Caffeine Lag

Caffeine - present in coffee, tea, and often in chocolate too - is a stimulant. It wakes up some parts of your brain. But if you choose to apply it you must keep it up - drink it all day. Otherwise, like most stimulants, it wears off, leaving you considerably more fatigued than you would otherwise be.

Caffeine is great, and just the thing to spark performance (on an exam, for instance)

As long as you use it wisely, sure. Watch out for the lag though - just keep dosing all day, or else swear it off. Caffeine also builds tolerance pretty rapidly, requiring larger and larger doses to achieve the same effect. Although effects vary from individual to individual, after about 350 mg/day you'll develop a physical dependency. Once this happens it'll take about a week to get off the stuff, and removing it may result in mild withdrawal symptoms, typically a bad headache.

For the moderate continual dose, caffeinated candies like Penguin Mints are swell. And if you're looking to avoid the headache but aren't yet ready to go on the wagon, a study claimed that 25 mg (or about half a coke) was enough for most people to avoid physical withdrawal symptoms.

As an interesting sidenote, it's a common druggie practice to give up on a given drug only for a few days once tolerance has built considerably. It's considered wise and cost-effective, while also triggering an inverse-tolerance on recommencing - as in, stronger than a normal dose should be, although one could consider placebo. I've seen geeks do this more than anyone else, which not only helped keeping the drug expected effects (tolerance sucks), but also gave the poor organism a little break and kept the drug from becoming dangerously addictive. A common forced practice witch would inadvertently trigger it is to keep a very low drug stock and considerable logistics delay. The practice in itself is generally called DrugHolidays?.

I gave up coffee for Lent without suffering these effects. YourMileageMayVary

Because of the tolerance issue you may find after a while that swearing off caffeine actually makes you more awake than you were when you were on it, because you're no longer experiencing CaffeineLag.

A psychiatrist once told me that I'd feel less tired if I got off of caffiene. He said caffeine keeps the body from sleeping restfully at night. I don't know if he was right, and I doubt I'll be finding out anytime soon...

See also: CaffeineFreeMethodology
Often, coffee drinkers don't feel quite right until their first cup in the morning. This is CaffeineLag from the previous night. If you give up caffeine, you often feel better in the morning.

Same applies to any stimulant. The craving might be pretty hard to relinquish. It could also snowball pretty quickly and KnowingWhenToStop gets really fuzzy. Luckly, supplies are finite. Possible solution: Apply JustInTime stocking and count on logistics delay for the win.

It is a trade off. Sometimes, I'll go off caffeine, and eat the headache for a day. For me, that is all it takes. It is amazing how much more relaxed you feel.


Eventually, I fall off the wagon. I start to miss my Cheerios and Coke in the morning. The breakfast of champions. Caffeine-free Coke is an abomination.

Absolutely. It's like Alcohol-free beer. Some StupidProductManager? must have thought people drink it for the taste. To even think of decaf is abominating. Has any smoker ever tried to smoke a natural cigarette? It only makes things worse.

When we visited Peru the Caffeine-free CocaCola there contained a very mild stimulant that did not have any of these adverse effects at all. --PCP

I spoke to a peruvian, and coca leaves are apparently legal there (and used in teas, etc). -- Sunnan

You wouldn't be referring to guarana, by chance? I've been interested in getting a hold of some (it's used in a drink called "Bawls", and probably other stuff that's nowhere near as widely sold as cola or coffee) to see how it compares to more conventional stimulants. -- MikeSmith

Guarana is nothing more than a concentrated source of caffeine. -- MarkAddleman

It could well have been Coca. Remember that the leaves are much, much milder than the highly illegal alakaloid refined from tons of them. Anyone interested in this or general Peruvian life in the high Andes might like reading "The Hold Life Has" by Catherine J. Allen ISBN 1-58834-032-5

In South America high altitude places, chewing coca (coquear) is very common. It prevents feeling bad from heights (apunado).

An interesting tidbit about that. In most parts of South America, llamas are the only animals allowed to chew coca leaves - mainly because it makes them willing to work harder and longer.

Not entirely true. I for one, was once allowed to chew PringlesWhileProgramming?. It could dangerously lead to ZeroOneInfinityRule. Now, where can I get me one of those leaves?
Another option is to drink only good espresso. Pure arabica coffee actually has less caffeine than robusta, from which cheaper espresso and instant is generally made. The other bonus is that good espresso tastes much nicer. I've found myself drinking less, as I am more picky about what I drink and where. -- TimPotter

This isn't just an espresso trait. The longer coffee is roasted, the more caffeine is released in the process. This leads to a result which often surprises many people: Other things being equal, lighter roasted coffee has more caffeine. Of course, for addicts, this is handy to know for those times when we need that extra octane booster. :) -- PatNotz Intriguing use of "octane" - did you know that OctaneIsControlNotPower?

