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