- Routine vs. Ritual. Routine (morning or evening) is a mental checklist of things, something that doesn’t need a physical to-do list, because it is automatic and constant. Ritual is meaningful and carefully organized process.
- Caffeine – what is it and where do we find it? Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and is naturally present in more than 60 plants.
- Coffee and tea were made illegal in Sweden (1746) during the rule of King Gustav III.
- Between 2015 and 2016, the world produced 148 million 60kg bags of coffee and it is estimated that in that period, the world consumed 151,3 million 60kg bags of coffee.
- Mechanisms of action of caffeine. A very important one is reversibly blocking the action of adenosine on its receptors (A1 and A2a), and consequently preventing the onset of drowsiness caused by adenosine.
- Caffeine side effects and interactions with medications.
- Caffeine and productivity. Caffeine temporarily increases productivity, too much caffeine can cause anxiety.
- Methods of decaffeination of coffee and tea. Decaf coffee still contains a small amount of caffeine.
I love tea. It competes with coffee and sometimes it wins, other times it’s a tie, but it never loses. I especially love aromatized (flavored) black tea. I appreciate the aroma, the taste… and the caffeine it contains.
Are you the type of person that has routines? Or are you a person that likes variety in life and hates routines? How about rituals? Do you know the difference?
ROUTINE VS. RITUAL
Drinking black tea is my morning ritual. You should try it – having a morning ritual, that is. It does wonders for your emotional and mental well-being.
When I started drinking black tea, I didn’t think of it as a ritual, I just enjoyed the tea whenever I thought about it. It started totally random, really, one day instead of coffee, I decided to make myself tea. It was warm, it smelled nice and it had caffeine (less than coffee, though). It felt amazing. Little by little I turned it into a routine, and then it became a ritual. So, what is the difference?
I think of routine (morning or evening) as a mental checklist of things, something that doesn’t need a physical to-do list, because it is automatic and constant. When drinking tea was only a routine, I got up in the morning and I drank tea. That was it. I didn’t give it a special time, special cup, special thought of it. I poured hot water in any cup that I could grab, and I took it with me to the desk or beside bed, or wherever I needed to be.
When I decided to turn the drinking of black tea into a morning ritual, I bought a special cup. It’s a 300 ml cup with words “HAPPY DAY” all over it. I get up every morning, 30 minutes earlier than I should, and I make myself a cup of black, aroma-filled, rich and warm black tea. I drink it in silence every single day. No phone, no internet. I guess it’s a meditation of some sort. It means something to me on a deeper level.
This is the difference between routine and ritual. Routine is mechanical and necessary, ritual is meaningful and carefully organized process. You can choose whatever you want as a ritual. It doesn’t have to be a “meditation with black tea”, it could be a “normal” meditation, daily walk, reading a book, writing or listening to music.
OK, now that we’ve established the difference between routine and ritual, let’s talk about two other important things: CAFFEINE and PRODUCTIVITY.
Do you think caffeine boosts your productivity, or not? What does scientific data tell us about productivity and caffeine?
Let’s start from the beginning – what is caffeine and where do we find it?
WHAT IS CAFFEINE? THE STORY OF THE SWEDISH KING GUSTAV III AND HIS CAFFEINE EXPERIMENT
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant, that unlike many other psychoactive drugs, is legal and not regulated. Cool, no? Back in the day, and I mean way back (the year of 1746), it was illegal in Sweden (and few other places and not in the same time period). The King Gustav III, who was no fan of coffee or tea, resolved to teach his people, that coffee was bad for their health.
He decided to make an experiment: two convicts (identical twin brothers) that had already been tried for their crimes and condemned to death, were brought to him, and were told that their sentence was commuted to life imprisonment. BUT! There was a catch – one brother had to drink three pots of coffee per day, and the other one had to drink three pots of tea per day.