It's amazing how the recent popularity of coffee shops has blunted people's taste for coffee. In countries where they know quality in foodstuffs, say Belgium and the Netherlands, the average street-corner shop sells coffee (and chocolate and bread and cheese and beer and tobacco for that matter) of a quality that whould only be available from a specialist delicatessen in other countries. And I mean mainly English speaking countries: you know who you are.

Dutch and Belgian cafes make superb coffee at all hours of the day and night and it is just good coffee. What they do not do is take fairly dull, or even nasty, coffee (all that cheap, acidic robusta junk) and then fancy it up with syrups and ice and sprinkles and what-not.

The Dutch and Belgians seem happy with the idea that good coffee is good coffee and may be enjoyed fully as such by itself. There seems to be something in Anglo-Saxon culture and its derivatives that associates "quality" or "luxury" with decoration. And it just aint so: putting hazelnut syrup into a good DouweEgberts?, or better, espresso into half a pint of skimmed milk would be immoral. And they don't do it. -- KeithBraithwaite

Huh? DouweEgberts? is a fairly bland commodity coffee. You should try a specialist shop that makes their own selection and roast it themselves. That's coffee. Do you really put hazelnut syrup in coffee? I thought the "ice cubes in Bordeaux" stories were cultural stereotypes. -- Lieven (living in Belgium)

Revoltingly, many Americans do. The reason is simple: many Americans don't like flavor (more accurately, they don't like bitter or sour or spicy flavors, only sweet and salty), although they crave caffeine. Espresso has caffeine, but is too flavorful for them. So they mask it with another taste. Look how long it took for Americans to accept garlic (once considered a sign of the cultural inferiority of immigrants from Italy or Puerto Rico), or hot peppers (still considered by many Americans to be too Asian or too Mexican), or even yogurt (which Americans usually mask with fruit and sugar). Traditionally, Americans have been proud of eating flavorless food. Recent waves of immigrants, combined with lifestyle movements like the hippies, have made great positive changes.

In a really good Dutch cafe you get a shot glass of water. It kills the after-coffee taste better than mints. - DavidBrantley (wishing he lived in the Netherlands)

Stereotypes get that way by being true a lot of the time. Personally, I don't put anything but a little sugar in a good coffee, but I picked up some funny habits while visiting the Netherlands (and Belgium).

There are plenty of people in London, for example, that will happily put hazelnut syrup in a "coffee" from SeattleBucks or wherever. Plus a big glob of nitro-fizz whipped cream style material. And stale cinnamon dust.

Note that in Belgium DouweEgberts? is bland commodity coffee. In...other is a premium-ish brand. (Similar effects occur with chocolate and beer. What we in the UK think of as "chocolate" was until recently illegal to sell under that name in Belgium). You are right about the specialist shops, but they are a rare commodity here in the UK, more so again in those parts of... other English speaking countries I've visited. -- Keith

Here at Hewlett-Packard in Corvallis, DouweEgberts? is an extremely nasty liquid coffee concentrate that gets diluted with hot water in our coffee dispensers. I can only stomach it with about 4 packets of non-dairy creamer. Rumor has it that it's not actually coffee concentrate but waste ink from our print cartridge production. -- AndrewQueisser

Any kind of coffee concentrate that gets diluted with hot water in a dispenser is going to be horrific. I suspect that DE products are not the same the world over. At one end of some spectrum is freshly roasted beans, ground just before use, given a slug of hot water to fluff the grounds up, then a cup-full of water let drain through (with no filter paper). At the other end is what you describe.

I successfully kicked caffeine for about a month, and really did feel more alert and relaxed during that time. But I've slipped back this week. It's a vicious cycle: I don't get enough sleep, so I drink coffee or Coke to wake myself up, which causes me to lose more sleep, so I drink more coffee or Coke...

Maybe I can reset myself this weekend.

If I want to stop taking caffeine, I absolutely need one full week of afternoon sleep and waking up at any time I want.

But I live with my parents (I'm still a college student), they think taking a simple afternoon nap is being a lazy bum, and they will wake me up all the time. I ended up drinking as much caffeine on vacations as I did on school days. >_<

Currently, I can enjoy a couple of afternoon nap days since I have to wake up really damn early for work every single day, including Saturday mornings due to a PLC course I'm taking. So I guess I can look forward to the day when I'll finally leave the goddamn caffeine.

-- DaNuke?

This edit was in 2008. It's 2012 now and I'm still the same caffeine fiend I was at the moment. So far I have to take a caffeine holiday once a month. Good thing that coffee at work is way more diluted than the one I usually drink... -- DaNuke?

I know that many specialty products sold in other countries are in fact manufactured, with lower standards, in that country. E.G. Swiss chocolate to be sold in the US is actually made in New York, and doesn't taste nearly as good as the stuff you buy in Switzerland. I would imagine the same holds true for coffee and many other products.

There's also the DietVsDecaf? choice for sodas... or rather, you can have decaffeinated, sugar free, or not-too-vile-to-drink... pick any two. --AdamBerger

See also CaffeineBonk, GaveUpOnCaffeine.


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