Caffeine Talk

Got your morning (or afternoon) joe in hand? For many readers, this would be a yes. Even if you said no, it might just be because you’ve joined ranks with the tea crowd. And, while cultural practice (a mug on the work desk being as American as apple pie) and taste are undoubtedly big draws, for many of us it all boils down to that rousing, invigorating, motivating little substance: caffeine.

When it comes to caffeine, there’s a lot of dissent among those who in some way align themselves with the paleo approach. Purists shun it. Some partake sheepishly and publicly support tea more than coffee, cocoa or unsweetened caffeinated sports waters. Still others openly embrace caffeine as a reasonable compromise. (You’re harder pressed to find common support for soft and sports drinks.)

It’s true that Grok had no Starbucks or Tazo. But should we “can” caffeine?

We should first get the antioxidant issue on the table. Tea, coffee and cocoa, indeed, sport some lovely little flavonoids, but a diet rich in fruit and vegetables can offer the same. The issue is caffeine, the stimulant, itself.

As a stimulant, caffeine offers the temporary benefits of improved concentration, enhanced memory and an extra bit of energy. However, this “heightened” state has some unappealing physical effects as well. Obviously, there are the proverbial caffeine jitters and, for a few people who are either caffeine sensitive or who regularly overindulgence, even heart flutterings. But there’s more. Recent caffeine consumption can reduce blood flow to the heart during exercise.

And, apparently, some of us are “slow caffeine metabolizers” (who knew?). Being part of this crowd and partaking of caffeine, some research shows, puts us at increased risk for non-fatal heart attacks. Caffeine has been shown to also raise blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes.

Additionally, caffeine induces heartburn in many people. Given that prescriptions targeting acid reflux are so common these days, we often wonder how much caffeine plays into many people’s symptoms. At a certain point for certain people, caffeine probably isn’t worth it just from that standpoint alone.

And then there’s the question of why we reach for the mug in the morning (and perhaps the afternoon). Is it really just a pick-me-up, or is it a band-aid for a larger problem like sleep deprivation, hormonal imbalance, lack of physical activity, lack of adequate sunlight, you name it. Are we really taking care of ourselves?

And is caffeine the only answer? Would heading out for a morning walk offer the same benefit? If you’re falling asleep at your desk come 2:30 p.m., would working out over the lunch hour make a difference? We’d argue that scrutinizing caffeine consumption is about the why, how much, and what else, more than a resounding yes or absolute no.

For some of us, in the end, a small amount of caffeine can be a true (and, arguably, truly needed) leg up. It’s a compromise we make in the context of our real, harried modern lives: global business trips with inevitable jet lag, heavy workloads with last minute deadlines, teething toddlers we’re up with half the night, etc. We make a commitment to truly take care of ourselves day to day, but the caffeine option is there to help get us over the hump. It’s a moderate dose of concession in the midst of a busy and otherwise healthy lifestyle.

And maybe that can bring us back to the convenient antioxidant justification. If it should count as an indulgence, why not make it one with a few health benefits on the side?

Send us your perspectives, reasons for abstaining, rationales for imbibing.

Refracted Moments, dawn_perry, clara & james Flickr Photos (CC)

Further Reading:

Sensible Vices

Tea Time

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73 thoughts on “Caffeine Talk”

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  1. I began to notice a ‘reverse’ effect of too much caffeine consumption making me feel fatigued, like I had done an intense workout earlier in the day. I used to drink a lot of coffee AND do a lot of intense workouts, so I figured it was the exercise.

    But then I noticed it on days I had no reason to feel physically fatigued neither from intense effort nor lack of sleep. I tied it to the excess coffee over a period of days of purposefully drinking too much on light workout days and not drinking so much on hard days.

    Now I have coffee on my way to the gym in the morning and sometimes a second cup later with breakfast after the workout. Then it’s black tea the rest of the morning; green tea in the afternoon; and only herb- or decaffeinated-tea in the late afternoon and evening. Haven’t had an episode of fatigue since.

    I wonder how many other people experience this then reach for another cup of joe as the ‘solution’?

    1. Caffeine comments or “Does the internet make everyone’s opinions particularly extreme?”

      It’s hard to believe how opinionated and extreme people’s comments are about coffee. The comments range from the bland to the extreme (coffee is horrible… it makes you sick) to the hypochondriacal (coffee causes every possible physical and mental malady in the ICD-10).

      Coffee gives you a mild buzz. Drink it or don’t drink it. If you want a real buzz, take methamphetamine. If you really want to get addicted, take oxycontin. Otherwise, get real and stop whining.

