Caffeine-free living isn’t very common in the western world, so a lot of people are surprised to learn I never drink coffee or any caffeinated beverages. Some people claim they can’t function without it – the very definition of addiction. In fact, caffeine addiction is the only socially approved chemical addiction throughout the world, with the exception of nicotine in increasingly fewer places. Several cups of coffee throughout the day is considered de rigueur at many jobs.
One of the reasons I don’t consume caffeine is because I do not like the idea of becoming addicted to any chemicals, even if caffeine isn’t all that dangerous at normal doses. Another reason is that instead of relying on caffeine to help stimulate me in the morning, I’d rather make sure I get enough sleep. Caffeine may help you overcome morning grogginess, but it can’t undo the damage caused by lack of sleep.
Instead of caffeine, I put a lot of red pepper on my breakfast, or I take it by the spoon. And/or I do some quick exercises while listening to music. Red pepper can be very stimulating, but unlike caffeine it isn’t addictive and doesn’t lead to withdrawal. Simply drinking water to rehydrate after so many hours of sleep also helps. Eating healthy, regular exercise, and getting enough sleep are all you need for optimal energy.
As much as I don’t like caffeine, I won’t deny that it appears to be beneficial for some forms of exercise. According to the Laboratory of Pharmacology, Faculty of medicine, University of Sfax, Tunisia that did a study on the Effects of morning caffeine’ ingestion on mood States, simple reaction time, and short-term maximal performance on elite judoists.:
In conclusion, the results of this study suggest that morning caffeine ingestion has ergogenic properties with the potential to benefit performance, increase anxiety and vigor, and decrease the simple reaction time.
I still wouldn’t want to use it after reading this. There are many other studies out there showing how caffeine is beneficial for exercise.
One of the biggest negatives of caffeine consumption is that it appears to promote fibrocystic breasts in women. The J Natl Cancer Inst., in the study, Caffeine consumption and fibrocystic breast disease: a case-control epidemiologic study.:
In a hospital-based case-control study that included 634 women with fibrocystic breast disease and 1,066 comparison women in Connecticut, the occurrence of fibrocystic breast disease was positively associated with average daily consumption of caffeine. Women who consumed 31-250 mg of caffeine/day had a 1.5-fold increase in the odds of disease, whereas women who drank over 500 mg/day had a 2.3-fold increase in the odds. The association with caffeine consumption was especially high among women with atypical lobular hyperplasia and with sclerosing adenosis with concomitant papillomatosis or papillary hyperplasia, both of which have been associated with an increased breast cancer risk. The association was specific to fibrocystic breast disease in that there was no association of caffeine consumption with fibroadenoma or other forms of benign breast disease.
According to the Mayo Clinic, fibrocysts in the breasts don’t increase the risk of cancer, but they do make it harder to detect cancer.
I posted the above studies on caffeine just to see what the science says about caffeine use. They are not a recommendation to take up coffee drinking or caffeine use if you are not already doing it. While it does improve athletic performance in many people, this doesn’t mean you absolutely must use it to become a better athlete. Even amphetamines improve athletic performance, but would you want to run the risk of amphetamine addiction, or suffer side effects, just so you can run a little faster or longer?
So while I am aware of the science of caffeine and its potential benefits, I choose not to use it. I am not being “ridiculous” or “foolish” for abstaining from caffeine. And for the record, I am not a Mormon or a member of a religious sect that forbids coffee or caffeine consumption.
Caffeine may not be a hard drug, but it isn’t harmless either.
I knew I liked you. I have the exact same feelings about caffeine – though, I won’t deny myself chocolate which contains caffeine (but never dark!). I have never been a coffee drinker, and like you, I would much rather make sure I am treating my body well rather (getting sleep, eating foods that give natural energy) rather than relying on a chemical. People have actually been disgusted with me in the past – like, “well, you must not have to wake up..” etc, etc, to try to justify their own addiction. I wake up anywhere from 4 – 5 am every morning, am a homemaker and work full time. I am a “do-er” and during time I have to relax, all I can think of is all the things I should be getting accomplished. I’d like to think I am something right considering I have the energy to do it everyday with my workout! I really enjoyed this and it was a happy read! Thanks for educating! 🙂
Exactly exactly exactly. Some coffee drinkers are caffeine-pushers! I’m just like you, although I don’t consume chocolate due to allergies. I also wake up early and work full time and have no use for caffeine.
