Plus words about caffeine and anxiety
Hi - it's Ashley. After 7 months, welcome back to Three-Quarters, a newsletter about coffee, but now pivoting to various other things too. I'll explain why and how I’m pivoting below, but if you don't really care, you can scroll on to the next section where I talk about caffeine and anxiety.
It’s 7 months since I last published. I decided to pause writing here until I had reconfirmed what I wanted to write about. I wasn't keeping up with my self-imposed publishing schedule and I was always trying to find the perfect topic, related to coffee, that I could write about. Though I always knew it, I've since become more comfortable with the idea that being a perfectionist or boxing yourself into a particular niche is not conducive to being creative or for building a writing habit.
So, after much delay and on the advice of the excellent newsletters group at Ness Labs, I am pivoting slightly. Going forward, I will continue to write about coffee, coffee culture and the origins of coffee because I find it interesting and so do many of you. The coffee world isn't short of topics or areas to write about. But in the interests of creativity and fun for me, I will also write about other things that I'm interested in. This will include, though is not limited to, topics including:
Trying to be better
Trying to be fitter
Tech and media
I appreciate I have a few subscribers who signed up for the coffee and the coffee alone. As I said, I will still write about coffee, the best coffee spots I come across and the coffee I drink, but it won't be every week. I won't be offended if you hit the unsubscribe button - in fact, I'd encourage it. No one likes a clogged up inbox. But I hope you'll stay, at least for a while.
Now, into the meat of the newsletter. It's about...coffee.
Caffeine versus anxiety
During the drafting of this section of the newsletter a couple of weeks ago, I was perched awkwardly on a high stall in the London Angel branch of Redemption Coffee Roasters. It’s a nice spot for people watching and the atmosphere isn’t too hectic, especially for a Saturday. But I was anxious.
Anxious because I was wary of the queue of people behind me waiting to order their coffee and passing the time peering over my shoulder reading each word as I write it. I was also anxious because the nights have drawn in and so even though it was late afternoon, I was going to have to cycle home along the canal in the dark. I was anxious because I was about to start a new job. Anxious because because because–
I took a sip of coffee.
I can’t blame the coffee. I write a newsletter about coffee! I can’t blame the coffee.
I momentarily considered decaf coffee- its merits and its inferiorities. No!
I glanced around at the latest person staring over my shoulder. I was jittery.
New job anxiety or afternoon darkness anxiety are legitimate explanations for feeling jittery, but maybe the coffee was a bad move.
Caffeine and its impact on our mood and our state of mind are usually spoken about using words like 'buzz'. Coffee forms a crucial part of my daily routine and the daily routine of millions of people, but given the science, it seems odd that we don't speak more about days when you just shouldn't drink it all. Or even opt for decaf.
A quick search of Google Scholar throws up 125,000 research articles related to caffeine and its impact on anxiety or those dealing with anxiety. Many of the articles speak about the positive effects of caffeine, of which there are many.
In normal doses of between 50 to 200 milligrams, caffeine is related to decreased fatigue, increased energy expenditure, enhanced physical performance, increased alertness after waking and enhanced motor performance. Most studies seem to agree that once you have more than 400 milligrams of caffeine in your system, you can start to feel the less helpful effects, including feelings of anxiety.
How many coffees you can have while staying under 400 milligrams depends on your coffee of choice, how the beans are roasted and the serving size. The average cup of home-brewed ground coffee (8oz/227ml) contains around 100 milligrams of caffeine. For the same amount of instant coffee, it's around 85 milligrams.
While actual concentrations of caffeine in different coffees may vary, you can safely assume from the evidence that caffeine starts to induce feelings of restlessness somewhere after 3 average cups. This seems pretty good, so long as your base level of restlessness is low. The research also shows that people who already live with anxiety are more sensitive to caffeine as it seems to cause the body to further mimic sensations of anxiety. I should mention sleep too. Caffeine affects sleep and sleep affects mood. Without considering any more of the science, I like to keep in mind that caffeine has a half-life of around 5 hours and so mid-afternoon is a good cut off time for taking in more caffeine.
While the coffee I was drinking in Redemption last week may not have been the root cause of how I was feeling, it probably wasn't helping. Over the past week, I've tried to be more mindful of my caffeine intake as a result. Not necessarily decreasing it, but trying to work out the point where the caffeine becomes the enemy and decaf becomes your friend.
Thanks to Coffee Chemistry for helping me to learn more about caffeine!
That’s all for Three-Quarters this week. If you’ve decided to stay, thanks! Next Monday’s newsletter will not be about coffee. Have a good week!