I'm recovering from a bad episode of gastroenteritis (10 days without eating - yikes) and have been following the recovery diet "rules" fairly closely - no dairy, alcohol, spice, caffeine, high fibre, etc.
Today I felt really tired and generally rubbish all day; in desperation I resorted to a 3 shot coffee with oat milk, and it was like someone plugged me in and switched on!
There was a time in the last century when I would arrive at work and head for the training department, which conveniently made real coffee for the attending trainees. There, utterly ignoring the overawed trainees, I would pour a mug of coffee with slightly shaking hands, drink that down, pour another one and head off to my bunker.
So my question is, is caffeine bad? I don't think it's addictive, but clearly my body is used to getting it and I feel worse without it - so is that a dependency?
> So my question is, is caffeine bad?
I don't think it makes sense to label something like coffee as universally good or bad. If it isn't causing problems in your life then I'd say it's not "bad". If it is causing you problems then I'd say that, in your specific context, perhaps it is "bad" (or at least unhelpful).
> I don't think it's addictive, but clearly my body is used to getting it and I feel worse without it - so is that a dependency?
It is addictive; regular use quickly leads to a physical dependency developing. However, the effects and withdrawal symptoms are very mild so this dependency tends not to cause any meaningful problems. As above, I don't think being dependent on something is necessarily "bad".
It's certainly addictive, and like all stimulants, whilst it can certainly give you a boost when you're tired if used sparingly, if you're using a lot you'll end up needing it to feel normal.
It's the last vice I've got left really - I keep switching to decaf for a while but always end up back on it.
On the plus side, as I'm never on it for too long, I don't get the 10 days of blinding headaches I got the first time I went cold turkey. But I do still find I'll sleep quite a bit for the first few days, and then be generally less tired than I was on it.
My normal resting pulse rate is around 70-75. After a triple shot espresso it’s around 95-100. Not too bad occasionally but I wouldn’t want to be running at that all day, every day.
> My normal resting pulse rate is around 70-75. After a triple shot espresso it’s around 95-100. Not too bad occasionally but I wouldn’t want to be running at that all day, every day.
Good point. I try to stick to one coffee a day these days, sometimes I do. Probably time to do a comparative BP check!
> On the plus side, as I'm never on it for too long, I don't get the 10 days of blinding headaches I got the first time I went cold turkey. But I do still find I'll sleep quite a bit for the first few days, and then be generally less tired than I was on it.
Weirdly I've had no withdrawal problems the last couple of weeks other than feeling more tired than usual which I put down to my digestion not working properly, but clearly there's more to it than that.
In the nineties, I decided to go without coffee one day. I lasted until 10:30.
Caffeine is an addictive stimulant drug. You should not be under any illusions about this, if you are drinking coffee you are taking drugs. Whether this is a good or bad thing is a matter of opinion. There is quite a bit of evidence that it can have a positive effect in small doses, but it does seem to be detrimental if used excessively. Personally, I love coffee and struggle to do without it, but there are far superior stimulants available, the only problem being that they are illegal.
I had to quit caffeine cold turkey a while ago due to an unpleasant reaction with medication I was taking. I got some really good decaff and it was an interesting experiment. My morning double espresso would wake me up as usual, but then I'd fall asleep on the train into work. The initial hit was obviously psychological, and I was still getting that from the decaff.
It's definitely addictive. I love strong black coffee, far more than is good for me. There's no way I'm giving it up but I recognise that I do need to address my intake. I'm considering today a major victory because I haven't had one since mid-morning. I'm trying to limit myself to one in the morning, and I was served a really nice fresh ground decaf in a B&B recently, something I will try to explore a bit more and I'm a absolute dyed in the wool 'death before decaf' jihadist.
You sound like you might be even worse than me.
Good article here:
An interesting comment here:
"meaning it is unclear if the results would hold for speciality coffees with a high sugar content."
Coffee disguised behind a strong taste of crap syrup is now labelled a "speciality coffee"???
I suppose it does illustrate that we're not really in it for the taste though... We develop the taste in order to enjoy our habit.
That's a good article, thanks.
> You sound like you might be even worse than me.