Not to brag, but at a retail job of mine several years ago I was the recipient of several awards for being a very effective employee, among them the “Employee of the Month” award. And all the while I never consumed any coffee or caffeine; no one could figure me out and they thought I was lying about not drinking coffee or caffeine. How else can someone work for 16 to 18 hours?
Everyone else over there was a big time coffee drinker and junk food eater. My “secret” was getting enough sleep, eating a healthy vegetarian diet and also fresh green drinks. I don’t drink them as much as I used to, but they also have a stimulating effect, with no serious side effects. Thanks for reading!
I learned the hard way how horrible it was by getting horrible caffeine headaches when I didn’t have enough of it, my body was horribly addicted. After a few days of a miserable headache (I don’t take Advil or anything unless I feel it’s absolutely necessary) I managed to kick my addiction. On the note of soda, one month away from it and I dropped 10 lbs. Now I have a soda or cup of coffee maybe once a week, only when I have to work early and if I’m still beat from the day before (chasing a 2 year old boy is exhausting! lol) and even then I don’t finish it, that’s one trap I don’t want to fall back into.
Congratulations for kicking your addiction. If I had to chase around a two year old much of the day, I would probably need caffeine at least occasionally. Joggling is nothing compared to that. “Trap” is such a good word to describe caffeine addiction or any addiction. Thanks for your comments.
I’ve been nearly entirely caffeine free for four months now (I will still have a cup before a particularly grueling day) and I’m trying to quit drinking alcohol cold turkey. It’s harder than you think it will be, if only because it’s so ubiquitous! I have to remind myself constantly that I’m supposed to be abstaining from coffee and, now, alcohol.
A very good point that most of us never think of addressing. Caffine is addicting. And it’s an ingredient in so very many things that I love to consume.
Congratulations. 4 months is a good stretch of time, keep it going. I can’t even remember the last time I had anything with caffeine in it. Maybe over 6 years ago? And I think it was some form of chocolate, which I am kind of allergic to.
Good luck with alcohol, it can be tricky. Besides being caffeine-free, I also happen to be a teetotaler. It’s easy for me since I never really cared for the taste of alcohol, except for beer pancakes(so much of the alcohol is released by cooking), very light nearly alcohol-free beers, and home-made Russian kvass. Because of my love for experimentation and a strong DIY philosophy I used to make my own wine(and kvass), but it was also low alcohol.
It usually requires a lot of strength to overcome the social pressure to drink. There are so many other, more constructive, healthier ways to have fun, I don’t understand why so many people see alcohol as absolutely necessary for it. I do not have any moral problems with it, though situations involving a lot of alcohol often lead to trouble, if only a bunch of people who can’t function in the morning due to hangovers. It’s not just harder to work, but also harder to exercise or eat healthy if this is a frequent enough occurrence.
I am no neo-puritan. I am not judging those who choose to drink socially, I just don’t appreciate it when drinkers make erroneous assumptions about abstainers, and then try to persuade us abstainers to drink based on these erroneous assumptions. It’s ridiculous how they think(or pretend) they are doing a “favor” for abstainers. I guess they don’t like other people being healthier than them?
Anyway, I’m sorry this turned into a rant. I guess it all boils down to our self-concept, and how healthy do we really want to be? Good luck to you and your endeavors to live a healthier life. I feel you getting healthier already.
I used to drink coffee all day while working as a computer programmer. Then I gave it up for a year because it was not doing anything for me any more except making me sick. The =n i went back to a cup or two a day. Then my BPH got bad and I limited myself to one small cup in the morning. Then I gave it up all together. I am now calmer and need to urinate less. Being caffeine free is good — but I do like the taste of good coffee so we buy free market whole bean decaff. (I wonder how they get the caffeine out tho…?)
Thoughtful post! I can’t really comment on the scientific side of things, but I find that when I am most healthy (exercising everyday, eating right, getting enough sleep) I don’t need caffeine. That is in the morning I actually forget to drink coffee, which surprises me.
I am not drinking coffee only because it is not tasty 🙂