As I write this, I’m sitting here having a cup myself. So the question comes to mind – how bad is it really? I used to have my grande Starbucks drip every morning when I got to work. Now I might have one every other week just when it sounds too good to be true. I’m bringing it up though because coffee is a hotly (pun intended) debated topic these days. We go from hearing coffee is bad for us, to “this just in: coffee is good for us,” to well, it’s just OK in moderation. There are two things driving the debate: 1.) caffeine addiction 2.) what else is going in it.
Let’s start with the caffeine. Caffeine stimulates the adrenal glands to produce adrenaline and the stress hormone cortisol – the same hormones that kick in for “fight or flight mode.” That’s what gives us that jolt. At the peak of it your mind is clear, you move faster and everything is heightened. I’m feeling that now. Woo! But on the down slope (maybe around 3:00), it’s just the opposite. And that’s when we may reach for more caffeine or sugar. For me it’s usually chocolate. And it comes on like clockwork. Think of that caffeine jolt as borrowed energy. You eventually have to give it back. So if you’re addicted to coffee then it can turn into a vicious cycle of rented energy which can really wear out your adrenal glands and lead to more serious health concerns.
Then there’s what’s going in it. You know those studies you see on the Today Show touting the benefits of coffee? They’re not talking about the 1/2 a cup of sugar or that fat-free hazelnut creamer going in it. Yes, it’s delicious and I hate to ruin delicious things, but have you ever seen what happens to one of those creamers when it’s left out? It turns into paste – kinda looks like glue. Just think what it’s doing inside your body… OK there, I said it. Do with it what you like.
I’m not putting all this out there to convince you you should give up your morning routine. But I do think we all should be more mindful of what’s going down the chute. Evaluate your relationship with the black stuff. Is it what’s making you function? Is it the taste or the caffeine you crave? Or is it the sugar you’re putting with it? Or is it just the familiar and comforting warm cup in your hand that you’d miss the most? Pinpoint what it is you’re craving. Whatever it is, remember you should be the one with the upper hand, not the coffee. You set the terms. If you can take it or leave it, you win.
Think you might be hooked? Try one of these:
– Switch to decaf for a day, or even a week. Do you notice a difference in how you feel?
– Try tea. Start with a black tea which feels a little more like coffee and have more caffeine. Then get a little bit lighter as you’re ready. Teas put less stress on the adrenals and the body and also have a variety of health benefits, particularly white and green teas. They’re the best because they have lots of antioxidents and help to detox and cleanse the body.
– Fuel with food. Try getting more of your energy from foods in the morning. Fruits awaken the sense and are refreshing in the morning. Whole grains and protein also give you a sustained energy that will last all morning.
– Take a cold shower. I’m not going to tell you that I do this. I don’t. But it will wake you up in the morning. If not a shower, then just splash some cold water on your face.
Trying different things out just leads to better awareness of yourself and how you’re feeling. No matter what you discover or decide to do you’ll know more about what makes you tick. And you’re all the better for it.
Megan Adams Brown, CHC, helps families find healthy routines that work, with no more “what’s for dinner?” stress, and a lot better food. Her family meal plans help moms take charge of their kitchen and their own health, leading to more vegetables and less junk all around. Megan also shares kid-approved, allergy-friendly recipes on her blog. To learn more click here.