  2. The Quick stop by my house used to sell a “Double Big Gulp” for $1.87. That’s 64oz. of soda for under 2 bucks. I’d down one daily, always diet coke (because diet coke is healthy, right?). By the end of the day I would be bouncing off the walls from the caffeine. I couldn’t focus or sit still. I still do the 64oz a day, but now it’s water. Also, I keep doing Starbucks, but I believe I’m more addicted to the Norah Jones atmosphere than the caffeine.

  3. I stopped going to Starbucks specifically because I couldn’t stand the Norah Jones. To each his own…

  4. so around 1.5 years ago (at 44.5), I got into a cup of coffee in the morning for some um!! digestive help. Despite doing everything right, my system liked that jumpstart!! I dont think I couldve counted the times I had coffee (in my whole life) before that on one hand!! This was around the same time I started being more vigilant on my path to fitness (CF) and all!! Now I always drink home brewed organic java (rarely frequent Starbucks and then basically only if with a friend for a tea). I usually have 1-2 cups in the morning before I start my day and an occas cup of yerba mate too! No caffeine for me after 10 am as it effects my sleep at night!

    I tried stopping the coffee in Dec 07 but I wasnt as energetic and had the same plumbing difficulty that sent me to the coffee!

  5. I can’t handle caffeine. At low doses I like the energy it gives me, but the come down just isn’t worth it. I envy those that can drink coffee with no side effects because I love the taste. I will indulge in a periodic mug of green tea on the weekends or when I have a big workout ahead of me, but often times I find (especially if I drink it on back to back days) that the day after I drink it I get a headache. I must be especially sensitive to caffeine. On the occasions when I have had an entire cup of coffee I got really jittery, irritable and uncomfortable.

  6. I enjoy a cup and a half to two cups of coffee most days of the week. I find it helps to get my digestive system going in the morning. Suffering from IBS, I’ve ready many materials suggesting that I avoid coffee and other caffeinated beverages like the plague, but my body handles it fairly well. I’ve had IBS for some 10 years, and I only started drinking coffee about 9 months ago. I’ve noticed no change for the worse, and, instead, found that coffee helps to soothe my rumbling stomach and gets me going, in more ways than one.

    I actually enjoy the taste of plain, black coffee, so much so that I’d even spring for a cup of decaf at night, if the mood strikes me. When I first started drinking it, the caffeine buzz would smack me right upside the head. I’d feel buzzed and giddy, kinda like I had had a few drinks. It was very strange. Now my body seems to have grown used to it. I don’t seem to suffer any ill effects if I skip the coffee for a few days, so I don’t think I’m addicted. I’ve heard horror stories about people trying to quit caffeine and getting raging headaches after a day or two without.

  7. Coffee is Not a band-aid for anything! Maybe it is this whole health craze that has kept you from really enjoying coffee. Try taking a week off from the gym and vacation indoors with a fresh cup of Black Joe in front of your TV.

  8. I think I’m one of those slow metabolizers of caffeine, which makes me really sad. I love a good cappuccino in the morning! But if I have any sort of caffeine after about noon I can’t sleep that night, and even too many days in a row of *decaf* coffee will eventually keep me up all night. I also really dislike how the caffeine makes me feel, jittery and shaky and my heart races and it intensifies my anxiety. But I still indulge once in a while, especially if I have a busy day planned because then I don’t notice the effects as much.

  9. Wow, I had a memory crop up about when I was a younger gentleman probably in 4th or 5th grade. Does anyone remember Jolt Cola??? It was this hyper caffeinated, well come to think of it, it is exactly how it sounds. A friend of mine, Matt Bodell Layton used to drink that stuff and just go crazy at school for about an hour. I remember the boys in my class had to read petitions at mass (catholic school) in front of the all school mass and the old people that came to church. We drank Jolt Cola before we had to read it. I mean we all slammed dunked as much Jolt Cola we could before morning mass. And none of us could stand still, we were laughing and carrying on like crazy people. The priest, Father Dennis. Calmly got up and walked over to us, which was the scariest thing in the world btw, and took us to the office behind the church, locked us in, and told us to stare at the wall. We still could not sit still and congregation could still hear us going nuts in this office. All the other students in the church started laughing and all of us could here the kids in church laughing so we began to laugh much, much harder. We also we getting very loud. Anyway our teacher came back and yelled at us so loud that everyone busted into tears laughing so hard. We were all sent home for the day. Luckily my grandmother was in church that morning and I went home with her. She bought myself a subway sandwich. When I came crashing down off the Jolt Cola high. I slept for what seemed like a week. I still cannot believe that stuff was legal. It was like crack cocaine in a can.

  10. Bunch o’ thoughts.

    1. Is it the caffeine that causes heartburn, or some other compound in coffee? I find that decaf, consumed in excess, aggravates my acid reflux. I almost never drink caffeinated coffee, but I’ve had to cut way back on the decaf, too.

