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Oh iced coffee, why you make me feel this way?
August 17, 2012 11:32 AM   Subscribe

I drink iced coffee from Starbucks once or twice a week. My standard order is a grande with two Splendas and 2% milk. I've noticed that by the time I get to the end of my drink I have that shaky and empty feeling that usually means my blood sugar is low. I don't notice any particular sugar/caffeine high while I'm drinking it. I usually sip on it while I'm working at the computer, so it takes about 45 minutes to finish the drink. What could be causing the sugar-crash feeling? Is it all in my head?

I'm not diabetic, have no known health issues, and haven't noticed this reaction from coffee or sodas in other cases. I drink a diet soda or two most days, so my body is no stranger to caffeine.
posted by TallulahBankhead to Health & Fitness (30 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Are you eating anything else? or is this your breakfast?

Have you tried seeing if you get this same reaction at the same time a day just with water?
posted by royalsong at 11:37 AM on August 17, 2012


That sounds like how I feel when I have too much caffeine. A grande iced coffee has about 125 - 165 mg of caffeine (depending on how much milk you use) according to this website, which is pretty signficant, especially on an empty stomach.

A 16 can of Diet Coke, on the other hand (not sure what size you're drinking), has less than half the caffeine - 60mg. If you're drinking the soda with food it will also have less of an effect. Data from the same website.
posted by insectosaurus at 11:37 AM on August 17, 2012 [13 favorites]


Idiopathic postprandial syndrome? Maybe the caffeine messes with your adrenaline.
posted by elsietheeel at 11:37 AM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


That's I feel when I'm overcaffeinated, as well.

But if it feels like low blood sugar to you, then yes: what are you eating, and when, in relation to your coffee-drinking?
posted by rtha at 11:39 AM on August 17, 2012


This is how I feel after drinking anything caffeinated and iced. Iced tea really does it to me. (And sweet iced tea literally gives me heart palpitations.)

Try getting the same thing with decaf for a few days and see how/if it affects you.
posted by phunniemee at 11:40 AM on August 17, 2012


Try getting the same thing with decaf for a few days and see how/if it affects you.

Yeah, this. You can (sadly) become suddenly unable to handle caffeine, even if you've been happily drinking it regularly for many years. And this is a really easy thing to experiment with - try decaf, try real sugar or no sweetener at all, try the hot version. You should be able to figure it out pretty soon.
posted by DestinationUnknown at 11:45 AM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


How full are you? Maybe it's a matter of absorption rate.
posted by oceanjesse at 11:50 AM on August 17, 2012


The same thing happens to me when I drink Starbucks or Caribou iced coffee or blended cappuccinos - I end up feeling like crap after I'm finished with it (it isn't fun with anxiety issues). Which is sad, because they are sooo yummy and I kinda like caffeine.

Out of convenience/cheapness I started to get McDonalds iced coffee and for some reason I don't get that caffeine crash afterwards, even though the large is as big as my head. Maybe they skimp on the coffee to save money? I dunno. So maybe try one of those?
posted by littlesq at 11:52 AM on August 17, 2012


The drink is sweet but there's no real sugar in there, just Splenda (which is pretty much biologically inert). So your body is tricked into thinking it has ingested sugar and releases insulin etc but then there's no payoff. So bam, low blood sugar.

Your body is really good at noticing sugar intake and dealing with it because blood sugar spikes are damaging plus your body doesn't want to waste energy rich nutrients. As an example, you have sweet taste receptors not just in your mouth but in your upper digestive tract too. Sugar substitutes don't necessarily have these effects on everyone but it is a known thing. In this case, add in the caffeine content and I'm betting that's your problem.

So maybe try eating something along with your coffee or try drinking it unsweetened and see if that makes a difference.
posted by shelleycat at 11:58 AM on August 17, 2012 [7 favorites]


You could have also developed milk intolerance or Splenda intolerance.
posted by serena15221 at 11:59 AM on August 17, 2012


Also: I don't know why this would be doing it when other diet sodas don't. But maybe take a look at what artificial sweeteners are used in each and see if there's a difference there.
posted by shelleycat at 11:59 AM on August 17, 2012


I dunno, for me it's part of the Starbucks "experience." I always drink a lot of coffee, and drink upwards of 2L of soda a day. As such, I'm pretty sure my tolerance to caffeine does not play an issue in this as I can drink Dunkin' coffee with a turbo shot to my hearts content and follow it with 20 oz. of soda, or make it absolutely as strong as I want to at home, and do not have the same effect. I have noticed the fact that if I go without Starbucks for a time and go back to it, I also have this effect, but if I drink their coffee regularly (once a day) it goes away after awhile.

I don't know what it is, or if we are even experiencing the same thing, but that "too much caffeine" feeling will come strongly with only Starbucks coffee with me. I literally have had a 12 oz. coffee at home, stopped 5 minutes later and got a 20 oz. cup of Gas Station coffee, and had a Large Dunkin Turbo an hour later and been left unscathed, but give me one Trenta at the 'Bucks after a month of not going there and I feel like I'm plugged into an electric socket.
posted by Debaser626 at 12:00 PM on August 17, 2012


Splenda (and no other artificial sweetner) always makes me feel strange. I don't know why, I just avoid it.
posted by muddgirl at 12:01 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


And for the record, I get a 4 pump Hazelnut and drink it with Skim at Starbucks. Everywhere else I get 4 Splenda or Equal (depends on which word pops in my head first) and Skim Milk. At home it's Splenda packets. And never had ill effect.
posted by Debaser626 at 12:05 PM on August 17, 2012


There doesn't seem to be much factual evidence for the theory that fake sugars cause insulin release, thus the crash. Maybe you've developed a sensitivity to milk or to caffeine?
posted by Ideefixe at 12:07 PM on August 17, 2012 [3 favorites]


I was convinced that Starbucks was adding ritalin or some other powerful stimulants to their coffee, because I noticed the same thing when I drank it. But no, it's just because they have absurd amounts of caffeine (which in my mind is a feature :). Try drinking five cans of coke and you'll have *almost* as much caffeine as in that one grande iced coffee.
posted by mullingitover at 12:12 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


You can always order Starbucks drinks "half-caf" for some pick me up without the whole kick.
posted by sleeping bear at 12:22 PM on August 17, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, I really didn't realize there was so much more caffeine in the iced coffee than in Diet Coke. That explains it then.

