Do you use caffeine? Tracy does

image description: coffee cup with a latte with foam in the image of a lion, saucer, and teaspoon

I used to drink no coffee. For many years I even avoided caffeinated tea. I had to keep an eye on my caffeine intake because if I overdid it, I got all jittery and stressed out, and it affected my sleep patterns.

Then, back when I was training for triathlon for our Fittest by Fifty Challenge (Sam and I turned 50 in 2014), I read somewhere (I don’t know where), that caffeine was a good little kickstart for race day. I tried it before one of my events that summer and I guess I determined that it helped.

Still and all, I only drank coffee for events, and I only had four events that summer. So that’s not a whole lot of coffee in the scheme of things.

I’m thinking about coffee today because of that study that just came out about how “Science” has shown that even people who drank up to 25 (!!) cups of coffee a day “were no more likely to experience stiffening of the arteries than someone drinking less than a cup a day.”

Another reason I’m thinking about it is that my coffee use has taken on much larger proportions than it had five years ago, slowly becoming a daily habit, complete with headaches if I don’t have at least one cup in the morning.  After the triathlon stint, I started to use coffee a little bit on long solo road trips. Not a lot, but a cup here and there so I wouldn’t get tired.

Again, long road trips were few and far between, so it hadn’t yet become a daily habit. Then came a few far away trips where I needed coffee in the mornings to help me adjust to the time change. By then, I was starting to enjoy coffee and seek out good coffee. I think that once we start going out of our way for good coffee, we’re kind of hooked.

Towards the end of last summer I was drinking coffee most days but didn’t really notice that I was until one day, on a weekend, I started to get a headache sometime Saturday afternoon. After some time it dawned on me that I hadn’t had a coffee yet. Uh oh.

I’m not a big fan of dependency. When I realized that I was experiencing physical withdrawal, I decided that I would quit coffee again. That was on the Sunday.

Monday I went to work. We had just moved into a newly renovated space and my office now had a really nice kitchen. Literally on the day I was going to quit, I walked into the kitchen where my colleague proudly pointed out that he had purchased a really good espresso machine for our new kitchen. That means really good coffee. How could I say no.

I start every work day with an Americano with soy milk. And I really enjoy it. So when Christmas rolled around I decided it was time to treat myself to my very own machine. And now I have a soy latte most mornings at home before work, plus my at-work Americano.

And when I was in Rwanda the past couple of weeks I had a morning breakfast routine of coffee first, then a strong tea after that. I sometimes even drank coffee in the middle of the afternoon because otherwise I wouldn’t have made it. And now I’m nine time zones away from Kigali, in Vancouver at the Canadian Philosophical Association conference, and I wouldn’t be making it with my morning Americano.

But I’m nowhere near 25 cups a day.

Do you “use” caffeine?

14 thoughts on “Do you use caffeine? Tracy does

  1. I drink coffee — usually two lattes a day. I notice that if I am drinking decaf (by accident!) I am quite sleepy by mid morning. I haven’t experienced any headaches when I stop drinking coffee (only one cup a day when I was pregnant). I like the ritual of coffee in the morning and with friends. I also drink tea, for pretty much the same reason.

    I don’t know if I would describe my drinking coffee as using. I like milk, olive oil, real butter, good bread, lovely cheese, green salads, sweet fruit etc. If I didn’t eat them regularly, I would miss them. I don’t feel as energetic when I am low on veg, fruit and protein.

    Does the fact that I notice those differences qualify as dependent? I am not sure about using the language of addiction and substance use for something like coffee or tea, or even sugar for that matter. I work on mental health and addiction issues and I often wonder if using this language outside of that context (“I need my caffeine fix” for example) helps or hinders the discussion. I am still thinking about it. Thanks for posing the question.

    1. As someone in recovery myself I do examine my use of certain things. And though I didn’t go into it in too much detail here, caffeine does sometimes involve dependency and withdrawal, so I do think it is addictive.

  2. I can’t go a day without coffee.
    both in the morning and during the day.
    Especially after a meal.
    Even before bedtime I drink two bags because what many do not know is that coffee can prevent falling asleep if one drinks it a few hours before bedtime, BUT if one drinks it just before bedtime it actually promotes falling asleep.
    Greetings from Tienen in Belgium the city where people party and celebrate all summer long
    Tienen party, click on the photo to view the message

  3. I guess I would say I love and drink coffee, not that I use caffeine. If the latter I’d just take pills. I drink about three cups a day but I’m not methodical about it in anyway except at breakfast. After that, if it’s there great and if not, I don’t suffer. Except that I like it and it’s a missing pleasure. Feels much more like a chosen pleasure than a need. Endurance sports is the other “need” context. It’s definitely performance enhancing.

