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Make your morning brew work for you

March 16, 2021 — 

Healthy U is a student group of trained volunteers dedicated to educating fellow students on important health-related matters. This article was prepared by a Healthy U student volunteer.

If you rely on caffeine to wake up or keep yourself going throughout the day, you’re not alone. Many students consume caffeine to keep up with their busy schedules. Although caffeine has its perks, it is important to understand the physical and psychological side effects it may cause.

Health Canada recommends no more than 400mg of caffeine per day for healthy adults, which is roughly equal to 4 or 5 cups of coffee. This is strictly a guideline for caffeine consumption as sensitivity to caffeine may vary greatly per individual. Too much caffeine can cause side effects like insomnia, stomach irritation, increased heart rate, restlessness and agitation. The time of day that you consume caffeine also plays a role in how it can affect you. For those who suffer from insomnia or struggle to fall or stay asleep, consider making your caffeine cut-off time a minimum of six hours before bedtime.

Strategies to cut back

Reducing your caffeine intake can be challenging and it is important to treat yourself with self-compassion. If you suddenly stop consuming caffeine, you may experience withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, irritability and difficulty focusing on tasks. Fortunately, these symptoms are usually mild and get better after a few days. If your goal is to reduce your caffeine intake, here are some helpful tips:

  • Track your use – By keeping tabs on your caffeine intake from the foods and drinks you consume, you become aware of your habits and behaviours. This can help you set goals and track your progress each day.
  • Taper your intake– By slowly decreasing your caffeine intake, you may be able to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Start by drinking one less cup of coffee a day, a week etc.
  • Switch to decaf – A lot of people enjoy the taste of coffee more than the perks. If this is you, try going decaf. Other decaffeinated beverages such as energy drinks or sodas often taste the same as their caffeinated counterparts.
  • Shorten your brew time – By brewing your coffee or tea more quickly, you can decrease the amount of caffeine in that glorious cup, slowly decreasing your caffeine intake overall.
  • Go herbal – There are many herbal teas available that decrease your caffeine consumption and have been shown to helpwith alertness, focus, sleep etc.:
  • Rooibos tea – decreases fatigue while improving alertness
  • Peppermint tea – increases alertness
  • Sage tea – improves memory, attention, and learning
  • Ginger tea– improves cognitive function, decreases fatigue and increases energy

If coffee is part of your daily routine and you’re not wanting to give it up, no need to panic. In most cases, caffeine won’t pose any serious health risks but being mindful of its side effects may guide you to alternatives. Caffeine consumption has been normalized in our society and unless you are being attentive and aware, you may not notice the impact.

Healthy U volunteers can help you create a plan to decrease your caffeine intake, and much more. Learn more about Healthy U.

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