    2. I never fall asleep after lunch (or, heavens, after breakfast) any more, now that I gave up carb heavy meals.

    3. Sarena – I think the effect on your plumbing may also be caused by some other compound in coffee besides the caffeine, because decaf has the same effect on me.

    4. Starbucks is a victory of style over substance. Their coffee is demonstrably terrible. They overroast it on purpose to get rid of the volatile oils that cause coffee to go bad. Removing these oils increases the shelf life tremendously. The problem is that those volatile oils are also what makes coffee taste good. So they have deliberately made their product inferior in order to extend its shelf life and foist stale coffee off on you, the consumer, at an obscene price. The joke’s on you, yuk, yuk. (Or maybe I should say, “Yuck, yuck.”) No wonder that most of the Starbucks coffee drinks have a giant pile of sugar or dairy added to them – who could stand to drink the stuff au naturel? Lest you think I’m fussing at Starbucks because they are a giant chain, I discovered a while ago that one of the Whole Foods stores in my area roasts coffee fresh daily. If you get there at the right time, the metal scoop in the bulk bin will be warm from the freshly roasted coffee. So that’s where I buy mine. I drink it with a tiny bit of heavy cream. It’s utter luxury, and even at $13/lb, it’s a bargain compared to Starbucks because I brew it myself – and I actually like drinking it!

    1. About the acid reflux: I’ve had trouble with coffee giving me heartburn for years, and I believe it’s the acidity of drip coffee. It takes tons of espresso to give me the same problem, and it never happens with tea. And when too much coffee has given me an acid-sensitive stomach, other acidic things like orange juice, tomatoes, and onions can also hurt.

    2. Freshly roasted coffee beans have little taste. After the beans are roasted they must sit, usually overnight, to develop the oils that produce the flavor.

    3. I am a great fan of Starbucks because I prefer my coffee more mellow, as you would get in Spain, rather than the sharper, bitter, high roast that I associate with Italian coffee. On occasion I’m at the bar when they open a new vacuum packed bag o’ beans. I love that ‘cos the smell is always amazing and the beans glisten with a coat of oil (which the de-caff beans don’t seem to have), and, as far as I’m concerned, those beans have been roasted to perfection. I always get the barista to let me have an espresso paper cup of them, and I’ll munch on them throughout the day. After a day or so the beans lose that coating and with it a goes a lot of the flavour.
      I personally think that a lot of people have a thing about Starbucks because they’re a huge, successful capitalist exploiter (possibly) of impoverished third world farmers, but they’re cleaning up their act, and if you actually take the time to formulate your ideal coffee in terms of shots, size, amount of milk, type of milk, temperature, they’ll make it for you, and if you think they haven’t done it right, they’ll chuck it away and have another go!

  11. I drink one cup of coffee in the morning upon rising. It’s a habitual ritual and I enjoy the taste very much. It helps me wake up, but I’m still not sure if it’s the ritual or the caffeine.
    Although my guess is, that it is both.

    Starbucks? Starsucks 😉

  12. Ooooh how I love-a my java. And my green tea when I’m taking especially good care of myself. But what about a cup of hot water? This is an amazingly simple, healthful, and available form of liquid satisfaction any time of day. Skeptical? Take a day off the cuppa cuppa and drink a cup of hot water instead. Ayurveda recommends a hot lemon treatment first thing in the belly each morning and I find that’ll “get things moving” as well as Joe. I have been surprised at how easily H2O can substitute for coffee. Period.

  13. it is the sign of a true addict that I feel superior (tongue firmly implanted in cheek) that I derive my caffeine from a hot mug in the morning rather than a canned energy drink or (*gasp*) a PILL.

    ahhh, excuses.
    how I HEART thee.


  14. Like many – I have a love/hate relationship with coffee.

    Pros – (1)Increased energy; (2) Increased focus; (3)Increased digestive function.

    Cons – (1) Pulled muscles; (2) increased compulsive/obsessive behavior; (3) anxiety.

    I now limit my coffee consumption. I use it when I really need to focus on one long task or need a kick start. Otherwise I drink green or black tea. Yeah, tea still has caffeine, but at an amount that does not adversely me.

    I feel like I am a different person, depending on what I am drinking.

  15. Every time I see that mug o’ beans on the front page, I want to dive right in.

  16. I probably “don’t need it” but man does a good Americano or expresso shot just taste soooo good to start the day off especially sitting outside. One a day for me. I used to do 5 cups of coffee a day a long time ago…and that was not healthy.

