How to Enjoy Your Coffee, Tea, or Energy Drink Without the Caffeine Side-Effects
Have you ever had those days where your caffeine didn’t work? Or wondered about the difference between coffee and energy drinks? Ever worry about caffeine side-effects like jitters, anxiety, or withdrawal headaches? If so, you’ve come to the right place!
Before we can talk about caffeine side-effects, we have to talk about how we got where we are today. Energy drinks have shaped the marketplace so that even “coffee snobs” are affected. With the energy drink boom, coffee companies and even tea companies have come out with ready-to-drink versions of their products in order to keep up with the trends.
This has lead to a fascinating evolution in the world of caffeinated beverages, as well as some myths and misconceptions.
Are you drinking caffeine wrong? Myths, Misconceptions, and Tips to Drinking Caffeine Like a Scientist
In this episode, you’ll learn:
The “evolution of the energy drink”
Surprising trends in the world of caffeinated beverages
Common misconceptions about caffeine and energy drinks
5 secrets to enjoying your coffee, tea, or energy drink without the caffeine side-effects
Finding your “sweet spot” for caffeine and alertness
Cortisol Awakening Response
Surprising caffeine contents
Using the 5 Levels of Fatigue to beat caffeine addiction and caffeine withdrawal
Do you work long, unusual, or unpredictable hours? Is sleep is the first casualty in your battle to juggle multiple roles and responsibilities? Do you constantly feel overwhelmed, overworked, or over-caffeinated?
Originally published January 13, 2017. Updated Sept 10, 2019.
During grad school, while working 2 jobs and researching full-time, I developed a system called the “5 Levels of Fatigue”. It started out as a set of rules to help me consume caffeine more systematically – as I biochemist, I knew if I always picked the most potent drinks, caffeine wasn’t going to work on those days when I needed it the most.
Below, I’ll walk you through my system and how to use it to drink caffeine more strategically, MAXIMIZING caffeine’s benefits while MINIMIZING its side-effects.
For info on using the 5 Levels of Fatigue against boredom, burnout, and mental overwhelm, you’ll want to check out this page: Click HERE
What’s the best energy drink? Everyone has their own preferences based on taste, but the scientific truth is “the best energy drink” depends on your body and your situation. Think of it this way:
An energy drink is like your favorite song: what gets YOU pumped up may do nothing for ME. A song that gets you up and moving on a Monday morning is probably not your go-to song to celebrate a Friday night.
Everyone is different, and different situations call for different solutions(that’s a beveragepun right there – in chemistry, a solution is a liquid mixture).
This is a picture of a card I made for a PhD student leaving my lab in grad school. To help her remember me, I drew a self-portrait. Big hair. Music. Caffeine.
I developed the 5 Levels of Fatigue in college and in grad school. I was juggling full-time studies with two part-time jobs. In addition to studying the science behind energy drinks, I was drinking them - a lot.
As a biochemistry major, I knew caffeine would stop working for me if my body got too used to it on a regular basis. Caffeine blocks adenosine, which prevents adenosine from sending you “YOU ARE GETTING SLEE-PY” signals. But after awhile your body realizes caffeine is blocking adenosine and MAKES MORE, so it takes MORE caffeine to feel the same energy boost.
Using the 5 Levels of Fatigue makes it less likely you'll develop caffeine dependence - it means you won't need more and more caffeine to feel awake.
Here's How It Works:
Every energy drink has a different amount of caffeine, juice, and sugar.
Some energy drinks are carbonated, some are not.
Carbonation, juice, and sugar content will all make one energy drink FEEL more powerful than another drink with the same amount of caffeine.
FATIGUE LEVEL 1: Dehydrated & Drowsy
At this level, you’re feeling a little drowsy, but not exhausted or overwhelmed.
SOLUTION = Do something Different. Go for a walk. Switch tasks. Take a 5 min break. Drink WATER. DO NOT drink any caffeine at this level.
FATIGUE LEVEL 2: Too Tired
At this level, “I’m too tired” becomes the excuse for action. You’re not exhausted and not just bored or drowsy. You’re just a little bit off, a little sluggish, a little lethargic. You’re “too tired”.
SOLUTION = A LITTLE sluggish means A LITTLE caffeine. Look for caffeinated beverages with no more than 100 mg caffeine.
NON-carbonated beverages will provide a gentler boost because carbonation irritates the stomach lining so caffeine gets absorbed more quickly.
TEA-based beverages will also provide a gentler boost because L-Theanine has a calming effect.
At this level, you’re starting to feel overwhelmed. You’re trying to wake up but you’re really struggling to stay focused and engaged. A walk and a cup of tea aren’t going to cut it here, but it’s still not worst-case scenario “energy emergency” quite yet.
SOLUTION = Several scientific studies and international organizations say you should have no more than 200 mg caffeine at a time. So that’s what we’re looking for here.
HYBRIDS are the best option here – energy drink/coffee hybrids, energy drink/wannabe Gatorade drinks, caffeinated juice blends
Pick carbonated over non-carbonated for an extra boost if needed
Pick sugar-free or drinks where the only sugar comes from juice – save the full-sugar versions for those “energy emergencies” at Fatigue Level 4
At this level, we’re going to ignore health guidelines and go over that 200 mg caffeine per serving recommendation. This is an energy emergency. This is one step short of being a walking zombie. We’re talking just-trying-to-survive, counting-the-hours-before-I-can-go-home crisis.
SOLUTION = Choose a carbonated energy drink with more than 200 mg caffeine per can. You can also pick an energy shot because shots have higher caffeine mg per oz than energy drinks. Energy drinks with sugar will give you an extra boost though you may crash after a few hours so ONLY pick drinks with more than 10 grams sugar if you absolutely need that much more help.
Welcome to GreenEyedGuide, your guide to the science behind caffeine and energy drinks. This is a series on How Caffeine Affects the Brain. Since this is a complex topic and we have a lot to cover, I’ve broken the key questions into different posts. In this part, we compare coffee versus energy drinks to determine what makes the best study aid and why.
Later in this series, we’ll also talk about:
Why does caffeine work differently after an all-nighter?
What ingredients in energy drinks help you focus during gaming?
Does your brain get addicted to caffeine and energy drinks?
Coffee Versus Energy Drinks – Which is Better for Studying?
If you don’t have time to watch the full episode, don’t worry! The highlights are below.
Updated 3/26/2020 by Danielle Robertson Rath (the “GreenEyedGuide”)
When Energy Drinks Look Like Coffee Drinks
Monster Energy hit US markets in 2002 and helped establish the energy drink stereotype. Over 10 years later, there are still plenty of energy drinks that still fit this stereotype, but is Caffe Monster one of them?
Monster Energy is undeniably an energy drink company. In fact, they’re one of the Big Three responsible for the “Energy Drink Boom”. In this post, we’ll discuss whether Monster Energy’s wannabe-coffee warrants the same level of concern as their standard energy drinks.
Hi there, I research energy drinks.
I declared myself a biochemistry major in 2003 – right at the beginning of the Energy Drink Boom. I’ve always been fascinated by caffeinated drinks and all the fears surrounding their use. That’s why I’ve put my education toward understanding the science behind energy drinks and their ingredients.