I definitely have an 'addictive personality' in some fashion however I did manage to give up smoking in my 20s, probably one of the hardest things I've ever done - cold turkey worked for me.
The medical journalist Michael Mosley looks at caffeine here:
He highlights the large amount of polyphenols in coffee as a good reason to drink it
Seems anyone prepared to put their head above the parapet rings the addictive bell loudly, then says it's ok in moderate quantities. What do I know.
Aye. I think it's pretty well established that, in moderation, coffee is very beneficial. It's one reason I have zero intent of stopping drinking it. A bit like wine really.
If I drank wine like coffee I'd probably be on a bottle a day, which actually sounds great but it's not very sustainable from a health viewpoint.
I accidentally selected a bag of decaf when putting in an order from my local roaster. I was initially dismayed but gave it a try and it's rather pleasant. Nice to be able to have a decent coffee in the evening knowing it won't affect my sleep.
> The railways across the north of England run on coffee/caffeine. At least they do when I’m on shift anyway 🤪
The railway runs on tea, the IT industry runs on coffee...
Is it harmful? Not unless you have a heart defect or it causes you dangerously high blood pressure. It is very highly addictive, though.
> I accidentally selected a bag of decaf when putting in an order from my local roaster. I was initially dismayed but gave it a try and it's rather pleasant. Nice to be able to have a decent coffee in the evening knowing it won't affect my sleep.
I have tried a few decaf ground coffees and always found them rather bland, but the Kenco microgrind decaf instant is genuinely a nice drink. Just had one, might have another before bed.
Decaf tea on the other hand is vile, though I don't mind the naturally decaf Rooibos.
I went cold turkey from drinking 4-5+ strong cups of tea per day at the beginning of this year and had terrible headaches for 2 weeks. I thought I was unwell or had covid at first but eventually realised it was caffeine withdrawal. It was quite shocking how much of a grip caffeine can have on you considering the withdrawal effects. I now have 0-2 cups of tea per week and it does give a burst of energy that I wouldn’t have noticed before.
Yes, good quality decaf coffee is really nice nowadays. For tea I find Yorkshire tea is nice.
Caffeine has a half life of up to 5hrs so strong coffees drank after lunch can still be affecting you when you go to sleep. I didn't really think about it but after switching to decaf coffee/tea in the afternoon I've definitely noticed better quality sleep.
I thought the general argument is that you only need caffeine to function if you have got used to needing caffeine to function. Stop using caffeine, and you won't need caffeine.
Sorry to massively digress, but who here remembers the TV coffee adverts where Gareth Hunt would shake a closed fist/wrist in an obscene manner, then open his hand to reveal the beans? I wanted to post a link to YouTube of that but I can't find it and worrying it's all "chemical" memory and whatever I think of late 80s early 90s might not have actually happened?
Until I saw this article last week, I happily told myself that I was not at all caffeine habituated, to the extent that one tea in the afternoon would seriously affect my sleep quality. That's not to say I never drank caffeine, but I saved it for long drives, overnight alpine climbing and running races, where a relatively small amount made a huge noticeable difference.
But now I've done a bit more reading and there really is good evidence that caffeine reduces your risk of Parkinson's Disease, amongst other things, which there is some history of in my family. So I've started having a weak coffee in the mornings.
While there are a few things where there is no beneficial dose, for example asbestos exposure, cigarette smoke, nitrate/nitrite in processed meat
There are also quite a few things where very small/limited quantities might be a nett benefit including caffeine (or more controversially alcohol or sun exposure).
Definitely there's a growing body of evidence that moderated caffeine exposure, especially studies as coffee may be a benefit to most people
> Sorry to massively digress, but who here remembers the TV coffee adverts where Gareth Hunt would shake a closed fist/wrist in an obscene manner, then open his hand to reveal the beans? I wanted to post a link to YouTube of that but I can't find it and worrying it's all "chemical" memory and whatever I think of late 80s early 90s might not have actually happened?
I guarantee the tune will spark an instant memory too
> Sorry to massively digress, but who here remembers the TV coffee adverts where Gareth Hunt would shake a closed fist/wrist in an obscene manner, then open his hand to reveal the beans?
