I've gotten along ok without caffeine. Would I get along better with it?
January 19, 2013 3:35 PM   Subscribe

Do you think moderate daily caffeine consumption is, on the whole, a good thing? I certainly feel some positive effects on my productivity when I accidentally drink some caffeinated tea or whatnot, but I'd like to hear from people who drink tea/coffee every day. Are you glad you do? Do you wish you didn't have to, or do you think it gives you a boost you couldn't have otherwise, even with plenty of sleep? Does it have other health benefits? In short, would you recommend caffeine?
posted by malhouse to Food & Drink (39 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I can't really recommend this.

It gives a boost, but after a week to two weeks has diminishing returns, and you require more to get the same boost. You can also have withdrawal symptoms after about 6 hours from your last ingestion. In my personal experience, I get angry over little things. Others have headaches, and muscle spasms. Others experience nothing at all and love their caffeine.

As an alternative, if you're interested, I've switched to ginseng instead (much smoother boost), and drink decaf when I can.
posted by hanoixan at 3:46 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

A lot of the positive effect you are feeling disappears with daily consumption as your body develops a tolerance. At that point you have to drink the caffeine simply to get back to normal; without it you'll feel drowsy and likely get a headache. That sad, there may indeed be other health benefits to drinking moderate amounts of caffeine.

I wouldn't recommend you start just for the health benefits, but neither would I urge someone to stop if they already drank coffee or whatever. If you like it, drink it, if you don't, don't feel compelled to start.
posted by Justinian at 3:47 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I wish I wasn't dependent on it. I have to seek it out to avoid headaches. And I recently started having heart arrhythmia that the doctor said is likely from my caffeine consumption and suggested i cut way back. Don't get hooked on it if you aren't already is my two cents.
posted by cecic at 3:47 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Short answer: no.

Long answer: It has some short-term positive effects, but your tolerance will go up so fast, and the addiction kicks in quickly enough, that you'll end up pretty much just needing caffeine to stay at baseline. It also noticeably affects my sleep patterns at even relatively moderate doses, which doesn't help with anything. It has some definite use as a short-term, occasional-use upper (if you have to get up early or stay up late every once in a while,) assuming you tolerate it reasonably well, but daily use is not a net positive in my opinion.

Disclaimer: I have wrestled with a wicked caffeine addiction for years - it's embarrassing how hard it's been to stay off of it for any length of time. Mine is probably more obvious than most people's because I don't drink coffee - energy drink cans rattle so unsubtly in the recycling bin - but I'm not on the very far end, either.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:48 PM on January 19, 2013

I find it to be a minor nuisance, in that I have to have something to drink in the mornings or I stay groggy. It's definitely not a benefit after a couple weeks. But I don't think it's a serious problem, since I really like caffeinated beverages.
posted by skewed at 3:54 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

I work in the coffee industry in the production (roadting/wholesale) side of things, and part of what I'm going to echo is the fact that your body gets used to it, really fast. The exception being, for me at least, is waking up. I have a very hard time getting moving quickly in the morning without some coffee. And I actually drink less coffee per day than many I my former patrons.

Also, when it's your job to drink a good 10-20oz of coffee a day, as well as try at least 3 shots of espresso you get a pretty high tolerance for it. But then you get the stomach flu, and on top of the sickness, you have a blistering headache from the withdrawal. It's notably worse.

So I wouldnt do it for the sake of caffeine, but I'm totally ok drinking that much coffee everyday because I love coffee.
posted by furnace.heart at 3:56 PM on January 19, 2013

I think everyone here so far is talking about coffee, aka the foul urine of Satan. I have a single small cup of tea every morning and it is delightful. If I don't have it, life goes on. If I have more than one, I get a little tetchy, and if I have any after 12pm, I will sleep poorly. So I don't do either of those things.
posted by elizardbits at 3:56 PM on January 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

I don't think that caffeine will help you be more productive- for the reasons that people have stated above. Your tolerance increases and you drink just to have a normal mood.

If you rarely drink it, you could still have a cup of tea for a buzz on a particular day.