  17. Always funny to hear statements like, “Starbucks coffee is demonstrably terrible” when taste is completely subjective. My aunt who is a life long coffee lover thinks McDonald’s is the best coffee ever created. Here in our office we have people who will only drink Pete’s and only if it’s made in a press; others swear by Starbucks and others, some totally esoteric brand for $8 or more a cup. They all insist that their’s is best and the others are crap.
    To each his/her own.

  18. Kevin, I see your point. Maybe I was indulging in my lifelong habit of hyperbole.

    However, I used the word “demonstrably” deliberately – it would be hard to find someone who did not agree that stale food is inferior to fresh food. I meant to say that the roasting procedure used by Starbucks’ roasting procedure makes it possible to sell stale coffee to the public.

    I wonder how subjective quality really is. There’s certainly an element of subjectivity – I may never ever like bananas, no matter how fresh they are, how they are served, how they are prepared, etc. But to some extent I can recognize the difference between a good quality banana (fresh, ripe) and a bad one (rotten, smelly or green, hard). There are a lot of people who stick what they know out of familiarity, until someone shows them something better. I grew up drinking my mother’s terrible coffee, but once I was introduced to something better, it didn’t take long to recognize it.

  19. Hello, I’m Marie and I’m a pancake junkie…I’ve been eating them 5-8 times per week for the past two months…. I just feel compelled to confess that, as I was downing my most recent stack while reading these comments 🙂
    A couple thoughts: I find everything about coffee disgusting: the smell, the taste, the concentrated caffeine..eeew!
    Most of the people at work who I see drinking coffee are really drinking hot milkshakes for grownups…judging by the amount of creamer and sugar they put in.
    I love tea and drink a few pots per day…and it makes me happy. Mark, you are making a big, fat excuse for the one vise you have left; but I think really good health is about balance (which, judging by my carb-nightmare-pancake-addiction, is not a state I currently enjoy)
    I have never noticed a caffeine boost…I go straight to sick; with nausea and heart palpitations if I have too much.

  20. I, for one, LOVE my coffee. I teach high schoolers chemistry all day, and that “little” venti brew with sugar free vanilla syrup is what gets me going….I may have given up on bread, thanks to Mark, but I simply cannot give up my morning Starbucks coffee.

  21. Aaaah, a nice Americano with half & half or heavy cream, made with locally roasted beans. I don’t bother with drip coffee anymore, if I can help it.

  22. Nice post. Caffeine is pretty much a requirement in our culture due to our reluctance to actually go to sleep. Burning the candle at both ends, eating the wrong foods, being out of shape, etc all contribute to a society where caffeine addiction is not just acceptable, but necessary. I had a post about energy drinks and their booming industry a few weeks ago.

    Just a note though…cocoa actually doesn’t contain caffeine. It contains a cousin of caffeine known as theobromine, which is why the stuff will kill your dog. It can’t metabolize the theobromine very quickly and can easily overdose.

    Scott Kustes
    Modern Forager

  23. I love a non fat 20 ounce cappucino but it does not like me. I feel fine when I drink it but about an hour later I get all jittery and it usually will put me into a panic attack. I can’t breath and I feel instant doom! Am I the only one that feels this? Can it really be dangerous for me? And the biggest question is why can I drink it sometimes and have no reaction at all but other times I feel horrible! I don’t understand how one cup can have such an adverse reaction.I only drink it every once in awhile but I would like to drink it more often.

  24. Kris – funny how a drink can impact us differently on different days. I have noticed when my aerobic activity is high, caffeine impacts me more. Just a thought…

  25. Kris – I have a similar reaction to alcohol. Sometimes I can handle one or two drinks, but last night I had two glasses of wine and I am *seriously* hung over.

    With caffeine – nowadays I drink mostly decaf. But in my past life, I noticed I was less tolerant of caffeine if I also consumed sugar. The combination would throw me into what I now know was reactive hypoglycemia much faster than sugar alone.

    Are you drinking non-fat because you actually like it, or because you think fat is bad for you? I am a big believer in the healing power of butterfat!

  26. I have abused caffeine for years now. There have been times when I would stop for a month or two and I was able to focus and not feel so anxious. I am caffeine sensitive but am also dependent on it. Can never seem to get it in gear in the morning if I don’t have at least a 44oz cup of coffee. I am planning to stop tomorrow, the caffeine is affecting my work, I feel like some kid with a.d.d. I am unable to confront people because of the anxiety it causes and I can’t sit still without getting bored immediatly.

  27. I had to give up caffeine years ago, it raises my blood pressure about 20 points for 4 hours, just for a single 8oz. cup. I used to pound down cup after cup, so my BP was always elevated. My pulse rate *slows* about 5bpm as well. I would say 4 hours of raised BP after a single cup indicates I’m a slow metabolizer.