  4. I complete agree that it caffeine can lead to dependency. I’m not much of a coffee person, but I do have a similar dependency to tea. Without tea at my desk I struggle to focus on my work.
    And I was just reading today on Livestrong that “The risk of caffeine addiction may be slightly higher for tea than for soda but slightly less than for coffee” 😭

    1. Then you don’t “use” it. You enjoy it. But the number of people that can’t function until they’ve had a cup and who have a true dependency, complete with physical withdrawal if they don’t have it, is not trivial.

  5. Do I “use” caffeine? The way an addict uses heroin or meth? Seriously?

    I drink a cup of coffee every morning with my breakfast. I am not an addict and I think using the language of addiction to describe a cup of coffee to be problematic and hyperbolic, to put it mildly.

  6. I’m a green tea drinker. I stopped drinking coffee around age 18 because it made me feel jittery and unpleasant and I’m already a pretty high energy person. But about 4 years ago I discovered that a macchiato is a thrilling sensual pleasure. I love everything about it. The energy boost. The little dot of foamed milk (or soy milk). The tiny cup. I usually have one or two maximum a week, generally on a weekend afternoon or early evening when I’m going out later. I would definitely not use the language of “using”–in fact, what tickles me about it, is that it feels exciting and fizzy and yet is just a little cup of espresso with a teaspoon of foam. I have been thinking lately though that deploying it as part of my sports training might be worth trying.

  7. I like tea (not so much coffee, although an occasional latte or cold brew can be tasty), but the idea of caffeine dependency makes me uncomfortable. I try not to have caffeinated beverages every day for that reason, even though I am often tired or unfocused at work and could probably benefit from a pick-me-up. I don’t know – I don’t think that my feelings are entirely rational, but I have some discomfort around substances (caffeine, marijuana) that are widely accepted and reasonably safe for many.

    I have noticed that fancy coffee shop drinks (milk + sugar + espresso or caffeinated tea) at my favorite coffee shop on campus pair nicely with strength training, although it’s hard to say whether it’s the caffeine or the extra calories giving me a boost!

  8. Three thoughts:
    1. It’s pretty well understood now that just a few genetic differences result in folks who are “slow metabolizers” and “fast metabolizers” of caffeine. If you can consume a good dose in the afternoon without impairing your sleep, you’re a fast metabolizer. Sadly, I am a slow metabolizer, and I stick to tea after my first cup of quality pour-over, home ground, organic, shade grown, free range coffee beans. 🤓

    2. I didn’t begin to drink coffee regularly until it was *prescribed* to me by my doctor as one of our strategies to flush out intestinal parasites discovered months after I had returned from living in Madagascar. I only ever drank it before exams before then, and by the time the health issues were under control, I was accustomed to my morning cuppa.

    3. When I teach my students about drug abuse and dependency, one of the assignments is for them to decide if I am dependent upon coffee or not. There are 8 factors used to define someone as having drug abuse and/or dependency, and having at least 4 of them meets the criteria. It’s fun to let them decide if ordering my fancy coffee, in bulk, from my favorite roaster in Minnesota (1300 miles away) consititutes “a willingness to go out of one’s way to obtain the drug, to the detriment of other life factors.” 😆

  9. I drink coffee regularly, normally 1-3 cups a day. Even so, I don’t feel like I “need” it, except in the mornings. Most days are one or two-cup days, unless I’m exceptionally tired.

  10. I do, but I need to be careful now of when and what. Coffee has always hit my system harder than any caffeine source, and not just because of the amount of caffeine. I seem to absorb it faster in that form. My preference these days is a cup of black tea in the morning (with a splash of lactose-free milk) and maybe a second in the afternoon. I still have a bit of a soda addiction, with specific foods, and especially in hot months I’d rather have a diet cola for my afternoon caffeine than hot tea. The caffeine kick from tea is stronger than soda, but much more mellow than coffee. I feel the alertness without the buzz of speeding heart rates and adrenaline jitters. I enjoy the flavor of many coffees, especially espresso, so I still indulge from time to time, but definitely not on an empty stomach if I can help it.

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