I love drinking coffee and I drink 2-3 cups a day. But I wouldn't recommend it as a supplement or something to help productivity. For me it's just a nice little break from work, or a nice thing to share with friends.
posted by beau jackson at 3:57 PM on January 19, 2013

As someone who would give up every other vice before coffee, here's what I've come to understand about caffeine. Regular consumption of coffee is pointless -- you'll build up a tolerance and you'll just be drinking it to return to baseline. Intermittent consumption of coffee though is awesome.
posted by the jam at 4:00 PM on January 19, 2013 [11 favorites]

Beyond the simple yes/no dichotomy, there's been good press recently for supplementing caffeine with l-theanine, a substance derived from green tea that seems to lend calm and focus to the energy jolt of caffeine alone. Together, they seem to offer cognitive enhancement or nootropic benefits greater than either alone.
posted by 5Q7 at 4:03 PM on January 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

Science says that coffee confers myriad health benefits. Overview for those disinclined to click:

Officially, the American Medical Association recommends conservatively that "moderate tea or coffee drinking likely has no negative effect on health, as long as you live an otherwise healthy lifestyle." That is a lackluster endorsement in light of so much recent glowing research. Not only have most of coffee's purported ill effects been disproven -- the most recent review fails to link it the development of hypertension -- but we have so, so much information about its benefits. We believe they extend from preventing Alzheimer's disease to protecting the liver. What we know goes beyond small-scale studies or limited observations. The past couple of years have seen findings, that, taken together, suggest that we should embrace coffee for reasons beyond the benefits of caffeine, and that we might go so far as to consider it a nutrient.
posted by HotToddy at 4:12 PM on January 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

The nicest thing about not drinking caffeine is that when you really need caffeine it works.
posted by magnetsphere at 4:16 PM on January 19, 2013 [7 favorites]

I used to drink a crazy amount of coffee, and I got a lot of comments from customers along the lines of, "How are you so cheery this early in the morning?" Even if I had never touched caffeine before, it's not like I'd just wake up all cheery and ready to deliver a chipper, personalized customer service experience, you know? It helps makes the early morning hours of work a lot better.

However, I was getting to be a little crackhead about it, so I switched to drinking lots and lots of chai tea (just my personal tea preference obviously). It gives me the hot-sweet-milky combo I liked about coffee, it's naturally pretty sweet and I like it with vanilla almond milk so it's better for me than coffee with cream and lots of sugar, and I feel like the caffeine high is a little gentler of an up-and-down wave.
posted by Juliet Banana at 4:19 PM on January 19, 2013

Is there a significant difference between coffee and cola drinking?
posted by notreally at 4:23 PM on January 19, 2013

No. What goes up must come down. What you gain in the morning, you lose in the evening (and then some). If you drink too much, you don't sleep as well and have to start the treadmill all over again.

Is there a significant difference between coffee and cola drinking?

There is much more caffeine in coffee, ounce for ounce.
posted by gjc at 4:29 PM on January 19, 2013

Thanks gjc - one more. How about instant coffee?
posted by notreally at 4:35 PM on January 19, 2013

The article that HotToddy linked to does also has the lead researcher (Bhupathiraju) stating, "The current recommendation is that if somebody's not drinking coffee, you don't tell them to start."
posted by andrewesque at 4:38 PM on January 19, 2013

I used to only drink coffee when I had something I really needed to do work, for the extra benefits related to focus. This was once every few months or so.

Now I drink it a lot -- probably every couple of days. It's been really good for me. I focus better (I have ADD but meds have not worked for me so far). I don't drink it when I'm not working. I only drink it right before I work. And I don't drink more than a double shot.

Anyway, it's been really beneficial for me. No side effects or headaches yet.
posted by 3491again at 4:39 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

One of the greatest pleasures in my life is the two cups of coffee I have in the morning.

I have no need for caffeine, it doesn't keep me awake, it doesn't make me jittery, I don't get withdrawal symptoms if I don't drink any for whatever reason. It's just that coffee is delicious and I see no reason not to drink it.
posted by lydhre at 4:49 PM on January 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

I enjoy one cuppa joe at home in the morning. It does help me wake up and I like both the taste and ritual. I don't find that I need increasingly more at all.
posted by michellenoel at 5:00 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

That 1st cup of coffee still works for me, every day. It's a cheap, safe, effective, drug whose dosage is easily controlled. 1 - 2 cups (actual 8 oz. cup measure, not giant 20 oz. mug) is reasonable. I probably drink 10 oz./ day, and have no ill effects if I skip a day; maybe a lack of morning alertness. When I drank 2 - 3 12 oz. mugs a day, I got a headache if I missed a day. I like the taste and the warmth.
posted by theora55 at 5:01 PM on January 19, 2013

That earworm of a Folgers jingle pretty much truly describes what keeps me coming back. Except not Folgers. Never Folgers.

For the rest of the day though, I'm beginning to find the evening crash is outweighing any pleasure I find in the taste.
posted by waterandrock at 5:02 PM on January 19, 2013

I'm currently taking a coffee break, but I go through periods of moderate consumption. Here are my observations:

1. When I was younger, I could drink coffee anytime and it would not affect my ability to sleep. This is no longer the case. Anything after 4pm or so is detrimental to my sleep.

2. When I drink 2-3 or more cups of strong coffee per day, I feel like crap (this usually manifests itself as a bad headache) first thing in the morning - until I have my first cup that is...

