Sometimes You Need Caffeine

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Sometimes You Need Caffeine
Tea and Energy Drinks
The Other Category
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Sometimes, you need to stay awake. You're bone tired, exhausted even. But you've got a job interview, and you need to be clear-headed and enthusiastic; you need energy. Luckily, we live in a culture that values its instant energy, and there are a plethora of options for anyone who needs to rev it up for a day, or who just needs a little pick-me-up in the morning, before the day starts. The obvious contenders are coffees and teas, energy drinks, and “other” (think caffeine pills, caffeine infused gum, energy bars, etc). However, make no mistake, caffeine is an addictive substance. If you drink it every weekday and then skip the weekends, chances are, you're going to get a splitting headache and feel like crap on Saturday and Sunday. This is not to say that caffeine is heroine. But, anyone deciding to start drinking it once a day (or twice a day) should go into it with their eyes open.

Coffees and teas are probably the most socially acceptable (that is, the oldest) way of getting your caffeine. These two have obviously been around longer than any of the newer caffeine choices. They aren't necessarily safe, or better for you, and there has been some evidence that coffee is a carcinogen (there's also been evidence that one cup a day keep Alzheimer's at bay), but it's definitely an acquired taste. Black coffee is typically quite bitter, and if you're new to it, you may want to try some sugar and cream (although the sugar could lead to a jittery crash later, and the cream adds tons of calories). In the end, it's a judgment call. I should point out, for the sake of fairness, that coffee is indeed this author's caffeine of choice.

Tea is interesting because it comes in many flavors and varieties (even iced), but is generally used as a sedative, despite its caffeine content. Whether it accomplishes this through purely psychological means or not is unknown, but you could certainly drink it in the morning if you want: There is caffeine in there, and is also commonly used as a stimulant (especially outside the United States). Its dual roles are not all that uncommon, as many foods are similarly soothing and energizing. That said, there isn't quite as much caffeine in tea as there is in coffee, so if you're used to higher doses, you might want to take that into consideration.

Energy drinks are also interesting, because they're designed to be just that. They're packed with all kinds of energy: Guarana, caffeine, B-vitamins, and sugar. I'd recommend against getting the fully sugared versions of these energy drinks (if you thought soda was bad for your teeth, you should see these big boys), because they will lead to crashes later in the day (yes, those commercials are right). But, if you pick up the diet or low-carb options, there's substantially less (if any) sugar for your body to ingest. Which means, hopefully, a more natural let down from the energy boost the drink will give you. That said, you definitely need to avoid energy drinks if you are pregnant or nursing, as the excessive B-Vitamins can have detrimental effects on the fetus or infant.

As far as the “other” category goes, I tend to avoid it. Caffeine pills, honestly, kind of scare me. 5-Hour Energy is fine, it just fits into the energy drink category (it's really the same as the “diet” or “low-carb” energy drinks). The gum is also kind of scary to me (and from what I hear, not very tasty). I can't say this is a rational fear—it wouldn't be on the market if it were dangerous and, really, I'm no more certain of what's in a liquid than a pill, but that's just me. My main argument about these is that they go by too quickly. I've come to appreciate the taste of coffee (or the taste of energy drinks), but when you just pop a pill there's no tactile experience to enjoy. Again, that's just me.

The point is that there are many ways to get a little caffeine without having to drink soda at 8 in the morning. There are pros and cons to each of them, and again, it should be noted that caffeine is a rather addictive substance, and you could probably do without it. If you exercised more and ate more fruit, you'd have more energy. That said, once in a while, or if you have to wake up really early every morning (and you hate mornings), then at least you have options, and can pick the one that is best for you.

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