I've been reading some interesting articles on life hacker recently, and I thought I'd like to write a little post for busy mums on how you should use caffeine to work to your advantage.
Use caffeine? Am I sounding like a drug addict? Probably, but I'd reason that most people are tolerant to caffeine (a nicer word than addicted, but with the same implications).
People who have general anaesthesia often wake up with a thumping headache. Until recently doctors blamed the anaesthesia, until it was found that a post-operative cup of strong coffee had an amazing effect. They now believe that 12 hours with no caffeine (and then the surgery) is causing peoples bodies to go into withdrawal.
Don't think you have much? How often throughout the day do you sip a cup of tea or coffee, or a soda, or even nibble on a chocolate biscuit? All of these things are giving you small hits of caffeine, just enough for your body to maintain it's tolerance.
An alcoholic that only drinks enough to maintain their addiction (eg isn't drunk all day) is still an alcoholic and is still damaging their body. If they need to drink a few units everyday to maintain normal functioning without withdrawal, they are still alcohol dependent, whether or not they drink enough to get drunk. The good news is that in the same way that you don't have to be tee total to not be alcohol dependent, you don't have to give up caffeine completely to not be caffeine dependent.
The way caffeine works is not actually to give you more energy.
Stephen R. Braun, author of the excellent book Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol and Caffeine, described caffeine's effects as "taking the chaperones out of a high school dance."
It's a similar shape as adenosine - a chemical that your body uses to tell you it's tired. Caffeine blocks up your adenosine receptors and prevents your body from getting those 'tired' signals. This is why it's a great tool before exercise/training (but it does dehydrate you, so remember to drink plenty of water).
As with most drugs, your body builds up a tolerance to caffeine (even just that one latte in the morning) scientists say it takes about 10-12 days. Most helpfully though, you lose that tolerance in roughly the same amount of time.
So, if you switched to decaf for two weeks, when you next have that manic weekend where you really need to get stuff done, that one coffee will really do the trick.
This goes a long way to explain why as a student I would happily drink several red bull's on a shift at work feeling no effect, but nowadays half a can keeps me awake for days.
Speaking of staying awake, those with small babes who only nap for short amounts of time, a study at Loughborough university shows that a cup of coffee (or other caffeine hit) quickly followed by a fifteen minute nap, may be all that you need to feel fully refreshed for the rest of the day (please ignore this advice if you are breast feeding!).
The final piece of advice is that when looking for a caffeine free replacement for your tea or coffee, go for a good brand. You'll feel better about drinking it if it tastes great, but more importantly the label 'decaf' doesn't necessarily mean caffeine free. Look for a "Swiss water" blend that's 99.9 percent free of caffeine.
'It might seem a bit severe, but read up on proper decaf making, and realize that other coffee compounds, like GABA, are also impacting your alertness and energy levels, and you'll see the importance of keeping unplanned caffeine away from your fine-tuned system. Spend the time shopping around for good decaf roasts that you'd spend on standard beans. The Swiss Water logo is a good starting point, but not the only conveyor of serious decaffeinated intent.'
For the full article on how to strategically plan your caffeine intake, check out Life hacker.