me.
Step 3. Count how many servings of the remaining drink you have every day.
This is easy – count the number of cups of coffee, small glasses of coke, or bottles of energy drink.
You may want to track yourself for a day or two just to see where you are now, if you don’t know for sure.
Step 4. Begin diminishing the number of servings of the remaining caffeinated drink.
If you’re left with coffee, drink one cup less. If you’ve drinking five cups, get down to four. Then get down to three.
You get the idea.
If you take this to heart, your body and mind will thank you.
Till next time,