How to Prevent Caffeine Dependence
The addiction starts off small, you feel tired and you don’t need much to do the trick. But as with any drug, you start to need a stronger dose, more often. Some people stop at one or two cups of coffee, but I have seen people drinking multiple double espressos in one cup, three to four times a day!
You may think that this is a minor addiction to have- no big deal. Personally, I don’t want to wake up and not be able to function without a caffeine fix. I want to rely on my body to wake itself up. Reaching for a coffee every time your energy levels slip just means you become dependent. Long term this dependence can lead to adrenal fatigue.
Pretty much the only time that I consume caffeine is right before a workout. Because I don’t use caffeine on a daily basis I am very sensitive to its effects – this is exactly how it should be. Caffeine should be used as a performance enhancer, not something that allows you to function at a normal level.
In order to maximise its effects, you need to understand the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is a hormone that has a lot to do with alertness, it’s one of your bodies “fight or flight” hormones and is responsible for why you feel tired at night and awake in the mornings.
Cortisol peaks between 8am-9am. If you drink coffee during this period it won’t have as strong an effect. Ideally, you want to get your caffeine during the lulls between cortisol spikes—otherwise, you start to develop a tolerance and have to drink more to get the same effect.
The ideal time to drink a coffee is between 9.30am and 11.30am, that way you will teach your body to wake up naturally and then when you do eventually have your coffee you will be more sensitive to its effects.
Equally, you don’t want to have any coffee too late in the day because it can affect your sleep. Caffeine has a half-life of around 6 hours. This means if you have a cup of coffee that contains around 100mg of caffeine at 4pm at 10pm you will still have 50mg of caffeine in your system.
I am not saying don’t ever drink caffeine. Just be clever about it and DO NOT drink it first thing in the morning; let your mind and body wake up naturally. Replace the fast-release caffeine in coffee with green tea, which releases it slowly and gradually. Most importantly, rather than reaching for coffee at the first signs of tiredness, try some alternatives. Go for a walk, get some fresh air, try Diaphragmatic Breathing or my morning stretching sequence.