    Now I roast and brew my own (got tired of waiting in line at Starbucks). I make decaf espresso, with half and half, maybe twice a week. That’s my cheat.

  28. Hm…those of you who mentioned increased digestive properties are making me think. I started drinking coffee regularly about 2-3 years ago. I drink about 1-2 cups per day, never more.

    Also, in the last few years, I have noticed…increased (and rushed, lol) bathroom trips. Especially in the morning (after drinking coffee).

    As one who has never had much problem with constipation, I never worried about getting things “flowing” as it were.

    So, these last few years have had me wondering just why I’ve been rushing to the bathroom. Maybe I just found the missing link? I could be the coffee!

    I’ll have to do some self studies on this!

  29. I love a nice cup or two of coffee in the morn but don’t consider it a “crutch” by any means.

    I’ve come a long way too; now I have a tablespoon of honey to sweeten vs the old inch or so of french vanilla/hazelnut creamer I used to use. Now my coffee tastes like COFFEE (gasp!) with a subtle sweetness from the honey.

  30. This post is funny. Cuz while we all know it’s bad for us, pretty much every comment says “well I know it’s bad and stuff, but I still like it every single day. I used to drink a lot more of it so it’s ok.”
    No wonder they call it the most widely used drug in the world.

    1. Actually sugar (and it’s identical twin brother HFCS) is probably the most used drug in the world.

  31. I am a coffee addict, I sit on my butt all day in front of a computer at work. We have free coffee that we brew ourselves, it smells and tastes so good.

    The problem is I reach for it every time I’m tired, stuck on a problem, or feel bloated. It got to the point of at least 4-5 8oz cups a day on an average day.

    I’ve been this way for years and slowly began to feel so “brittle”, my knees and hips ached. I knew it had something to do with the coffee but I kept trying to overcompensate with ibuprofen, fish oils, glucosamine, icing my knees at night but I still felt awful physically.
    I was 44 years old and felt like an 80 year old or worse. Just walking down a flight of stairs killed my knees.

    I made 1 simple change, decided to try and quit coffee for 7 days to see if I felt better. After 3 days of pounding headaches and withdrawals I could not believe how much better and less brittle I felt. In general all of my joints felt so much better, I was walking and exercising with far less pain. My head on the other hand still gave me pounding headaches and the devil on my shoulder saying “cmon just have a cup!”. My problem is I love coffee so much 1 cup leads to several.

    I think my body is/was so overloaded with the acid from the coffee that it was starting to affect my health severely, I could feel my joints inflamed and I’m sure since they were inflamed my whole body was as well – which means I’m well on my way to chronic disease….

    Here I am 10 days out from quitting coffee, physically I feel so much better. Its a rainy crappy cold morning and I’d love a hot cup of joe (can’t drink tea, just not my taste), but I’m trying to see the big picture and health benefits. I hope at some point I have no withdrawal feelings and could enjoy an occasional cup here and there.

    But for now I will relish in that I’m starting to feel more my age and less like an 80 year old, which means plenty more skiing and fun activities.

    So stay strong if you’re trying to quit, I was having a “weak” moment myself this morning which is why I was reading this, but it has passed and I’m fine without any coffee for at least 1 more day.

    1. I have the same experience with aching joints and feeling “brittle”. The first time I quit coffee, I abstained for 10 years. After the first few weeks, I didn’t even think about it. Unfortunately, for various reasons, I got back into the habit again. I cannot count the number of times I have quit since then because the effects were making me sick. Each time, I managed to convince myself that I would only have one “now and again”. For me, one is never enough and it always leads to more. This, even though I know it does me more harm than good. What a drug!

  32. I drink one 4-8 oz cup of dark black high quality (so says the purveyor) coffee every morning. It gives me an energy boost but most importantly, it’s the only thing I’ve found that seems to completely prevent gallstone attacks.

    If I miss a day of my daily dose, I can almost surely count on a gall stone attack that night.

    Has anyone else had that experience?

  33. I recently quit coffee for over a month after learning that stimulants can compromise immune function, and I didn’t like the idea of my adrenals going out of whack either. When quitting, I didn’t even have a caffeine headache (which surprised me because when I’ve quit before, I _always_ do), but I did feel a little slumpy.

    Anyway, I just missed coffee overall — I like the little high, I love the taste, and it gets things going in the AM. I’m a big tea drinker throughout the day (green in the AM then only rooibos) but tea just doesn’t do it for me as the get-going beverage. So, I’m back to a giant mug of black in the morning and I am so glad.

