I have a confession to make. I’m a caffeine addict. No one would know now, though, because I gave up caffeine all together a few years ago. Coffee was my worst foe, especially on charter. I’d drink it all morning and part of the afternoon and when I wasn’t drinking it, I was thinking about drinking it. It seemed like the best answer to the long hours and little sleep.
I suspected I might be addicted when I noticed my moods fluctuating aggressively, my hands shaking and my resting heart rate through the roof.
Not only was I addicted, my body didn’t react well either. I could smell coffee oozing out of my pores, I didn’t feel like exercising as much and my stomach was often upset. I’d lay awake at night, my body buzzing for a long time before falling asleep.
Then, one day, our chef, who noticed me in an afternoon slump, told me that I wouldn’t be so tired if I didn’t drink so much caffeine. In my delicate state I was upset at this comment, but it hit home and I knew she was right.
What caffeine does to the body
Caffeine makes nerves fire faster in the body which raises blood pressure and makes the adrenal glands, above the kidneys, release the stress hormone cortisol. The adrenals are responsible for regulating your energy levels, hormones and other vital components to health. When they’re overworked and stressed from regulating false energy from caffeine, they are less able to assist with natural energy. In the end, when the adrenals are worn out, the body is worn out as well.
Putting caffeine in the body is like burning the candle at both ends, eventually leaving the body tired and weak when the flame goes out.
Triton coffee mug. By Suzette Cook
Caffeine is good for you
The problem with this statement is that for every study that says caffeine is good for you, there is another that says it’s not. Instead of relying on an external study, I suggest doing an internal study and listen to your body. Are you able to have one cup of caffeine periodically, stay balanced and feel fine? Or, is your body giving you signs of feeling more tired, less balanced or more reliant on caffeine to get through the day? Either way, reducing caffeine has its benefits.
Possible benefits of not drinking caffeine
- Better sleep
- Able to sleep on afternoon breaks
- Better breath, sweat and body functions
- More balanced moods
- Calmer mind
- Healthier appetite
- Balanced hormones
- More natural energy
- How to give up caffeine
- Giving up caffeine altogether can sound daunting, however, it can be done and the benefits far outweigh the short term discomfort. To minimize the psychological and physical withdrawls:
- Switch to black tea and drink as much as you would normally drink for a few days.
- Cut down by one cup each day until you’re only drinking one cup per day.
- Switch to one cup of green tea per day and continue until you are ready to drop it as well
When you’re ready to drop caffeine all together make sure you sleep more than usual, drink 2-3 liters of water, eat water rich fruits and vegetables in abundance and sweat daily from exercise. This will help you detox the caffeine from your body and help with any symptoms of withdrawal.
- Drink herbal teas as a replacement instead of caffeine
- Get 8-10 hours of sleep on a consistent basis
- If you’re on charter, get to sleep straight away on your break
- Drink camomile and practice meditation and deep breathing
- Drink 2-3 liters of plain water
- Eat whole foods, minimizing packaged junk foods
- Make fitness a priority, getting the heart rate up will give you a more natural energy
- If you cannot sleep, eat well or keep up with your fitness for long periods of time, because you’re too busy on board, ask yourself if you’re on the right boat for your long term health
Where will I get my energy?
Natural, sustainable energy comes from a healthy, rested body. Getting 8-10 hours of sleep consistently and feeding the body with healthy food, water and exercise are the only things that will truly give sustainable energy.
While yachting is not always in alignment with healthy living, the more you take care of yourself the more you’ll be rewarded with natural energy. Eventually, caffeine cravings will be a thing of the past and you’ll realize that nothing beats the feeling of being in control of your body and riding the wave of a natural high from healthy living.
Angela Orecchio is a chief stew and certified health coach. This column was edited from her blog, Savvy Stewardess, The Smart Girl’s Guide to Yachting. Contact her through www.savvystewardess.com and email@example.com.