Me vs. Coffee

Last month, in the pop culture world, there was a lot of brouhaha about Tom Brady’s diet. He doesn’t eat sugar, he doesn’t eat certain veggies and fruits, yadda yadda yadda…one nugget that stuck out for a lot of people, however, is that he not only doesn’t consume caffeine, but also that he has never had coffee!

Shocking? I would say so, especially for a professional athlete. However, professional athletes are not the only folks in the world looking to boost performance. In fact, approximately 180 million Americans drink coffee in order to achieve some goal, whether it be to sit in front of a computer for 8+ hours, drive to and from the office or something entirely different*.

In 2014, I became one of the 180 million. Despite toughing my way through two years of investment banking without coffee or really any caffeine in the years prior, I ultimately gave in as I realized the energy of my early 20s had not carried over to my mid-20s.

For a while, the coffee-consuming me was flying high — I felt sharper than ever, my mood improved and I was able to hit my evening workouts without feeling the mental toll of the day. Sure, I’d have to double or even triple the trips to the restroom, live with a dry mouth, nose and eyes, and deal with occasional insomnia. I’d also constantly feel a bit of paranoia, sometimes checking my email or texts every minute even when I internally knew it was highly unlikely there’d be anything new or important in my inbox. However, the positives still outweighed the negatives.

It was in the fall of 2014 that I started to feel the true pain of coffee. I started dealing with aching joints everywhere, from my Achilles to my knees to my elbows and fingers. My initial thoughts were “Man, I’m just getting old” and “Maybe, I just have to cut down on working out!”

I started going to physical therapy twice a week but none of my joints were really getting any better. I distinctly remember that I was at a point that I felt lost as to how to solve these issues without giving up the things I enjoyed such as jiu jitsu, yoga, running and lifting weights.

At the same time, I was getting to the point that I needed two cups of coffee a day to function — the potential of caffeine addiction scared me. My mom and countless others I know need their morning cup of coffee or they deal with painful headaches. I wanted to make sure I was never part of this group! That was when I told myself it was time to take a break from coffee. In January 2015, I made it through two agonizing weeks of low energy and a constant mental fog but I made it through alive. I also realized that when I was running, doing yoga or rolling on the mats in jiu jitsu class, the pain in my Achilles and knees was gone! My elbows, which have been hyperextended in the past, were not randomly throbbing with pain anymore either.

Hmmm? Was coffee the culprit for my problems? It was still winter so the cold probably wasn’t the source of my problems. Besides stripping out coffee, I had not made any significant changes to my diet. The amount of sleep I was getting was virtually the same. I was also doing the same workouts I was doing before.

As I researched on the Internet, I came across articles and blog posts like this and this. I just couldn’t find a scientific study firmly stating that coffee causes joint pain. However, whatever I was doing was clearly working. As the months went by, I’d drink caffeinated green tea here and there, but those old pains didn’t return when I’d do so. However, on the rare occasions I did succumb to my office’s K-Cup maker, the pains of the past would return!

Since early 2015, I have drank coffee in rare instances and I’ve enjoyed some success avoiding joint pain while drinking cold brew. However, for me, a day fueled by cold brew always requires melatonin at night. I’ve also tried to cut caffeine altogether and avoid it most days of the week. Yes, it does suck to not feel like Superman in the mornings anymore. However, I am happy to be able to do the physical activities that I enjoy doing. I’m also happy not having drink quarts of water anymore to deal with the dehydration from caffeine and not have to go to the restroom every 45 minutes. So, in the end, on the coffee situation, the costs ultimately outweighed the benefits.

I’m wondering if any of you guys have dealt with the same issues or if you are an “ex-coffee drinker” like me, what you’ve done to kick the habit.

Watch out for a sister post to this in the coming days!

*http://totalfood.com/articles/first-coffee-so-healthy-it-proudly-wears-a-nutritional-label