Then sniff them? Definitely happened, but I can't remember the brand - probably Nescafé.
I got bout of tonsillitis a few years ago that was severe enough to stop me drinking anything but sips of iced water for 3 days. I noticed that after this time, rather than improving as expected, I seemed to develop a splitting headache and was in excruciating, constant discomfort.
After a day of this I realised I has not imbibed any coffee (or other form of caffeine) over that period. A double shot of espresso sorted me right out almost instantly.
I was impressed by the severity of the withdrawal symptoms as I am a heavy tea drinker but tend to limit coffee to 2 cups a day (3 max) generally .
I don’t think there is anything controversial about saying sun exposure is beneficial. Life on Earth literally depends on it! Public health advice is to take a vit D supplement in winter because we don’t get enough sun exposure. Obviously, as with most things, it does cause problems when in excess.
I don't disagree for one moment the caffeine content of coffee or the effects of caffeine as a stimulant (sp?) / drug. But I don't find coffee does that much for me. Okay I am not drinking espresso shots so strong you can pave the road with them, just normal filter coffee or freeze dried goodness! After drinking a cup of coffee I guess I would say I am more refreshed / ready to do things, but I also think that's because I drink it in the morning, probably dehydrated after the night and a glass of water has the same effect. I think for me it is partially a mental thing too - "okay I am drinking coffee, now I am more awake".
After a technical mishap in the logistics department of my house I did a fortnight or so of hiking and climbing in the Lakes last winter without any coffee, tea or anything that was not water or beer for the entire duration. When I had my first coffee on the journey home I was quite curious to see if the 'detox' had actually done anything and I would now be able to fight a wild badger. I honestly didn't feel any magical powers.
For work I sometimes find myself doing a 4 hour trip, then 7 or 8 hours on site and then 4 hours home. Very occasionally I have a redbull et al., so I don't end up upside down on the other side of the M5, I really feel the effect of these. It probably takes half an hour or so, but its very noticeable even to me my change in mood.
The last time I had one we were on our way to the Peak District after coming off a night shift. I was miles ahead of my partner, she was practically jogging to keep up. But then about two hours later she was then dragging my energy-less corpse off the top of Kinder. It was noticeable how quick it wore off.
I was listening to Radio 4 the other day and there was a pair debating the pros and cons of energy drinks for those under 16. One bit I did pick up on was that they said a small can of redbull was the same as having 3 double espressos (6 shots), plus all the other sugar and things that are in them.
For me coffee is something I enjoy drinking, its relaxing and chilling out looking at the garden with a cup of coffee is just a nice thing to do.
Well that set of ramblings took up half an hour, time for another cup of coffee....
> Thanks, you're right Gareth Hunt was Gold blend but the fist of beans gesture was standard Nescafe (sorry I wasn't posh enough back then to write it Nescafé)
Thanks for this. It's reminded me about the old rhyming slang to get around the forum filters/auto-banning! 😂😇😂
The cortado from the Colombian-run cafe around the corner from me tells me that caffeine is a force for good in the world. With a freshly baked cinnamon swirl it's truly transformative.
> For me coffee is something I enjoy drinking, its relaxing and chilling out looking at the garden with a cup of coffee is just a nice thing to do.
Whereas my Italian colleague explained that an espresso is intended as a hit, like a cigarette, and would normally be drunk quickly, at a stand up coffee bar. Not something to relax and take time over.
> > For me coffee is something I enjoy drinking, its relaxing and chilling out looking at the garden with a cup of coffee is just a nice thing to do.
> Whereas my Italian colleague explained that an espresso is intended as a hit, like a cigarette, and would normally be drunk quickly, at a stand up coffee bar. Not something to relax and take time over.
Depends on the context. In a busy city or town centre the price of an espresso rents you a seat. Sip and take your time as long as you want to sit down.
If you are considering coffee first consider the musings of the bespectacled coffee Messiah:
Then if you dig deeper you can find a collab on coffee between the Messiah and our scientific guiding light during the dark years, Prof Tim.
Thanks very much. I've not come across James Hoffman before, and that's a really good youtube.