3. The effects of coffee on me are dependent on the method of consumption. Where I work, the coffee shop options are quite bad and I find myself adding 4 tsp of sugar and cream to each cup to make it palatable. Now I also have a sugar high/low problem as well. However, when travelling in Italy, I tended to drink smaller cups (espressos, cappuccinos). They also often serve coffee with a glass of water. Long story short, I can drink coffee all day over there and I feel fine. Someone told me they use a lighter roast, which has less caffeine and doesn't taste as bitter.

I'll start drinking coffee again, but I'm sticking to the good stuff (which means I'll be making it myself).
posted by piyushnz at 5:09 PM on January 19, 2013

One thing to keep in mind is the cost. Yah, you can get a cheap coffee, but I know a lot of coffee addicts and none of them drink cheap coffee.

A friend has developed severe heartburn that is greatly irritated by coffee, and is also used to drinking three cups of it every day, and it's like watching someone try to quit smoking.
posted by Dynex at 5:13 PM on January 19, 2013

Don't do it. Caffeine has seriously diminishing returns, and the dependancy is pretty vicious. Plus most products with caffeine are pretty bad for your health, and stimulants can be bad for your blood pressure, tension and anxiety, and a variety of other problems. It's not worth it.
posted by windykites at 5:21 PM on January 19, 2013

Wow, so much coffee hate!

I'm like theora55: I have a travel mug of coffee in the morning -- the equivalent of 4 cups on my coffee maker's carafe -- and that's it. I love it. First, I genuinely enjoy the taste and the warmth. Second, it's a nice morning habit for me. I drink my coffee on the way to work so that by the time I get there, I'm alert and ready to get going on whatever tasks are on my desk. The best part is that I'm done with caffeine by mid-morning, so I don't have any afternoon jitters from additional cups of coffee or sodas.

I've definitely had periods where I drank waaaaay too much caffeine -- when I first started my current job, I was so excited about our awesome espresso machine that I was having a double shot every afternoon. But then I decided to cut back on coffee and caffeine when I was trying to get pregnant, and getting rid of that afternoon double was rough. Once I got over the withdrawal period, though, I was back to my normal, single travel mug habit -- and I had no trouble giving that up entirely when I got pregnant.

Tl;dr: if you don't currently drink coffee and have no trouble getting started in the morning, there's probably no need to add a regular habit to your life. Enjoy the occasional cup when you want that extra pep. If, however, you genuinely LIKE coffee (as I do), it can be an enjoyable and useful habit.
posted by devinemissk at 5:28 PM on January 19, 2013 [3 favorites]

I drink coffee every day. Sometimes I have quit for a period of several months. I find that the boost I get from drinking a cup is only noticeable when I otherwise am not really drinking it. When I am having it every day I notice no effect whatsoever on my mood, energy or productivity. In fact, when I am drinking a lot of it regularly, I can drink it before sleeping and have no trouble.

Drink it if you like the taste. Otherwise don't bother.
posted by lollusc at 5:57 PM on January 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

Honestly, I've accepted that I am not a morning person. I didn't drink coffee for 25+ years and finally started to this year because of this job I have. I didn't notice a real big difference. Any increased alertness was probably placebo, especially since I've read that the effects of coffee only work for like a week or two before you become tolerant.

I don't really like coffee. But I buy Starbucks ground vanilla flavored and put unsweetened almond milk in it so it stays low-sugar/low-calorie but still tastes pretty good.
posted by AppleTurnover at 7:35 PM on January 19, 2013

I used to drink a lot of black coffee. I would stop at one of those carts in NYC and get a buttered roll and large black coffee every morning. THen another about two hours later. It got to the point where I was addicted both physically and mentally. I was definitely helped by the caffeine rush in the mornings, but the afternoon crash was a bitch.

I quit cold turkey on July 24th, 2004. I am better off for it, although I miss that early morning focus.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 7:48 PM on January 19, 2013

I tried going on a 2 cup a day routine for a few years, and it didn't work out for me. I'm actually better off with none - my productivity throughout the day is much more stable, without the highs and lows. YMMV, of course.

The ironic thing is that I drink 1 cup each on Saturday and Sunday, and none for the weekdays. It's a recreational drug of sorts. You don't want it to become a dependency, which it will quickly become if you drink it all the time, just to feel normal.
posted by xdvesper at 8:09 PM on January 19, 2013

I used to use it in an attempt to self-medicate undiagnosed ADHD. It wasn't very effective; it would give me 30 minutes of focus, followed by 90 minutes of fidgety fuzziness. So if I wanted focus, I'd have to drink a coffee every half hour, and deal with having to pee every 45 minutes.