  34. This is a really interesting piece, we’ve got to so careful about caffeine. I believe that its super dangerous and I, first hand, have experienced the amazing effects of quitting it! Here’s a guide for how to quit, do it you won’t regret it
    I couldn’t figure out why I felt so terrible all the time, up and downs, etc and the change has been incredible

  35. I gave up caffeinated coffee a few years ago after reading Paleo Diet for Athletes. Now I just have it on race day. It’s not so much the coffee I’m concerned about as it is what we put in it. Though I don’t drink the caffeinated stuff anymore, I am pretty addicted to the taste. I get decaf in the morning (along with many weird looks). Breaking the Starbucks habit could be good for the pocketbook, too.

  36. I enjoy a cup of black coffee now and then. More bitter, the better. But I sometimes get headaches, stomach sickness, panic attacks, exhaustion…… so I don’t drink it very often. Only when I have to wake up by alarm, before seven.

  37. Anything that you eat or drink can be implicated as “evil” by the food police. I’ve seen articles on coffee being evil and coffee being the all inclusive, cure all beverage.
    Like anything else, moderation is the key. I have a cup if I feel like it…or not. It’s a big deal.

  38. Ten-plus years ago, when I was going in for double surgery (lapo. gall bladder followed by regular hyster…. two for the price of… er… two!), I went to both docs ahead of time and said this:

    “A couple of studies have recently shown that the “post-surgery headache” that has always been attributed to an after effect of the anesthesia, turns out to only occur in — guess who?! Coffee drinkers! (Someone finally thought to study it!)

    Since I am a coffee addict (albeit only a tall mug in the morning — more and my hands shake!), unless you have a good solid reason why I should NOT have coffee the morning after surgery, I’m going to have a friend bring me my morning drug.”

    Both were fine with it, I had my morning drug, and no post surgery headache! (or, rather, no caffeine withdrawal headache!) The additional (mild) diuretic and laxative effect of the coffee was just a post-surgery bennie! Got me out of the hospital quicker!

    May I also rave wildly about the Aerobie Areopress? Not associated with it/them, other than to make my morning libation very, very happily with that weird-chemistry-set kinda device. Makes SUPERB coffee! And super easy to travel with — all yah need is hot water and some ground coffee. Chucked my old coffee machine with no regrets!

  39. Caffeine is a neuro-stimulant, therefore it activates your body’s “fight or flight” response. The “regular” caffeine drinkers in my office(mainly coffee) are showing elevated cortisol levels on their nervous systems scans displayed as decreased muscle tone in the area of the kidneys (adrenals sit on top of each kidney). Many of these same people note decreased energy, difficulty sleeping, difficulty losing weight, blood sugar issues, thyroid issues, and other hormone type issues. For most of them, cutting out the caffeine seems to normalize their cortisol levels back to normal. Depending on how long the cortisol has been over-activated in their body determines how long each person takes to recover.
    I consume coffee less than 5 times per year. When I do, I get to enjoy the hyperactivity of my legs to go with it. Tried drinking coffee before a road race (13.1 mile half marathon) and thought my heart was going to explode the first few miles.
    Everyone will respond differently to how much caffeine they can safely consume daily.
    If you experience any of the symptoms above(including mental cloudiness and/or anxiety), then assume your “fight or flight” system is being over-stimulated. Excessive emotional stress, too much exercise, skipping meals(especially breakfast), irregular sleep patterns (ie. working graveyard shift)…can all tap out your adrenals as well.

    A saliva test to measure your free cortisol levels is the best way to see if your cortisol levels are normal. Getting a nerve scan from a chiropractor won’t tell you what your levels are, but will only let you know if your body is in a stress response.

    So far, haven’t seen any cortisol issues in my tea drinkers(most drink only 1-2/day). Energy drinks and multiple sodas/day seem to raise the cortisol levels as well.

    Someday soon, it will become medical standard to include free-cortisol testing through saliva(blood tests only show bound-cortisol). Until then, medicine only recognizes Addison’s and Cushing’s syndrome as adrenal issues. They are only just beginning to recognize the in-between states known as adrenal fatigue, adrenal exhaustion, and adrenal burn-out.

    Dr. Z

  40. Hey Mark,

    are there any negative effects of consuming caffeine on an empty stomach? i train fasted in the am and take 200mg of caffeine before my workouts

  41. Having been on a low carb primal diet for over a year, I recently quit coffee with only noticeable withdrawal symptoms for about two days.

    Back before my diet change I tried to quit coffee and I had *no* energy for months.

    Talk about total dependance, could not stay awake without coffee, lost jobs because I fell asleep at my desk. One doctor offered my speed to handle my narcalepsy.

  42. I love the taste, smell and overall feel of coffee, especially at breakfast, and I am a huge tea fanatic. I drink a fair amount, more than your average medic would advise to be safe, but I don’t get jittery or anything, because I always have lots of water with it. Or fat – in the shape of coconut milk. Or cream if I’m in dairy mood. Works for me.

