Almost everyone you’ve met and will ever meet drinks coffee. I myself have written quite a few blog posts on caffeine and how to maximize its benefits. Now, I’m doing a complete 180 and saying that maybe you should stop drinking it… sounds legit, right?
But in all seriousness, coffee is a great drink. It’s a useful tool for boosting physical and mental performance and productivity. I personally love coffee. But I decided to stop drinking it for a week to see how I’d react. I had some withdrawal symptoms the first 3-4 days, like headaches and low energy. But, it showed me the bad habits I’d been masking.
Depending on how you use coffee, you should consider not drinking it, even if it’s only for a brief time. Just to reevaluate your lifestyle habits.
You drink a cup of Joe in the morning. You feel awake, and you’re ready to tackle your day. Just because you FEEL awake, doesn’t necessarily mean that you ARE awake. Coffee is not a substitute for sleep.
Try to think back to before you started drinking coffee regularly. It’s likely when you were still a kid. Whenever you were tired because you couldn’t sleep enough the night before, you generally were relaxed and took it easy that day. You tried to put your head down in class and get in as much sleep as you could whenever you could. And you made sure to get some extra shut eye later that night. But since you don’t FEEL tired on coffee, you’re much more likely to exert yourself too hard.
Athletes are generally able to push themselves harder and for longer after caffeine. Do you know those preworkout supplements that gym goes take just before working out? It’s mostly caffeine. Coffee and caffeine in general lets you push yourself harder than you naturally could.
Since you don’t feel tired, you’re also much more likely to have high sugary foods like bagels, muffins and donuts that give you a brief energy spike, then an epic crash that makes you feel like you’ve had your life force sucked out. But after some coffee, you feel fine.
For one, you’re way more likely to get sick.
Another thing, you can’t just keep guzzling down coffee without running into the negative side effects. Caffeine causes jitters, anxiety, and even irregular heartbeat, which will only become worse the more caffeine you consume. Jitters and anxiety generally kill your ability to think clearly.
What’s the good in being awake and alert if your heart is beating so hard you can literally feel it thumping in your chest? How is it helpful to be unable to think clearly enough to write your name down on a sheet of paper?
Also, coffee is very acidic. Drinking too much can give you a laundry list of nasty side effects like stomach aches, acid reflux, ulcers, and diarrhea.
And at the end of the day, you’ll be reliant on a drug to be functional. Do you want to end up like this?!
Building on the previous section, you actually MORE sleep from drinking coffee regularly since you tend to exert yourself too hard.
But, what if you take it easy and just avoid exerting yourself too hard? Doesn’t matter. You still need more sleep and more rest.
This is because caffeine and other stimulants keeps you in a state of high tension. Your nervous system has two states it naturally switches between: sympathetic and parasympathetic. Sympathetic is a state of high energy and tension. You enter this during intense physical activity like lifting weights, or when you’re in any kind of dangerous, stressful situation. Parasympathetic is a state of low energy and relaxation. You enter this at the end of your day when you’re about to go to bed.
You naturally switch between these 2 states throughout the day. Coffee puts you in the sympathetic (high energy and tension) nervous system state and keeps you there for 6-12 hours (link).
Your body is unable to intermittently rest throughout the day as it naturally wants to. If you drink coffee regularly, you need to rest and sleep more to make up for this… ironic, isn’t it?
My theory is that your body attempts to compensate for this greater sympathetic nervous system activity by entering the parasympathetic state and staying there longer. Your body compensates TOO WELL, and stays in the parasympathetic state for too long. The end result is that your baseline energy level becomes much lower than normal.
You’re either born with ADHD or ADHD-like symptoms (group A), or you unfortunately developed it over time living in a high-speed internet, instant gratification society (group B). They aren’t mutually exclusive, and you can have traits from both groups.
For both groups, caffeine and other stimulants like Adderall and Ritalin are used to help you focus and/or have more energy. People who are born with ADHD or ADHD-like symptoms show it during early childhood. These are the kinds of kids who squirm and can’t sit still. They run and jump around like chimpanzees on speed. They interrupt people during conversations, have trouble following rules and directions, and are easily distracted to the point where they under-perform in school.
People in Group A don’t react to stimulants normally. They actually become CALMER. Stimulants allegedly help balance out brain neurotransmitters like dopamine (responsible for feelings of enjoyment and motivation), and that the Group A people behave the way they do because of an imbalance of neurotransmitters.
My theory is that people who naturally have ADHD just have a lot of energy and don’t know how to control it properly. They run around all the time because of this high energy, interrupt people during conversations because they have SO much on their mind that they want to say, have trouble with rules and directions because the rules and directions are too stifling, and get easily distracted because so much around them is so interesting.
These kids are given caffeine and stimulants because it lowers their baseline energy level long-term. (See the previous section “You Need MORE Sleep and MORE Rest”)
Society can’t handle people who have abundant energy like this. When you were a kid, the teachers and administrators who supervised you were all lazy, unambitious, incompetent people who didn’t know how to handle someone with so much vibrant energy like you. They may have even been envious of your youthful vigor. So, they put you on Ritalin and Adderall to make you sit still, like neutering a dog.
A better alternative is to get off of these stimulants, stop guzzling down caffeine, and learn good productivity habits to control your massive energy reserves. I’ve written a three-part series on Productivity and a blog post on meditation that’ll help with that.
Being exposed to constant digital stimuli in our high-speed internet society has killed your attention span and ability to concentrate. You can watch entire TV shows and movies on Netflix and Hulu at anytime. YouTube has countless hours of video available at all times. Social media has an endless stream of information from millions of people.
You can have a dozen windows open in your internet browser of choice. You’ve got a few vines, articles on upcoming movies, maybe even a few porn videos. In one sitting, you can watch more busty co-eds getting gangbanged and plowed than your ancestor living in Colonial America could see in several lifetimes. Reading books by candlelight and playing charades is just not gonna cut it anymore.
This is another reason why you may be so tired all the time. This is also another reason why you’re so dependent on coffee: to make up for all that wasted mental energy. But as we previously covered, coffee just makes you feel not tired. It doesn’t give you energy or replace the need for sleep. At the end of the day, it only adds more problems.
The solution for you is to cut out all this digital stimuli. For at least three days out of the week, stay off the usual websites that you visit, like YouTube or social media sites. This newfound distraction-free time can be used to think about who you are and what you want out of life, be with friends and family, and you’ll have more energy to devote to your job/schooling and other everyday tasks.
These are just some of the things coffee does to you and some of the reasons you should consider quitting it for a little bit.
Coffee only makes you FEEL awake. It doesn’t give you energy. It doesn’t make up for poor sleep or a shitty diet. But since you don’t feel tired, you’re more likely to exert yourself too hard. Even if you try not to, coffee kicks your nervous system in high gear, sympathetic mode. You’re literally unable to relax on a cup of Joe. For this reason, you ironically need MORE sleep if you drink coffee regularly.
And if you have ADHD, you either will benefit more from not having coffee, or you’re problem is with too much mindless stimuli and coffee is just adding to your problems.
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All the best,