The Everyman: An Ode To Caffeine

Whatever your preferred form of caffeine is, it has many benefits in moderate amounts. Photo:

Jason Devaney writes about the evolution of coffee in his life.

For years, I didn’t drink caffeine.

Couldn’t do it. A small heart valve defect meant I was relegated to black-colored hot water, also known as decaf coffee.

But it wasn’t always like that. In college I discovered the benefits of drinking coffee in the morning—I craved that jolt it gave me. Especially after a late night. I was living an unhealthy lifestyle, too—eating too much processed junk, drinking too much beer. Coffee would help me wake up for those dreaded 8 a.m. classes.

But then I was put on the decaf diet when my heart started to race and flutter after consuming caffeine. A few years later, I began to lift weights and go for short runs, which made me feel great. I lost some weight and got into better eating habits.

A few years after that I jumped into triathlon, even though I had no clue how to swim or handle a road bike. And I was still on the decaf diet.

But about two years ago, after years of drinking boring decaf coffee purely for the flavor and the routine, I began introducing the real stuff into my mornings. I started with a half-caf coffee before working my way to a full cup of the real stuff. And guess what? No more heart troubles. I’d feel a jolt, but the bad side effects were gone.

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Now I’m a coffee-holic. And that is particularly true in my endurance sports life. I can’t go for a morning run or bike ride without a cup. I’ve worked my way from coffee to espresso, which I enjoy more for a variety of reasons: The flavor is intense and gives you a quick jolt without having to drink a standard-sized cup of American-style coffee. When I was in Italy over the summer, a cappuccino became my staple after a run—it contained just the right amount of protein and fat (in the milk) and calories to make me feel better after a run in the heat. And of course, I would throw down a shot of espresso pre-run.

I’ve seen and heard a lot of negative things about drinking caffeine. Some of them are true. Some aren’t.

Does coffee dehydrate you? That’s debatable. But if you stay hydrated with other fluids like plain water, you won’t get dehydrated. Studies have proven that the old adage of caffeine being a diuretic is false.

Are caffeine-induced jitters a bad thing? If you limit yourself to one or two cups a day, your body shouldn’t react like that. If it does, you might want to think about scaling back your intake, drinking weaker coffee or switching to decaf. Also, if you typically add mounds of sugar to your coffee, try adding just one mound. All that sugar will lead to a crash.

Is caffeine addicting? Yes. Caffeine is technically a drug so if you drink it every day for years and years and then one day stop drinking it, you will most likely feel some withdrawal symptoms. To keep this in check, keep your caffeine intake low.

RELATED: Should I Drink Coffee Before My Race?

Numerous studies have been conducted on the benefits of caffeine as it relates to athletic performance, too. Now we have all sorts of nutrition products that contain caffeine, like gels, bars and chews. In a way it makes pre-race fueling easier—you get your calories and caffeine all in one package!

For me, caffeine in the morning has become automatic. When I don’t feel like waking up after a restless sleep, I look forward to enjoying that quick espresso or cappuccino. Or, when I’m traveling, a nice cup of black coffee does the job quite nicely.

So thank you, caffeine, for bringing joy to my mornings. I don’t know what I would do without you.

What’s your favorite form of caffeine? Tweet me at @jason_devaney1.

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