New Years Resolution – Kicking my caffeine habit

I was thinking about my New Years Resolution to get healthier in 2019 and got to thinking about how many cups of coffee I had in a day.  My usual answers to that question is “a ton” but then I got to thinking about it and I was shocked that it was actually a ton, well not a ton, but on average about 4 cups a day, then you throw a few sodas into the mix which are also loaded with caffeine not to mention a lot of sugar.

So I ask, “Are you one of those people who can’t get your day started without a cup of coffee?”

I know I am, or at the very least a tea, double double of course, I know more sugar!

Perhaps you feel the need for a latte, cappuccino or espresso at work to keep you alert and on top of your game midday or late afternoon.   For those students out there maybe you are grabbing an extra coffee or two or even energy drinks when cramming for an exam or working on a procrastinated project that is due the next day.  Maybe you are just like many North American’s like me that have a habit of reaching for caffeinated soft drinks when you are thirsty, when we know that it should be water.

Regardless of the reason or the product, an estimated 90% of the North American population regularly consume caffeine, a stimulant and ingredient that has been enjoyed for thousands of years. It’s not hard to do so, as caffeine is ubiquitous in our food supply, found in beverages, chocolate and even medications, to name a just a few.

According to Mary M. Sweeney, an instructor who researches caffeine’s effects on individuals in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, caffeine is the most commonly consumed psychoactive drug.  Sweeney also says that, “When we consume caffeine, it has positive effects on mood and alertness, and people like these beneficial effects.”  No surprises there, I am sure.

So how much caffeine is a healthy amount if there is such a thing?  Well researchers have concluded that healthy adults can safely consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine daily, so about four 8-ounce cups of coffee. (Depending on the source, an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee can contain 75 to 165 milligrams of caffeine).

It must also be said that caffeine recommendations are based on a specific amount of milligrams, the effects can vary from person to person, and different individuals may be able to tolerate different amounts.

So, if you are like me and think you are taking in too much caffeine and are looking to be healthier in 2019 these are a few tips to help you out on your quest:

1. Keep a caffeine journal – It will keep you informed of how much caffeine you are consuming, and it may be more or less than what you may think.

2. Educate yourself on all of the sources of caffeine in your diet – Remember, caffeine is not only found in coffee, tea, soft drinks, energy drinks.  It is found in chocolate and many fortified snack foods, some energy bars (like Clif Bars) and even some pain medications.

3. Gradually cut back on consumption – This is key for people that are looking to cut back and should be done over a period of weeks.  You might try substituting one cup with decaf, or blend in some decaf with each cup to help with the transition.

4. Try coffee alternatives – Drinking green or black tea can still give you a boost but has less caffeine than coffee.  For example, an 8-ounce cup of black tea contains about 47 milligrams of caffeine, and green tea has about 25 milligrams per cup, compared with 75 to 165 milligrams in an 8-ounce cup of brewed coffee.

5. Anticipate cravings – Part of cutting back is identifying situations or moods in which they are most likely to crave caffeine and try avoiding situations that trigger cravings, especially during the first few weeks of modifying caffeine use, and having a plan for when cravings occur, like having a mid afternoon healthy snack or a quick walk around the office or outdoors to get your blood flowing and reenergize yourself.

Remember it is important to discuss any major lifestyle or dietary changes with your doctor first, as changes may affect your mood or other medical conditions.

Here’s to a healthier and happier 2019!

By Jamie Barrie