Now I am getting treatment for ADHD, my caffeine intake is down to 1/6 of what it was. I can focus, and don't always need to rush off to the bathroom! I still can't kick that small cup in the morning, though; the few times I've tried to skip it, I get aches, shivers, cold sweats and muscle spasms. It's a helluva drug.
posted by A Friend of Dug [sock] at 8:10 PM on January 19, 2013

Coffee boosts my mood and my productivity. It absolutely makes my brain sharper. There's a reason some claim that coffee facilitated the Enlightenment and the Industrial Revolution. When I wasn't drinking it, mornings were torture (but I'm not a morning person) and I'd get so tired in the afternoons I could hardly do anything except sleep. For those of us who don't have the luxury of siesta opportunities, this is problematic.

I love my morning cup and my afternoon cup, I love it with something chocolaty, I just love my coffee. Yes, I'm a little bit addicted, but for me it's so worth it. I also don't find that my tolerance builds up so much - I still have a cup in the morning and one in the afternoon, and they do what they're supposed to do.
posted by walla at 8:19 PM on January 19, 2013

I have a coffee every morning, and occasionally I'll have one in the afternoon. I looooove it. It's totally worth feeling a bit bad before my morning coffee, just to feel as good as I do when I actually have it.

I had to stop for quite awhile when I was trying to conceive and then pregnant, and it was hell. I missed it every day. Decaf is not the same. I love love love my coffee.
posted by barnoley at 8:28 PM on January 19, 2013

Tea makes my bladder spasm, and ginseng makes me want to gag...

I drink (generally) one cup of coffee, in the morning. I like the smell, the taste, the ritual of making one really nice cup. I like the little energy boost first thing in the morning. It's not enough to give withdrawls, and for the most part I can take it or leave it - if I'm sick or traveling it's no big deal. Also, coffee keeps my BM regular and I'm on medication which tends to cause constipation so, you know... it helps. Good quality coffee is VERY different than cheap coffee.

It will also help if you have low blood pressure; My Dad has high blood pressure and 1/2 tablet of the preferred medication is a little too much, so his prescription is 1/2 tablet and a cup of coffee.
posted by jrobin276 at 8:35 PM on January 19, 2013

You might get addicted and then feel lousy and even get headaches in the morning if you don't have it. So I'd say you are definitely not missing. Furthermore you can save money by not having a coffee habit.
posted by Dansaman at 9:43 PM on January 19, 2013

Drinking caffeine (black tea or coffee) regularly winds up with me getting headaches and feeling utterly drained in the afternoon, which requires another hit of caffeine.

But if i just drink water or herbal tea in the morning for a while, im fine in the afternoon. Even if i do have to power through some tired blahs in the morning.

tl;dr. Caffeine works well on occasion, but if you rely on it regularly it does have side effects. So if you haven't started on it, i wouldn't start on it regularly.
posted by TheAdamist at 9:52 PM on January 19, 2013

I wouldn't.

It gave me palpitations (rather than a kick), nausea and constipation. I only use it on occasion (such as if I'm pulling an all-nighter).
posted by rozaine at 4:40 AM on January 20, 2013

As far as drinking a moderate amount of coffee each day (say 1-3 cups) I think it really depends on the person as far as "diminishing returns" or side effects and that sort of thing, and even whether you would get along better if you drink coffee or not, assuming you've been okay with drinking it in the past.

I'm dependent on one cup of coffee each day, but that's it. I sometimes drink two cups, but I only have to have the one cup. In my experience it hasn't taken progressively more to achieved the desired benefits. I also enjoy the morning ritual of drinking coffee.

I've stopped drinking coffee before and I basically missed everything about it, so I would say that it is, on the whole, a good thing...for me.

OTOH I know people who can't even drink decaf because the tiny amount of caffeine will cause all kinds of crazy symptoms like racing heart or just feeling weird.
posted by fromageball at 4:55 AM on January 20, 2013

I think it is entirely incorrect to say that building up a tolerance for something means it doesn't affect you at all, although I am happy for a doctor/scientist to tell me I'm wrong.
I am more alert after drinking coffee, even when I am drinking it regularly, than when I am not drinking coffee. If I were to give up drinking coffee in the morning it wouldn't be a period of adjustment followed by the exact same me that I was before when I was drinking coffee. It would be a period of adjustment followed by a slightly less alert me in the morning than I was when I was drinking coffee. I have found the same thing with drinking moderate quantities of alcohol regularly, or taking certain prescription/OTC drugs.
Not everyone has the same tolerances, sensitivities, etc, so YMMV, but to say "there's no point in drinking coffee because you just get used to it and then you need coffee to be normal" is just not in my experience correct. Drugs have an effect on your system, and your system does not always completely adjust for this effect. Caffeine is not just a pointlessly addictive substance.
posted by ch1x0r at 10:34 AM on January 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

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