This article was born from our experience operating in the ADF and what we have learnt in terms of keeping ourselves alert and ready to perform in operational units.
What caffeine and stimulants do to our body, good and bad! Strap yourself in for this one folks, we go deep while caffeinated!
Australian culture is a coffee drinking culture – Australian military is a caffeine religion. The machine runs on the stuff. The average person I have spoken to consumes roughly 3-7 cups of coffee (1 shot of espresso being 1 cup) per day, usually spread out over 12-15 hrs depending on lifestyle, career and lack of positive lifestyle habits.
Below are points of discussion combating stimulants:
- Level of fatigue
- Types of stimulants
- Honesty on good and bad
- How to keep balance to avoid too much crash
We’ve all heard the word stimulant before.
In today’s society we almost abuse them to help us power through long days and intense workloads.
A stimulant is a chemical substance we use to increase bodily reaction time, to give us a feeling of euphoria or pleasure or to provide a sympathomimetic effect (stimulate the nervous system for better reaction times etc).
There are a hell of a lot of varieties out there. Many are harsh chemicals that aren’t very commonly used.
We are going to focus on just one.
This one is up there with the most addictive substances used by man today, and is used in such a regular and socially acceptable way that there is little thought as to how to use it properly to avoid the harmful affects it has on the human body.
It is commonly spoken that less than 300 milligrams of caffeine a day is ideal.
Up to 400 milligrams being manageable by the body (size – weight, height, lean mass etc and tolerance – cultural genetics, age, general health and hydration level allowing) – but bordering on bad for the health.
Many people are playing at or above the limits of healthy amounts.
Some people I have spoken to are consuming in excess of 18 cups a day to function – double or triple shots every 3-4 hrs.
Let’s look at this logically – we are fuelling the body and mind with an intense chemical substance in variable dosages to overcome fatigue – daily.
Let’s ask some questions about this to establish an idea of how to use this chemical optimally.
Q. Why are we fatigued in the first place? Are we doing everything we can to make sure we sleep well (quality, depth, duration), eat whole foods with lots of vegetables and water and salt if we train hard and sweat a lot. Are we calming our mind frequently by meditating, breathing and just switching off from the go-go-go nature of our world?
Q. If all of our basic life and home functions such as food and sleep are sound, how is our training. Are we training harder, more often, and at a heavier intensity than normal all the time? Is it meaning we are not recovering and are therefore digging into our recovery ability and becoming over trained? Look at your training diary (if you don’t keep one you should… “the blurriest ink is sharper than the fuzziest mind”) and observe if you have been training all modalities each week – strength, speed, power, balance, agility, endurance, aerobic threshold, lactic threshold etc. Are you lifting and being heavy every day or are you running every day etc. This is where we handle your program with the best outcome in mind for health and performance ?
Q. Are you using pre-workouts on top of all of this? If so, why? Again are you trying to mask fatigue (and thereby limiting your gains) with stims, and then having coffee on top of this? Perhaps look at some basic vitamins first. Are you taking any supplements that are mineral and vitamin based now? (not a fucking multivitamin please – that’s the shake weight of the supplement world like the speed ladder is the swissball of the speed world…don’t use those either).
If you have solved all of these questions first, then maybe look at using caffeine.
If these questions aren’t solved – go back and address these first, then bring caffeine back into your life.
Have you heard the expression – what goes up must come down?
How about – every action has an equal and opposite reaction?
The same goes for caffeine and other stims. If you elevate energy and mood with artificial substances, there will be an equal (and in this case) or sometimes, greater drop in energy and mood after.
As we most often treat this second slump with more chemical, you can imagine that we get another spike (lower than the first one though) and another drop (bigger than the first drop).
This pattern continues and the spike is always smaller than the first and the drop is always bigger. A downward spiral sets in that eventually our body just cannot recover from.
This is usually when we enter adrenal insufficiency – the precursor to adrenal fatigue.
All of this sounds very negative so far, and I’m sorry for that, but you need the truth about how it can mess you up if used at the wrong time, in the wrong frequency.
But now for the good and the deep and how to use it well…
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…and, in this case, if you want to read the rest of this article, we will divert you to its source, here.
FILE PHOTO: US Marine Corps heavy weapons section. Photo by Brian Hartigan.