Do you feel like you're stressed out of your mind and burning the candle at both ends? Well, no worries, just down some more coffee or caffeinated soda and you'll have the energy you need to cope with all of it! At least, that is what most people seem to believe. In fact, there was once a time when I bought into that lie as well. Super stressed by life? Well if I have another energy drink, I should have enough energy to take care of everything and reduce my stress...
My epiphany came when I realized that not only was my self-medicating with caffeine not working, it was making the problem worse! Believe it or not, caffeine raises your stress levels and reduces your energy levels over time as you become tolerant to its effects.
Caffeine works by putting your body in a state of heightened stress and awareness. Imagine for a moment the surge of energy you would experience if you were walking down the street and a ferocious lion leaped out from behind a trash can. Your heart would race, your palms would sweat, your pupils would constrict to pinpricks, and you would be ready for action: all thanks to your adrenal glands. You are probably familiar with the term "adrenaline." Well, adrenaline is a hormone secreted by your adrenal glands that is responsible for everything we just talked about. When you are faced with a "fight or flight" situation (as with the lion) it is secreted in large amounts to prepare to for action. In smaller everyday amounts however it is secreted in response to smaller stressors, keeping your body in a constant heightened state. Caffeine simulates stress in your body by stimulating your adrenal glands to put your body in a hyper-aware state when there is no stimulus. In other words, caffeine is liquid stress for your body. As you might imagine, this is not a healthy long-term energy solution.
On social media, I have heard coffee called many things: "liquid motivation, "liquid energy, etc." Despite what everyone touts, the truth is: Caffeine does not give you more energy. It is not a magical little molecule packed full of energy that releases once it gets inside your body. Rather, it reapportions the energy that you already have available. In other words, it takes out a loan of the energy that you will be using later and brings it up for current use. This is why you "crash". Your body does not have an unlimited supply of adrenaline, and so every time you imbibe caffeine, your adrenal glands get a little more stubborn at releasing it. This gradual build-up of tolerance is why you need more and more caffeine to bring you back up to the same level of energy. Eventually, you have to pay the piper.
The real kicker comes with this: if your body has become tolerant of caffeine, your daily cup of joe (or 10) is not giving you any additional energy.
I repeat, if you use caffeine to feel energized for long enough, it will stop being effective at all. In a recent study, participants who were given 1,000mg of caffeine (equivalent to 8-10 cups of coffee) reported no additional energy from the caffeine after only 2 weeks! So if you've been indulging longer than that, you are subjecting your body to all of the deficiencies and problems that caffeine brings with none of the upsides!
So, when you roll out of bed tomorrow and reach for the pot of coffee, remember, your body's lack of energy is a cry for help. It needs better fuel, it needs vitamins and minerals to provide you with the energy you need, and above all, it doesn't need to be under the whip of caffeine to do exactly what it is meant to do without. The good news is that caffeine tolerance and deficiencies are easily treated, and you can recover extremely quickly if you are committed. But don't just go quitting cold turkey just yet - if you don't have a solid plan to support your body when you suddenly stop its I.V. Coffee Drip, you'll be in for a very miserable couple of weeks. Check out the best way to Detox (nearly pain free) here.