Caffeine and I.

My complicated relationship with mother nature’s stimulant.

After my recent trip to the US where the standard of coffee never lived up to the absolute delight that my daily sash coffee brought me. I ended up inadvertently deconditioning my caffeine tolerance, as the coffee was low in caffeine and I only really had an energy drink on a race weekend. When I arrived home I was so excited to pick up where I left off that I caused my poor central nervous system to completely chuck it in after what I would have considered to be an under average day of caffeine consumption prior to heading away. I was a jittery, angesty, agitated mess and even ended up causing a bloody cold sore, this was not good!

Normally I have a strong affinity for caffeine, I’m both effective and distracted when I have it, but most of all it allows me to get all the thoughts out of my head at a rate which can sometimes become overwhelming.

For those that know me you have no doubt seen me in a caffeine fueled frenzy or stupor, on one hand I might be solving the problems of the world and sharing my next million dollar idea. On the other I might be sitting there staring off into space with a blank look and a motionless body. Although you might believe that through a simple dosing behaviour, or coffee order in simple terms, I’d be able to regulate and anticipate the effects of this amazing stimulant. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth, for me it is almost like a game of Russian roulette. Will I be inspired today or drop into a deep cavern of overthinking anxiety?

Well let’s talk about the positive side of how caffeine affects me for a bit. Firstly, when I find the right combination of environment and caffeine my mind seems to shift into a state of hyper focus and flow, everything lines up and the process to achieve my goals is laid out in front of me. Every thought and decision makes complete sense and it’s almost as if I no longer need to participate in the process as it happens in front of me. Ideas flow, problems are solved, pivoted and re imagined in a simple and quick process.

This is when I believe I am my most effective and efficient, there is a window of around 2 hours, where if I can get into a rhythm I’m able to then sustain my momentum for many more to come.

Let’s weigh in on this point, the sustained stimulus and firing of my central nervous system cannot be sustained. With every high there must be a low and this is where all the positives that I find using caffeine can and will be undone each and every time.

Now, I wouldn’t call myself a normal caffeine user, I’ve relied on it heavily in the past and to an extent still do for specific purposes. From making sure that I’m alert and attentive with clients to finding the drive to get through a difficult workout. I will generally have a purpose to the first intake of caffeine for the day, sounds pretty standard right?

Well this is where the land of excess finds me, in an unfounded attempt to keep my energy and focus in this zone topping up on a RTD or ready to drink pre workout drink isn’t out of the question which brings me to an important point.

Now, there are many studies that support effective and targeted use of caffeine to improve athletic performance in a range of situations and this does align with my experience. However caffeine is generally used in an unregulated and varied manner meaning that repeatable and comparable outcomes can be difficult to gauge when an individual is a habitual user of caffeine.

Okay down from the academic high horse now, basically it is the age old saying that too much of a good thing can be bad for us, well in this case always relying on caffeine can dull it’s beneficial effects and to some extent reverse them due to over stimulation. Case in point with myself causing a jittery, angry mess earlier in the week.

Whether you’re trying to wake up and start your day, thinking about your next business move or preparing for an athletic pursuit there are several factors that you need to consider when selecting your dose.

  • What is really important, enjoying this beautiful barista made coffee or getting to work on time?
  • Do you need to be alert and effective or energetic and excited?
  • Are you preparing for a new personal record or just getting the session done in the lead up to competition?

Each of these situations have different purposes and so should your caffeine intake. I won’t give you a magic number as each of us are different, we have our own tolerance, habits, likes and routines. However, we should be aware of how much caffeine we are consuming daily, currently there isn’t a regulatory direction for recommended caffeine intake however Food Standards Australia and New Zealand stipulate that a safe dosage is around 3mg of caffeine per kg of bodyweight in a healthy individual, this means that for a 70kg person they would be able to safely consume 210mg of caffeine per day without any adverse effects. So using this as a guideline you will be able to establish a good baseline for effective use.

In conclusion caffeine when used with respect and not abused can be a valuable asset to your personal, professional and athletic pursuits. Caffeine can set you up for the day or set you up to crumble, so use it wisely and fight to stay away from a dependence on it.

Don’t forget to drink water too!

Alex Howearth
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