Also very interestingly, in the second video when asked a quickfire question "is coffee addictive", his answer is "complicated, but I would say no" (with a big grin), which rather casts a new perspective on all the "highly addictive" votes by previous posters upthread. Prof Tim elegantly fumbles the question.
As an ex smoker who seems to have developed a coffee habit, I think an elegant fumble seems about right, it's not on the same scale of addictive as tobacco, but I seem to get certain 'I could really do with a coffee' thoughts/symptoms/feelings, but it's chicken feed compared to quitting smoking cold turkey was for me, which almost felt like fighting a demon. Maybe 'highly moreish' needs to becoming a technical term.
I think the “complicated” aspect is that addiction and dependence are often viewed as slightly different concepts. Caffeine causes a physical dependence, and I don’t think anyone disputes that. So if you view dependency and addiction as meaning the same thing, which you seemed to in your OP, then caffeine is addictive.
However, addiction is often defined as a disorder including the presence of e.g. compulsive and problematic behaviours, which isn’t typically the case with caffeine. So on that definition caffeine creates dependency but isn’t addictive.
The whole coffee=bad narrative has been around for a long time and goes back to the days when boiled coffee and other poor methods was routinely causing stomach cancer and other serious disease around the world. Melitta's invention of filter coffee probably did more than any other single innovation to bring those dangers to a halt. Fortunately, properly prepared expresso is similarly healthier.
Those developments brought us to a safer and healthier place as far as coffe drinking is concerned but the stage had already been set for the coffee=bad narrative and it is taking a long time to subside. Many years ago, I found a book on coffee (a proper textbook about 50-60mm thick) written by a french professor of nutrition and it was very illuminating. It described many of the old bad habits in coffee preparation and described many good effects of coffee when properly prepared. More good things about coffee have become clear in the intervening years of widespread food and health obsession.
Regarding dependency, yes, dependencies occur with stimulants. Some have commented about addiction and that is a whole different thing even though the syndrome that is addiction includes dependency as one of its components.
Coffee is a serious part of my diet! Taken black, unsweetened, filtered through unbleached paper, Ethiopian or Java, several times a day, it is a positive part of my life.
> Be careful of James. Moderation is key.
> The upgraditis he induces is pretty addictive. The prime symptom being an empty wallet.
Noted. And he does have a great haircut, but one I fortunately am not able to copy
As a steady coffee drinker for at least 10 years, 2-3 cups per day. I was camping out and my stove didn't work and I couldn't make my espresso. I didn't think anything of it and went off climbing. As i got to the base of the cliff I got a huge migraine with the spots and everything. So I couldn't climb. I didn't know this was related to caffeine withdrawal until my friend said.
I decided to give up coffee (but not tea) for a year. The psychological aspect was the most interesting. As a coffee drinker you know exactly what time and how you will have all your daily coffees. If these get interrupted you also sub-consciously have a plan B on how you will get your hit. I'd wake up in the morning and begrudgingly make a cup of tea and longingly look at the cupboard where my unused coffee maker was. Internally you'd say to yourself "go its just one cup no one will know". Then you go to work and pass numerous coffee places and pour scorn on them. Then you get to work and smell someone making a French press and feel a deep longing for coffee and all its rituals, and begrudgingly make a cup of tea. Its really distracting. You miss the smell the rituals, the routines, and your jealous of other coffee drinkers.
Now tea for me is not the same, I can go a day with out a cup and not get headaches or feel sluggish. Coffee, I can't finish a full cup if its strong. Decaf is like fake drugs, taste meh and does nothing. There is no compulsion to have a second cup of decaf ever.
> As a coffee drinker you know exactly what time and how you will have all your daily coffees. If these get interrupted you also sub-consciously have a plan B on how you will get your hit.
This sounds exactly like my experience with nicotine. I remember 2am back in the day, arriving at one of those vending machines which sold packets of 2 Players No 6 cigarettes, and plugging in my only remaining 20p piece. It ate the bloody coin.
It's amazing how people's attitudes towards a particular drug vary. I have the belief that I'm not bothered if I don't have coffee or tea, but at this point I don't know if I'm kidding myself or not Maybe the cold turkey experience with giving up nicotine affected me in more ways than I realise!