The king was almost sure, that they would die from a terrible death, but it turned out, that both brothers outlived the king and the doctors that administered the doses. I guess, their pots back then were much smaller than ours now. The end of the experiment: both brothers survived, the tea drinker lived to be 83 years old, but there is no information about when the coffee drinker died. No, he’s not still alive. (1)
THE MECHANISMS OF ACTION OF
Between 2015 and 2016, the world produced 148 million 60kg bags of coffee and it is estimated that in that period, the world consumed 151,3 million 60kg bags of coffee. (2)
That’s a lot of coffee for one small world. In 2012 the world produced 4.68 million metric tons of tea. (3)
Caffeine has several mechanisms of action, one of them is that, it reversibly blocks the action of adenosine on its receptors (A1 and A2a), and consequently prevents the onset of drowsiness caused by adenosine. It increases alertness and produces agitation. (4)
Other mechanisms of action are:
- inhibits cyclic nucleotide phosphodiesterases (encymes, that control the intracellular levels of cAMP and cGMP); (5)
- modulates intracellular calcium handling (intracellular calcium release and reuptake are essential for contraction and relaxation of normal heart muscle); (6)
- relaxes smooth muscle;
- stimulates cardiac muscle;
- stimulates diuresis (increased urination);
- sometimes is useful for preventing light headaches;
- there is information that several cellular actions have been observed, but it is not entirely clear how each contributes to its pharmacological profile. (7)
Single doses of caffeine up to 200 mg for an average adult are unlikely to induce clinically relevant changes in blood pressure, myocardial blood flow, hydration status or body temperature, to reduce perceived effort during exercise or to mask the subjective perception of alcohol intoxication. Daily caffeine intakes from all sources up to 400 mg per day do not raise safety concerns for adults in the general population, except pregnant women. (8)
PURE CAFFEINE AND CAFFEINE CONTENT IN OUR BEVERAGES
Caffeine is naturally present in more than 60 plant species (so far identified!) around the world. (9) Caffeine has a unique flavor profile. Pure caffeine is very bitter and odorless. Pure powdered caffeine products are potentially dangerous and have contributed to at least two deaths. One teaspoon of pure powdered caffeine is equivalent to the amount of caffeine in about 28 cups of regular coffee. The FDA now aggressively monitors the marketplace for pure powdered caffeine products. (10)
In coffee, tea and other beverages it interacts with other ingredients (chemicals) and it produces new flavor. So, how much caffeine is in our beverages?
Caffeine is mildly addictive. Over 60% of soft-drinks sold in the United States contain caffeine as a flavor additive. Using sweeteners as controls, a study in Australia was done in order to assess, whether caffeine has flavor activity in a cola-soft drink.
A fixed concentration of caffeine, corresponding to the concentration of caffeine in a common cola beverage was added to the sweeteners and a non-caffeinated cola beverage. Subjects could distinguish between caffeinated and non-caffeinated sweeteners, but all subjects failed to distinguish between caffeinated and non-caffeinated cola beverage.
The study shows that caffeine has no flavor activity in soft-drinks yet will induce a physiological and psychological desire to consume the drink. (11) Well played, but not healthy for the people, you bastards!
CAFFEINE’S SIDE EFFECTS AND INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER DRUGS
Caffeine has obvious effects on anxiety and sleep which vary according to individual sensitivity to the methylxanthine (caffeine). However, children in general do not appear more sensitive to methylxanthine effects than adults. The central nervous system does not seem to develop a great tolerance to the effects of caffeine, although dependence and withdrawal symptoms are reported. (12)
Other bad effects on health caused by caffeine (when used in high doses) are:
- stomach irritation;
- increased heart rate;
- increased respiration;
- chest pain;
- ringing in the ears;
- acid reflux.
Caffeine interacts with certain medications:
- ephedrine – stimulant drugs speed up the nervous system. Caffeine and ephedrine are both stimulant drugs. Taking caffeine along with ephedrine might cause too much stimulation and sometimes serious side effects and heart problems. Do not take caffeine-containing products and ephedrine at the same time.
Caffeine can also interact with other drugs and cause these side effects (if you take caffeine and the drug at the same time):
- Caffeine may block the effects of: pentobarbital (caffeine blocks the sleep producing effects of pentobarbital), adenosine and dypiridamol (adenosine and dypiridamol are often used by doctors to do a test on the heart. This test is called a cardiac stress test. Stop consuming caffeine-containing products at least 24 hours before a cardiac stress test).
- The body breaks down caffeine to get rid of it. Some drugs might decrease how quickly the body breaks down caffeine. Taking these drugs along with caffeine can increase the risk of side effects including jitteriness, headache, increased heart rate, and other side effects. Some of those drugs are: quinolone antibiotics, other antibiotics – such as: ciprofloxacin, norfloxacin, enoxacin, sparfloxacin, trovafloxacin and some other drugs: cimetidine, disulfiram and estrogens.
- Caffeine might increase the effects or side effects of these drugs: clozapine and riluzole.
- This drug might increase the effects or side effects of caffeine: fluvoxamine.
- Increased heartbeat, blood pressure and nervousness: phenylpropanolamine, medications for depression (MAOIs). (13)
You should always inform your doctor or pharmacist, if you drink any caffeinated beverage when picking up any medication, as caffeine is also a drug. One that most of us love very much.
