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Several months ago, I have noticed that I might be a caffeine addict. It was not easy for me to admit it at the beginning. Why so? Because having one or two cups of freshly prepared coffee did not seem like an alarming behavior…You might feel the same way in fact.
But how did I discover that this psychoactive substance called caffeine was my dearest addiction? I have noticed it became very difficult for me to concentrate in the early mornings if I would skip my beloved cup of coffee. I drive every morning round 30 km to work and as you can imagine my concentration is essential at this point.
Another symptom of coffee addiction was my constant magnesium deficiency. I am an active person that plays joyfully tennis in the lunchbreak. I love spending my weekends waking up early in the morning to join my friend for a forest jogging. But as I noticed coffee has really increased the amount of magnesium my body needed.
After constantly struggling to concentrate in the afternoon and keep on having muscles cramps, I told myself “Stop. It’s time to give up coffee…or at least try for some time”.
Can we say that caffeine is a drug?
We all know that caffeine can positively influence human performance and increase alertness. The main source of caffeine is coffee but it can be found in other beverages including tea, energy drinks and carbonated sodas. Studies show that a dose of at least 380 mg of caffeine significantly increases heart rate. Other studies claim that a dose of 300 mg or higher may increase anxiety.
What is alarming however is the fact none of the caffeinated beverages I came across this week had no the amount of caffeine per serving. Some had a warning information saying: “the product is not recommended for children and pregnant women”.
What is a caffeine dependence?
Although low to moderate consumption of caffeine is generally safe, some users develop caffeine dependence. They are unable to reduce consumption despite knowledge of recurrent health problems. The World Health Organization recognises caffeine dependence as a clinical disorder.
Some studies suggest that “caffeine exhibits the features of a typical psychoactive substance of dependence”. If you have consumed caffeine beverages regularly and then suddenly stopped, you may experience caffeine withdrawal. Typical syndromes of a sudden cessation of caffeine intake may result in headaches, increased anxiety and depression and reduced speed of simple motor tasks.
But what are the effects of excessive coffee (or caffeinated drink) consumption? Have you ever heard of the “sleep sandwich”? Adults use caffeine to improve their daytime functioning. As caffeine causes reduction in 6-sulfatoxymelatonin, if overdosed, sleep is interrupted. Next day already caffeine is needed because we experience performance deficit. Doses of caffeine even 6 h before the usual bedtime may significantly disturb sleep.
How much caffeine contains my drink?
Let’s have a look at the caffeine concentration across beverages. A typical cup of coffee can have even 188 mg per serving.
Overall, longer steep-times increase the caffeine content in brewed teas. Likewise, variability in the caffeine content in a standard coffee may be due to many factors e.g. variety of coffee bean, roasting method, particle size (coffee “grind”), the proportion of coffee to water used in preparation, and the length of brewing time.
What are the alternatives to my daily coffee?
Quitting your daily coffee will not be an adequate solution if you choose another caffeinated drink. Sure, replacing your 5 servings of espresso with 2 servings of black tea is still a reasonable solution. The total caffeine intake will decrease from 300 mg to roughly 120 mg per day.
Below 3 beverages to consider when trying to decrease you caffeine intake:
1. Ginger Tea
This tea can be easily prepared at home and is naturally caffeine-free. Ginger tea can be served in two ways: as a fresh grinded ginger root or dried version. Poor some hot water with lemon juice and it’s ready!
It is proven that ginger has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Ginger enhances blood circulation throughout the body by stimulation of the heart muscle and by diluting circulating blood. This enhances cellular metabolism and helps to relief cramp and tension (Gong et al., 1989).
2. Matcha Tea
You can prepare this delicious drink to boost your energy level and replace your morning coffee. Matcha does contain caffeine but only around half the level of a black cup of coffee. This tea buzz is longer lasting and more sustained than a typical coffee.
Unlike other types of tea that are steeped in bags, matcha is a finely milled powder made from the whole leaf and dissolved in water to release the full health properties of the leaves Matcha contains as many antioxidants as 10 times of a regular green tea!
3. Decaf Chai Tea
Use decaf black tea (leaves) and cook it for 5-10 minutes with a mix of water (2/3) and 1/3 of milk of your choice. Of course, you can increase the ration even to 1:1 depending on how milky you like your chai. Add cinnamon, cardamom, cloves and ginger. This coffee alternative is not only tasty but full of health benefits. Cinnamon has fatigue reducing properties whereas cardamom is a mood elevator (yes we like it). Ginger and clove have anti-inflammatory attributes.
In my first 2-3 weeks of dead-dropping my caffeine addiction I have decided to switch to the chai tea option. Why? Maybe it reminded me of my trip to India in 2016…But seriously, the reason was simple: its incredible taste and powerful smell that kicked me just enough to start my day. The lesson I learned was simple. No matter what you drink, it can replace your morning coffee as long as it gives you the same effect.
What is your favorite coffee alternative? Let us know below in the comments.