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    Kicking Caffeine

    Excerpted from
    The Caffeine Advantage: How to Sharpen Your Mind, Improve Your Physical Performance, and Achieve Your Goals the Healthy Way
    By Bennett Alan Weinberg, Ph.D., Bonnie Bealer

    It's easy to tell people to stop using caffeine, but it's not so easy to actually do so. Some people recommend that you stop using caffeine by substituting tea or chocolate or something more exotic, like guarana capsules, for coffee. The only problem is that all of these things contain caffeine. You're really just changing the delivery system, not stopping your caffeine intake at all.

    If you stop using caffeine, within three to seven days your system will be completely "clean," that is, you will have lost all tolerance to caffeine's effects and you will have lost all trace of withdrawal symptoms. Suddenly stopping the use of caffeine can be uncomfortable. Common complaints include headaches of varying intensity, lack of energy and sleepiness, and moodiness and depression. More severe symptoms, which a very small minority of people experience, include a running nose, nausea, hot and cold spells, aches and pains, and migraine headaches.

    In order to minimize these unpleasant symptoms and avoid the worse ones entirely, our program calls for tapering off slowly by stepping down your dose. Begin reducing your caffeine intake by adding the number 2 to the number of cups of coffee you usually have each day. This gives you the number of days you will need to "go off" caffeine. Progressively decrease your caffeine intake by one cup each day. (Three cups of black tea or three 12 ounce servings of caffeinated soda should count as one cup of coffee.) If you generally consume five cups of coffee a day, for example, begin seven days before your trip to decrease your intake by one cup each day. You will then spend the final two days caffeine free.

    You should expect to feel some withdrawal symptoms. The nature and seriousness of these symptoms, the intensity of which will vary considerably with each person, are determined by two factors. The first is the degree of your physical dependence on caffeine. If you are used to taking in 600 mg of caffeine a day, your symptoms will tend to be more severe than if you are used to taking in only 200 mg a day. If you take less than 50 to 100 mg a day, you will probably not experience any withdrawal symptoms, because this dose is too low to support a physical dependence. (The average American who uses caffeine consumes more than 300 mg a day, and the average European consumes over 400 mg a day.) The other factor is your genetic makeup. Some people become more readily and deeply dependent on substances that support a physical dependence, and on caffeine in particular, and they experience more intense withdrawal symptoms when they are discontinued. The first time you detoxify from caffeine, or eliminate it from your system, you will learn the degree of your personal sensitivity; however, some people experience variability in withdrawal severity across episodes.

    Most people don't have trouble stepping down caffeine use from higher daily doses, such as 500 mg, to a daily dose of 100 mg. The most difficult stage of the stepping-down program is going from 100 mg of caffeine a day to none at all. If you are in the minority of people who experience significant discomfort when doing this, you can alleviate it by taking a very small dose of caffeine, about 15 mg-what is found in a cup of green tea or 4 ounces of caffeinated soda. Because the dose is so small, you won't be greatly interfering with your step-down program, and you may feel a great deal better.

    Watch Out for Hidden Sources of Caffeine!

    Everyone is aware that coffee and tea contain caffeine. However, when you are following your withdrawal program, be careful you don't get caffeine from hidden sources, such as headache remedies or chocolate, that you don't normally think of as containing caffeine. Many carbonated soft drinks, including Coke, Mountain Dew, and Dr Pepper, also contain caffeine. Using them indiscriminately will sabotage your stepping-down program.

    The idea behind decreasing your dosage slowly is to minimize any possible discomforts of withdrawal. Doing this requires discipline and determination. For example, if you are used to using coffee to get yourself over the afternoon slump at work, you will dearly miss the cup that your withdrawal schedule says you can't have. But that's what you must do if you want to enjoy every day of your vacation to the full or to be at the top of your game while you are away.

    The Caffeine Cure: Getting the Caffeine Lift After You land

    Staying free from jet lag means having the willpower to overcome your body's tendency to sleep at what for you is bedtime. The most important thing is to stay awake the entire first day and to go to bed around 10 P.M. or 11 P.M. local time. How do you do this? You use caffeine to keep your body awake and your mind alert for your first few days in the new time zone. And at the same time that caffeine is helping you to stay awake, it's also signaling your body to reset your clock to local time.

    If you have followed the schedule of caffeine withdrawal, you'll have had two days entirely free of caffeine before you leave for your trip. This isn't usually enough time to completely clear your body of any residual dependence on the drug, but it is enough time to increase your sensitivity to it dramatically. Because of your increased sensitivity to caffeine's effects, taking a jolt on arrival will start to signal your hypothalamus to begin resetting your body's clock.

    Take caffeine tablets such as Vivarin with you on the plane so that when the pilot says you will soon be landing, you can take them. Tablets are most widely available in the 200 mg dosage strength. This is a good dose for most people who are looking for the immediate benefits of caffeine, but it might not be the right dose for you. Before implementing the jet lag program described here, you should follow the instructions in Chapter 1 for determining your base sensitivity to caffeine and your personal pickup dose. Take this dose of caffeine about 15 minutes before landing, so that it has time to wake you up and make you alert. You should be able to collect your baggage, go through customs, and get to your hotel on this first dose of caffeine. Once you are comfortably accommodated, sit down and eat a nourishing meal, including both protein and carbohydrates, and take another dose of caffeine, this time probably in the form of a couple of cups of coffee or several cups of tea. In order to reset your clock, get out into the sunshine and get moderate exercise. It's always a good idea to spend your first day strolling around your new city, so do this now. Enjoy your new location, allowing the novel sights and sounds to keep you from napping.

    Continue consuming your personal pickup dose of caffeine throughout the day, every 3 to 4 hours. The important thing is to keep to a regular schedule of caffeine administration. Don't simply wait to have a cup of coffee after you suddenly realize you've been "out of it" for an hour. If you are going to reset your clock effectively, you need to keep adding caffeine to your system as soon as your caffeine blood levels decline below an effective amount.

    Be careful, though. You must stop drinking coffee or tea or using any caffeine source before you reach your personal caffeine cutoff point-the rime in the afternoon or evening after which caffeine consumption interferes with sleep, which you should also have determined prior to embarking on this jet lag cure. This cutoff point is different for different people. Some people cannot sleep at night if they have caffeine after about noon. Others can fall asleep even immediately after drinking a cup of strong coffee. Most are somewhere in between. You will have to determine where your cutoff point occurs by trial and error. If you know from your experience at home that you cannot sleep well if you consume caffeine at dinnertime or after, then you should avoid consuming it after that hour when you arrive at your destination. If you follow this advice, you should be able to fall asleep at around 10 P.M. or 11 P.M. because you have stayed awake all day.

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