Your cof­fee habit is boil­ing over and your health is pay­ing the price. Re­set your us­age with our de­caf tips for all-day en­ergy

Men's Health (UK) - - In This Issue - DR CHRIS ALFORD

In an age when the UK’S cof­fee habit is brim­ming, Dr Alford ex­plains why fil­ter­ing out caffeine is the key to re­newed en­ergy

No of­fence, but you look tired. OK, that’s just a guess, but it’s an ed­u­cated one. As a na­tion, we Brits have be­come spec­tac­u­larly bad sleep­ers, clock­ing an av­er­age 6.8 hours of kip a night, ac­cord­ing to the Royal So­ci­ety for Pub­lic Health. Worse still, a third of the pop­u­la­tion get fewer than six. Work, gym, a busy so­cial life: we want it all – and rightly so – but it comes at a cost to our en­ergy lev­els. Throw fa­ther­hood into the equa­tion and the dream of reach­ing your eight-hour RDA seems ris­i­ble.

It’s no won­der, then, that we’re pur­chas­ing pick-me­ups at an un­prece­dented rate. The av­er­age Bri­tish male now downs 13 cups of joe a week, con­tribut­ing to a rapidly ex­pand­ing cof­fee shop mar­ket val­ued at £3.7 bil­lion. More wor­ry­ingly, the UK is the world’s se­cond-largest con­sumer of en­ergy drinks per capita, ris­ing by a pal­pi­tat­ing 375% in the last five years. But if you’re one of the many who think your caf­feinated con­coc­tions hold the key to day-long vi­tal­ity, you need to wake up and smell the cof­fee.

Don’t get me wrong, caffeine is a pow­er­ful stim­u­lant. It’s an adeno­sine in­hibitor, block­ing the ef­fects of the body’s nat­u­rally oc­cur­ring drowsy chem­i­cal. The re­sult is im­proved alert­ness, cog­ni­tion and phys­i­cal per­for­mance, as the ef­fects of your pre-work­out espresso will at­test. But caffeine is a drug and, like any drug, you can build up a tol­er­ance – and ex­pe­ri­ence come­downs. Over time, you need an in­creas­ingly large hit to get the same kick. You no longer fancy a cup first thing, but need one to feel nor­mal. Then the jit­ters and cof­fee-in­duced anx­i­ety kick in 1 .

Even in small doses, your brew can be coun­ter­pro­duc­tive. With a half-life of around six hours, caffeine lingers in your sys­tem – and one en­ergy drink con­sumed too late in the day will dis­rupt your sleep, tir­ing you out to­mor­row. There be­gins the es­ca­lat­ing loop of cof­fee quaffing. Good news for Costabucks; bad news for your health.

Thank­fully, a week’s detox is all it takes to re­turn to your former, pre-caf glory. There are also plenty of ways to amp your­self up while go­ing cold turkey – and af­ter­wards, too. You may not have the men­tal en­ergy for heavy­weight work­outs, but start jog­ging to work in the morn­ing and you’ll re­duce tired­ness by 65% 2 . Next, swap your cof­fee mug for a water bot­tle. Tufts Uni­ver­sity found that de­hy­dra­tion – even los­ing just 2% of the water stored in your body – causes your en­ergy re­serves to dry up. Go­ing green has its ben­e­fits, too. Ac­cord­ing to the Uni­ver­sity of Ex­eter, work­ing with a plant on your desk is enough to in­crease of­fice pro­duc­tiv­ity by 38% 3 .

How­ever, the real beauty of hit­ting your caffeine re­set but­ton is that once you’ve flushed it out of your sys­tem, you’ll be hy­per-sen­si­tive to its ben­e­fits once more. An espresso will again pro­vide a tan­gi­ble, func­tional per­for­mance boost to body and mind. Cof­fee shouldn’t be the fuel you run on, but in­stead the ni­tro but­ton to be pressed when you re­ally need it. So ease off the hot stuff and get some sleep. Lord knows you look like you could use it.

“Cof­fee is a drug and, like any drug, you can build up a tol­er­ance to it”


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