Joe, java, jet fuel, jitter juice, the elixir of life. Companies have created a multi-billion dollar industries around coffee and the coffeehouse experience and specialty coffee shops are popping up all over. International coffee day is recognized around the world and you can’t walk into a souvenir shop without seeing some cheesy coffee quote on a t- shirt or coffee mug (i.e. I’m not addicted to coffee, we’re just in a committed relationship.)
What I’m trying to say is that it’s very clear to see that people everywhere f***ing love coffee…
But with this love comes constant debate – is coffee good for you or bad for you?
The question drives me insane. Not because I don’t like questions – but because everywhere I look, there are very credible resources arguing both sides of the coin. Some say coffee has some real health benefits, others say that despite perceived benefits, the damage of it is worse. Trying to find a clear answer to the question is like trying to catch smoke with your bare hands.
In my life, I’ve explored different sections across the coffee-consuming spectrum, from 100 to 0…to my current state of about 50. Here is my opinion:
It’s not so much about whether coffee is objectively good or bad for you – it’s more about your relationship with coffee. Do you depend on coffee to function or do you have a healthy relationship with it? Do you use it as a crutch or as tool to increase pleasure and productivity?
Let me explain what I mean through my personal experience across the spectrum…
For me, this started in my second year of college. I was working hard in school and bartending at the time, pulling pretty long hours every week. In both environments, there was such a culture of coffee drinking – at the bar, where we had coffee/espresso on tap, our cups were never empty. At school – nearly everyone in the library had a coffee at all times and the walk to the coffee shop was the perfect little study break. Get out and refuel.
This dependency carried over to when I started working at Deloitte, where the coffee culture was no different. Starbucks coffee on tap on every floor (multiple machines on most floors). If you knew the folks who worked in innovation, you could even access their secret espresso machines (because we all know you can’t innovate without espresso). I found myself averaging 5-6 cups a day, drinking coffee into the evenings. At this point, coffee was just a habit, I never felt it. Having caffeine in my blood all day eventually became my new normal. I’d find myself yawning between sips of cold brew coffee with a double shot in it. Dependency.
One day, I was talking to my yoga teacher about my coffee habits and she responded “Omg Matt, relax! You are going to shoot your adrenals (ruin your adrenal glands – which produce a variety of essential hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol).” I don’t know why but that struck a chord with me. Those of you who know me well, know I tend to be a bit extreme – all or nothing – and that was my last cup of coffee for over a year. Cold turkey aversion.
The first week was tough and required a few power naps to get through the day but as I coupled this with better rest at night and smarter eating habits, I started thinking less and less about how I needed coffee. At first it was awesome, I had conquered my coffee addiction and was super stoked that I felt energized throughout the day without it. As the months went on however, I realized that I was starting to miss it. I’d miss it if I was a bit groggy before a workout, I’d miss it if I needed to grind on a task that required intense focus to put me in the zone, and I’d miss it on a Sunday morning with the fam – because nothing washes down dads breakfast like some nice black coffee.
So, around a year ago, I reintroduced coffee into my life but much more mindfully. I do not drink it every day and it’s no longer an automatic response upon waking (wake up, head straight to the kitchen to make coffee). Now, I’ll see how my body is feeling and often times I will swap my coffee for a much lower caffeinated beverage such as green tea. That said, if I have a task that requires a bit extra focus, if I am feeling groggier than usual, or if the vibe simply calls for a cup of coffee – then I certainly won’t deprive myself from it. Balance.
I feel that I have developed a healthy, balanced relationship with coffee – a sweet spot where I get to enjoy its comforts and benefits without exposing myself to the negative effects. I’ve also found that with this balance, I appreciate my coffee much more.
- When I am using it to increase productivity, it works! I instantly feel the effects of the caffeine on my focus.
- When I am drinking it for the vibe, I’m tuned into the scents and flavor, and grateful that I am able to enjoy the cup.
So, if you love coffee, by all means enjoy it – but I encourage you to be mindful about your relationship with it and try out some of my tips below:
4 tips to improve your relationship with coffee:
- Incorporate a coffee fast: for most of you… this will be step one – I wouldn’t be surprised if my story of dependency rings true for many of my readers (especially my work colleagues). The first fast will be tough but each one after that will be a bit easier.
- First, slowly wean yourself off caffeine. Start with smaller coffee portions, a half-caf, or swap your coffee out with some tea.
- Once you are totally off the java, try and keep it that way for a week or two (2 weeks is ideal because that’s approximately how long it will take to renew your norms).
- As you move forward, consider incorporating a week-long coffee fast every quarter. This will help mitigate any dependency and make the following few cups some real zingers :).
- Be mindful: once you break your initial coffee fast, be intentional about when and how much you drink. It’s become such an automatic response for so many of us. When you wake up after the fast, don’t rush to the coffee shop, take a moment to see how you feel – don’t let your old habits pick up right where you left them.
- Hydrate first: who goes for coffee before water first thing in the morning? If you’re anything like my family, my guess is that most of you do. No good. When you wake up in the morning, you are already dehydrated…if you introduce a diuretic as the first liquid you put in your body, you are only making matters worse. Before your coffee, you should aim to drink at least 24 oz. of room temperature water. Get in the habit of keeping a glass by your bed and taking it down first thing upon waking. Not only will this prime you for your coffee, but you will enjoy many other health benefits from this practice.
- Throw some fat in that ish: I’m sure many of you have heard of the bulletproof coffee craze. If you haven’t, I suggest you check it out. You don’t need to purchase the official products, but I love throwing some good fat (i.e. coconut oil, ghee, organic grass-fed butter) into my morning joe. Not only does this promote weight loss and help manage cravings, the fat content promotes a slower, sustained delivery of caffeine into the body. The result? Instead of a jittery caffeine spike, you experience steady caffeination over an extended period of time.
Now go ahead and enjoy!
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