Friday, January 04, 2013

The Great Caffeine Fast

As I sit here trying to hold my eyes open while fending off a low-grade headache, it's easy to question the wisdom of my decision to give up caffeine. But then, it's only for a month [Wait a minute! A month!? That's a really really really long time! What do the heck do you mean "only"?!]

It is after all the only thing I've ever had a dependency on––and what a dependency it's been. Since I was 12 or 13, there have been very few days that I have gone without at least a cup of black tea. As an older teenager I would typically drink five or six cups a day––and that was on days when I didn't have coffee. I took significant strides in college to reduce my daily dosage, and these days, I probably consume a good deal less than the average American, if you consider that tea has only between 30 and 50 milligrams per cup versus 80 to 100 for coffee, which I now only drink a few times a week.

Still, the thought of giving it up completely has always been depressing to me, and since I tend toward depression anyways, I never had any intention of doing that. Besides, caffeine and its delivery agents have a number of purported health benefits. Tea and coffee are full of antioxidants, and tea specifically has other, milder psychoactive chemicals that reduce stress. In some people, caffeine itself speeds up metabolic activity, causing the body to burn calories faster, which in most people today in our overweight society is a good thing. But therein lies the problem. I'm not most people in our overweight society.

While I grew quite fast as a teenager, I stopped gaining weight when I was only 16 or 17, and really haven't put on any since. This left me well over six feet tall and only 133 pounds (which reads clinically anorexic on most BMI charts). I always figured the main reason for this was that I was an avid recreational runner and probably still growing.

But I'm 23 now, and haven't grown vertically in several years, so I figured I should theoretically be able to put on at least a couple pounds. Would 137 be too much to ask? So this August, I stopped running completely and also stopped the core workout I'd been doing for the past three months. In its place, I started lifting weights three times a week and eating as much as I could. This, from everything I've read, learned in my PE classes in college, and asked my friends who were EHS majors, is supposed to cause you to gain weight.

By mid November though, I hadn't put on a pound. So I cut the weights back to just twice a week, and used the holidays to eat––what I consider to be at least––a massive amount a food. It's now January though, and it didn't work. Four months of doing reps with weights that weigh as much as I do and stuffing my face with food and I still look and weigh exactly the same as I did in August.

It's not the first time that I've experienced this, but it's definitely most and longest effort I've put into it only to have this experience. I think I have pretty much proven by now that no amount of working out (in past years I'd tried working out everyday––but I lost weight) or upping my caloric intake will make me gain weight. So, rather than looking for things that I can do to gain weight, I'm now looking––somewhat desperately––for things I can not do to gain weight.

The biggest one that came to mind is caffeine. I've never heard of people using caffeine to lose weight, but I know that it does increase your metabolism. So even though I don't really use that much, I've decided that it's time for it to go. At least for a month. If I'm able to gain any weight in four or five weeks not using it, then I'll consider making it a longer commitment.

Otherwise, I'll just add it to the list of things that don't work, and go order an Americano.


Unknown said...

That's a really interesting idea, Andrew. I've had a lot of similar experiences myself as far as weight maintenance, but I had never considered the effects of caffeine. Good luck, I'll be interested to hear your results in February, and I hope you can pack on the pounds! -Tyler

Andrew said...

Thanks man. Like I said, I really have no idea if it will work. If it does though, I'll let you know.