Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Caffeine. No matter what form you take yours in, I would say the majority of people use caffeine in some form or another: coffee, sodas, energy drinks, chocolate, tea. And there are so many conflicting reports out there, so you have to take everything with a grain of salt, how it applies to you.

For me, I have been off it mostly for the last few years, and completely for the past 4 months. Decaf coffee, caffeine free sodas, no chocolate. I notice when I use caffeine that it does in fact cause a more rapid heart rate, and I figure that isn't always good at any age, let alone someone my age. When I sit down, I do not want my heart pounding in my ears.

When I first stopped caffeine, I noticed several things immediately: no fidgeting, no restlessness, no jumpiness, a slower pace overall, and a more calm demeanor. Then as those things have a way of happening, it slowly began creeping back into my life, bringing me back to the same symptoms again. So about 4 months ago I decided to cut it out again. Don't get me wrong, I still love my morning coffee and look forward to it, but it is not for the caffeine, and I do not drink it all day. Its an enjoyment drink, a comfort drink in the morning to wake up with. I probably could do without it, but I love the taste, that's it.

Yesterday for the first time in 4 months I ended up with a Diet Coke. Not my choice, but that's what there was. Don and I went to see The DaVinci Code. He loves getting the popcorn and sodas, even while I have been cutting those things out. Had I just biked 115 miles on Saturday, ran 14 on Sunday, and biked another 65 and ran 4 that morning, I would not deny myself either. But I was still feeling a little guilty for not running after my weird bike ride. So I ask for a Diet Caffeine Coke. "Our machine is broken. All we have is Diet Coke." Whatever. I really don't like Diet Coke that much. I do like Diet Caffeine Coke and always have, whether I was abstaining from caffeine or not. Its a taste thing. So I figured it would have to do. (I will be filling out the survey form they gave me, and with my complaining I doubt I will be a $100 winner). I notice too their refill machine is "Out of Order." So I couldn't even exchange it there.

We get out of the movie around 8 pm and I still had flowers to plant. I spent the afternoon repotting house plants because it was so hot out, but desperately wanted to get my other plants in so they didn't sit around for another week. And I had lots of watering to do. No problem apparently. I was buzzing around doing this, that, and everything else: yard work, made dinner, dishes, lunch, wash, and still I was out watering at 11 pm! I just figured once I sat down it would be all over. But I wasn't sitting down. I was finding more and more things to do, and felt fine doing them! When it went after midnight, I started thinking, why do I have all this energy? Got into bed, still awake at 1:30. Not really that tired. A three day weekend doesn't make that much difference does it? I worked out hard all three days, did lots of stuff around the house, swam, etc. I'm not tired. Why?

Why? I finally figured it out. The 20 oz of Diet Coke I had at 5:30 and still 8 hours I am alert. I did finally sleep but was awake 2 hours later and then before the alarm. I felt hung over: the back of my head felt like someone had hit me with a hammer. But I really wasn't tired.

So that got me thinking of all the articles and studies they do on caffeine and its affects on athletic performance. My conclusion? If you really want caffeine to make a difference, try going off it except for races. I can't help but wonder if that's where they can really test whether it gives you an edge on being able to work out longer without fatigue.

It probably can't hurt to caffeine load before races then? It might be worth trying. If I'm not on it all the time, I shouldn't get the same symptoms I get when on it daily. I think it is daily heavy consumption of caffeine that leaves you jittery and restless, not a one time use. I did not feel fatigued but I also did not feel jittery. I can use any boost I can get coming up!

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