  43. To deal with jetlag on a vacation to Hawaii my wife found a plan where you get totally off caffeine for two weeks and then use it to retime your body clock….It does work but what an awakening after two days of no Joe I had headaches like a brain tumor, it was scary. You may not think your hooked so try stopping for a few days.


  44. i drink a lot of coffee, though i’m not sure i could be labelled a coffee addict. some days i’ll have 3 cups in the morning and 2 or 3 in the afternoon, and other days i’ll only have 1.

    and although too much coffee can cause my heart to flutter and make me all jittery, there are time i’ll have a cup of coffee just before bed and sleep like a baby.

    i have always suffered from insomnia, and gave up all caffeine for a year, but notice no effect on my insomnia. i’ve also tried tryptophan, but found that to act more as a stimulant than a sedative.

    in the end, i decided to imbibe in “that evil, dark brew”, and listen to my body as to how much i should, and shouldn’t, drink.

    so, drink it when i want a cup, and stop when i’ve had enough.

  45. I love the taste of coffee & my decaf espresso (Nespresso machine – yay!) with a drop of cream and honey or molasses. Nice treat with almond meal-blueberry pancakes & bacon in the morning.

  46. What would you suggest as a good sweetener for coffee? I don’t drink it myself but my wife has to have a cup every morning and she’s read all the articles on the dangers of processed sugar and artificial sweeteners. She tried adding molasses and she’s wondering if that the best option. We’d like to be as sugar-free as possible but we really need to add something to the coffee. Heavy cream and??? Help us out!

  47. One thing I’ve said all my life is that I have no idea how my boreal Arctic ancestors (I’m Saami and Karelian Finnish and Nenets Russian) survived the Ice Age and post-Ice Age without coffee.

    I handle the caffeine very differently at different latitudes. When I live and work in northern/very cold (minus 30 or more) climates, I can drink it by the quart with nothing but salubrious effects. When I live and work in more tropical areas (which I don’t do often–I’m not wired for heat), I can’t touch the stuff. For a morning drink I do what my maternal grandmother did: hot water. Then cool green or oolong tea the rest of the day, and plain water. Tea isn’t quite Uralic…but it tastes better than lichen tea to my palate.

  48. Lots of nursing moms have trouble getting their infants to sleep. Usually they are soooo tired all the time and use coffee to help them stay awake. This in turn makes it more difficult to get the baby, who is also ingesting caffeine, to get to sleep which in turn makes the mother more tired and the baby more tired.

    I say – nursing moms shouldn’t have high caffeinated food and drinks if they want to sleep and to let their baby sleep. I don’t and I’ve never had trouble getting my babies to sleep.

  49. Taste is genetic! Last year I discovered why I can’t stand cilantro – I have a gene that makes it taste like dishwater!! So now I believe it when someone says they can’t stand broccoli. . . or anything else.

  50. I’ve been depending on coffee to keep me going the last couple of years (very little before), but since taking care of some other problems (third shift work, sleep apnea, low testosterone, not being on Primal Diet)I’m thinking it’s time to start cutting back and see what happens. I’ve never drunk it for pleasure, only as fuel.

  51. I’m 35. I’ve never been much of a caffeine consumer. I have never had a cup of coffee. I remember a story my dad sometimes tells of a time when my mom ran out of regular coffee and switched him to decaff without telling him. 3 days in a row, he almost fell asleep at the wheel. In addition to this, my parents become irritable if they don’t get coffee in the morning. I think I was about 8 years old when I figured out this was an addiction. At 8, I had never had coffee and I wasn’t irritable if I didn’t get it. I wanted to keep it that way, so I never started drinking it.

    I used to drink whiskey and coke on irregular intervals–not a habit like my aunt and uncle who can’t survive without a glass of coke in the morning–but I mostly stopped because of acid reflux. The combination of acid and caffeine was too much for me.

    My ex girlfriend left some green tea here. I noticed it the other day. Yesterday, I had a cup and made a second cup with the same tea bag. I did not finish the second cup. I felt weird. No sugar or anything else was added to the tea. I kind of liked it but not the weird feeling. I think I’ll try it again, when I have somebody to share the second cup with.

    1. I don’t drink coffee, either, mostly b/c I can’t tolerate the bitterness–I have a big problem w/ bitter veggies, too. I come from a family that drinks so much coffee they literally wear out coffee pots but at least one of my sibs doesn’t like it, either.
      So, I’ve become a big tea collector, black, oolong, green, herbal, yerba mate–you name it. When I drink the English and Indian types that are supposed to have milk added I usually use almond milk.
      I’ve tried kicking caffeine several times and can’t do it–as little as 12 hrs w/o it and the nasty vascular headache starts. I usually have one cup of regular green in the mornings plus herbal/decaf to follow if I want it; I need another cup of regular (Earl Gray or chai w/ almond milk–yum) late afternoon or here comes the headache.
      Hopefuly this is Primal enough–not volunteering for avoidable pain.
      Joe, I’m hoping by now you’ve found your tea-drinking someone (smile).