I usually have one in the afternoon, a couple hours after lunch which is obviously not helping either. The whole point for me is to satisfy a sweet tooth, but sugar is my kryptonite. So half-caf/decaf it is.

Curiosity satisfied.
posted by TallulahBankhead at 12:26 PM on August 17, 2012


I drink 2-3 cups of coffee most mornings plus a couple of diet cokes, but a frappucino still does that to me. I think it's because the caffeine is as concentrated as in coffee or a hot espresso drink, but because it's cold you can drink it in about 1/3rd of the time. It's just too much, too fast.
posted by something something at 12:36 PM on August 17, 2012


The drink is sweet but there's no real sugar in there, just Splenda (which is pretty much biologically inert). So your body is tricked into thinking it has ingested sugar and releases insulin etc but then there's no payoff. So bam, low blood sugar.

As far as I can see there is no evidence to support the notion that sucralose has this effect. This blog post has quite a few links to published papers on the matter.
posted by howfar at 1:08 PM on August 17, 2012 [5 favorites]


"So maybe try eating something along with your coffee or try drinking it unsweetened and see if that makes a difference"

Good advice, but one thing to try is self-sweetning it with actual sugar (or sugar syrup) but going way, way low. You'll find that even just a little bit (i.e. not enough to be real caloric) helps a lot.

Most people are all-or-nothing with sugar, when really some triangulation is possible.
posted by Quisp Lover at 1:24 PM on August 17, 2012


Maybe try getting an Americano (similar in price, it's only espresso + water) or a cafe au lait (coffee + milk)? Otherwise, try iced decaf or iced tea.

I get this feeling too, solely when drinking black coffee (iced or hot). I never get it from other drinks; that's because black coffee has double the caffeine of an americano or one espresso shot (for instance). Not sure what else you can get on ice at Starbucks but almost anything will have less caffeine.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:26 PM on August 17, 2012


Allow me to suggest an alternate order at Sbux that can suitably replace your current drink. Two reasons: Sbux generally doesn't make decaf iced coffee, and the iced coffee they do prepare is brewed at double-strength and then diluted after the fact with ice/water.

So in your position I'd start ordering a "Decaf doppio over ice, 2 splenda, splash of nonfat milk, in a grande cup." That's two decaf shots of espresso brewed over ice with your normal add-ins. Have them top it off with water or more ice to fill the cup, to your preference. The decaf espresso has 3.0 to 15.8mg caffeine according to insectosaurus' link above, so that's a significant reduction.
posted by carsonb at 1:58 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


Oh, and it'll taste about the same, especially with the nonfat and splenda remaining unchanged.
posted by carsonb at 1:59 PM on August 17, 2012


The drink is sweet but there's no real sugar in there, just Splenda (which is pretty much biologically inert). So your body is tricked into thinking it has ingested sugar and releases insulin etc but then there's no payoff. So bam, low blood sugar.

Except there are around 12g of sugar in a cup of 2% milk, which is probably about how much milk is in a grande iced latte. I'm casting another vote for over-caffeination, not blood sugar crash.
posted by pecanpies at 3:08 PM on August 17, 2012 [2 favorites]


There are times for me at work when I have to be up very early and work absurd-seeming numbers of hours. I can get humming along with a few coffees, and then a strange thing happens...it sort of turns on me and I suddenly seem to feel all the tiredness the coffee was pushing away. For the next few hours I have to lay off, or I'll just get really, really tired.
posted by nevercalm at 3:46 PM on August 17, 2012


Wow, I really didn't realize there was so much more caffeine in the iced coffee than in Diet Coke. That explains it then.

It's not just any iced coffee; Starbucks coffee is notoriously supercaffeinated. A 16 oz iced coffee at Dunkin Donuts has 70 mg of caffeine, which is less than half of the 165 mg in a 16 oz cup at Starbucks. You could consider switching coffee places.

(I prefer DD iced coffee myself. Not as burned tasting.)
posted by painquale at 4:08 PM on August 17, 2012


Except there are around 12g of sugar in a cup of 2% milk

Do you eat anything else for breakfast? Also, how old are you? Decreased lactase activity and lactose malabsorption are just another fun part of growing up.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 8:47 PM on August 17, 2012


Starbucks puts simple sugar syrup in the iced coffee unless you request that they do not.
posted by IronSurfer at 3:10 PM on August 18, 2012


I usually have eaten lunch a couple of hours before the coffee. And I'm early 30s. Good to know about the simple syrup. I don't stress too much about eliminating sugar completely, but I feel so much better when I keep it to a minimum.

As an update, I've tried DD which I like, and when I've been to S'bucks I've kept it to a Tall and tried to sip slowly. So far so good. Thanks, AskMe!
posted by TallulahBankhead at 12:15 AM on September 11, 2012


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