POSITIVE EFFECTS OF CAFFEINE
Beside temporarily boosting productivity and mental and memory agility, caffeine apparently has other effects, too:
- A US study (University of North Dakota) showed, that caffeine exerts protective effects against Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease at least in part by keeping the blood-brain barrier intact. The mechanism is not yet understood. (One mechanism implicated in the pathogenesis of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease is blood-brain barrier dysfunction). (14)
- Another study that was done in the USA, showed that caffeine enhanced consolidation of long-term memories in humans. (15)
- Topical (surface) application of caffeine stimulates hair growth. In a study, caffeine was identified as a stimulator of human hair growth in vitro; a fact which may have important clinical impact in the management of AGA (Androgenetic alopecia). (16)
- Another study showed that micromolar amounts of topical caffeine have been found to be significantly effective in inhibiting the formation of galactose cataract in animal (rat) models, strongly suggesting its possible usefulness against diabetic cataracts. (17)
- Caffeine reduces liver fibrosis risk. (18)
- Caffeine intake is associated with reduced kidney stone risk. (19)
- Consumption of caffeinated beverages might support weight loss maintenance, but further studies should investigate possible mechanisms. (20)
CAFFEINE AND PRODUCTIVITY
OK, now that we know a lot about caffeine – let’s answer the question: Does it help our productivity?
Overnight withdrawal from caffeine lowers alertness, changes mood and degrades performance, and while consumption of some more caffeine reverses these effects, it does not boost functioning to above “normal” levels. So, yes, caffeine temporarily boosts your productivity, but it doesn’t make you a superhuman.
It also tends to increase anxiety, particularly in sensitive individuals. In contrast, caffeine consumption may separately lower the risk of cognitive decline in older age. (21)
So, a logical answer to the above question would be: in moderate doses caffeine is very effective. If you go beyond moderation with your caffeine intake – you’re screwed. The effectiveness is also dependent not only upon dosage, but also body type, weight, age, time of day, and the quality of your sleep.
METHODS OF DECAFFEINATION
Decaf? It too contains caffeine, don’t be fooled. An 8 oz. (237ml) decaf coffee contains about 2-12 mg of caffeine. That’s significantly less than in “normal” coffee (brewed: 95-200mg), but it’s still there.
There are three different ways of decaffeinating “normal” coffee and these methods are also used for decaffeinating black and green tea:
- The Chemical Solvent Method
Almost all decaf coffee and tea that is found in grocery stores is made with this method. The common solvents used on the coffee beans include methylene chloride, ethyl acetate, and highly pressurized carbon dioxide. After the green beans are moistened, they are submersed into the chosen solvent. After a chemical reaction between the green beans and the solvent, the beans are rinsed with water. The final decaffeination phase is steaming the beans. Rinsing and steaming help with the removal of all chemicals. (22) Cough…. They are not completely removed…Cough…But not enough info to back that up…Sorry!
- The Super Critical Carbon Dioxide Method
This method uses carbon dioxide at 250 – 300 times normal atmospheric pressure. Carbon dioxide in this form looks like a liquid in terms of its density, but it has the viscosity of a gas. It is a very effective solvent at extremely high pressures. When the coffee beans are exposed to the solvent, the caffeine dissolves into the solvent. This one seems to be a better (healthier) method, but labeling does not tell us which method of decaffeination is used (or labeling is present, but very unclear which decaf method is used). (22) So many “good” choices, right?
- The Swiss Water Method
This is the type of natural decaffeination that you will find in health food store products. The process is considerably more complex. It uses a coffee extract, which is already virtually caffeine-free. Due to chemical solubility laws, the caffeine will migrate from the green coffee beans into this extract. Because of the way that the coffee beans react to the essential oils and the other components of the previously extracted coffee compounds, the caffeine seeks its way into the extract, and leaves behind the desirable components of the coffee, such as the flavor. This type of decaf has a bit more caffeine than the other decaf coffees, but the percentage is still small. This kind of decaf coffee is organic and it is also clearly labeled. It is safe and free of chemicals. It’s also quite expensive. (22)
IN THE END…
Whatever you choose, remember – moderation is the key and don’t go after energy drinks. They’re filled with sugar, high doses of caffeine, artificial sweeteners (in the “light” versions) and many other chemicals. Best way to boost productivity is to have a healthy lifestyle, which means: good sleep, exercise, healthy meals and proper hydration. But, if you ask me – a cup of coffee or a nice aromatic black tea is never a bad idea.
See you next week!
Where’s my coffee?
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