  52. I get a full night’s rest, I eat good, I feel good and I drink coffee.. and tea (decaf though, because I drink a LOT of tea- it’s water decaffeinated). I have two cups in the morning. Not because I’m tired, not because I need a pick me up. But because I just tastes good! It’s my breakfast. Studies say it’s bad, studies say it’s good. I say it’s a strong food and for some people it may be bad, and for some people it may be good. I dunno!

  53. I think it’s “to each their own.” We all know are own bodies best. Do what makes you feel best. If you drink it and like the benefits fine…if you notice it bothering you, cut back or give it up a while to see how you feel. I used to drink A LOT of coffee -I loved it and if I’m to be honest with myself, was addicted. With age I just found I couldn’t handle it anymore…even the decaf…made my mind kind of race and thoughts seemed less clear. I had to cut back, for my own good. Do I miss it? Heck yeah!!! But I just can’t tolerate it anymore. 🙁

  54. I’ve recently come across a brand called Papua Coffee – it claims to not induce the negative side effects of coffee consumption; jitters, acid reflux, and actually DEtoxify and alkalize your system. I know, sounds too good to be true, but the testimonials are impressive. Apparently the altitude it grows at in Papua New Guinea is super high, so the plants don’t produce such an aggressive form/amount of caffeine (to protect themselves from predators). It’s kind of expensive once you add shipping costs, but it has given me the idea to look in Whole Foods for other coffee from Papua New Guinea – presumably all coffee from there exhibits the same qualities.

  55. I quit caffeine at the New Year. I was drinking about 5 diet Cokes a day.

    The first week was hell.

    Now I feel sooooo much better. I no longer have “the munchies” which I CHRONICALLY had when caffeinated. I sleep better. I can actually CONCENTRATE – I had spent a lot of my life wondering what was wrong with my brain.

    I agree with the poster who said “drink it or don’t” – it’s just caffeine. But, when I hear about how stressed and anxious people are … I just think if it’s “just caffeine” people should just try life without it for a little while and see if life is better without it.

  56. I wake up at 6 a.m. and boil water for yerba mate. I drink 2-3 kalabasa amounts to 8 a.m. It tastes lighter than coffee (both without sugar) and caffeine from tea lasts longer.

  57. Hi Mark,

    Would you say that drinking decaf (espresso) mitigates most or all of the effects that paleo-ers against coffee purport?

    Is it the caffeine in the coffee that is a laxative, anti-nutrient, etc?

    Thanks so much!

  58. I have to have 1 cup of coffee a day and thats it. I dont want to abuse it so thats my limit but I have to have it or i won’t poop. I suffer from constipation and I expiremented with different foods. I would eat spoonfuls of coconut oil and NOTHING. Then one day I had a big cup of coffee and ever since that day its a ritual.

  59. Dear Mark and fellow Paleo dieters

    I hate to play devil’s advocate here, but I can’ t help but point out that there is a major flaw in the study Mark cited for how caffeine has been shown raise blood sugar levels in those with type 2 diabetes.
    The major flaw with the experimental method, is that they did not control for what they eat for lunch and dinner, which means the rise in blood glucose could be due to the food eaten. Although, the result for breakfast (which was the same for both groups)is positive, they should also take into account other factors like exercise levels etc, which they may or may not did so, but it was not mentioned anyway in the article.
    It may sound like I am nit-picking, but not controlling for the food taken, in a study that studies effect on blood glucose levels in just sloppy in my opinion.

    What do you guys think ?

  60. I truely love coffee, the smell of coffee, frist thing in the morning helps me wake-up. The frist sip i take, usually brings awareness to the days focus at hand.You can say what you want about it, but it is in my blood.

  61. I like my coffee, but not brewed. I use a French Press, and drink 1/2-caff since I started having heart palpatations from the strong stuff. I only drink 2 cups a day, and I don’t want anything added to it. I like hot tea with lemon in the afternoon. I’ve been trying to up my water intake, but there’s only so much lemon juice one can add to make it not so boring and still be able to drink it.

  62. This is an older post, but, I’m a week into my primal lifestyle and finding my normal cup of coffee amping me off the charts. It’s the same cup I always drink, but, with totally different affects. Does anyone know if being a slow caffeine metabolizer would cause this. I’ve never been able to drink caffeine after 1:00 because it would affect my sleep greatly – that makes me think I might be….