By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist
Need that morning cup of coffee or tea to “really” wake up? If so, you’ve developed a caffeine tolerance. That basically means that caffeine has lost its edge—instead of giving you an extra boost of energy, it simply brings you to the level where you’d be without caffeine. My caffeine conclusion: I have more energy overall without it.
This isn’t just my own personal observation—research backs me up. Caffeine (coffee, tea, or caffeine pills) may offer an immediate spike in mood and alertness, but it doesn’t last. In fact, caffeine could make you feel little more tired and moody later in the day, according to research at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.
But what about all the health benefits of coffee and tea? Indeed, there are many, such as a reduced risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even Parkinson’s disease. But emerging research indicates that it has compounds other than caffeine that are protective. For instance, an Australian review found that decaf was just as effective as regular coffee; for each cup consumed, the risk for type 2 diabetes falls seven percent. Three to four cups of either type of coffee cut the risk by a third.
It could even be that coffee and tea are beneficial to your health despite the caffeine. For instance, while regular coffee causes a temporary spike in blood pressure, a study from researchers at the University of Palermo in Italy found that decaf espresso actually relaxed arteries, bringing down blood pressure.
My challenge to you: Try going decaf.
You caffeine fiends are probably just about ready to click off this page, but wait! Hear me out: If you wean yourself off of caffeine slowly, you’ll avoid headaches and irritability. Start by drinking ¾ caffeinated and ¼ decaf for a few days, easing down to half/half, and so on. When you’re truly caffeine-free and have no lingering withdrawal symptoms, give yourself a week or two of drinking only decaffeinated coffee and tea (and herbal tea) to see how you feel. You may not get the short-term post-coffee or tea boost you’re used to, but you’ll feel more energetic overall.
Are you willing to take the decaf challenge?