Caffeine: The Double-Espresso Standard

Brass tacks: let’s all face it, caffeine is a drug. It is legal, but it functions in your body in the same way as a drug. The half-life averages five hours. But the hit only lasts around two. Afterward, the body has processed almost half of it and the effect is tapering off and quickly leaves the “useful” level zone in your metabolism. So the boost from your 8 am zip juice doesn’t last until lunch. So even though the caffeine is still in your system for the next 3 hours you need another hit.

Get up, get your fix, and when you make it back to your desk you’re boosted back up to a functional level and you can make it to lunch. Ironically it takes at least 15 minutes for the caffeine to kick in, but the simple act of getting up increases circulation which is also a natural way to give yourself energy. So getting up probably gives you the clarity you need to get through that first 15 minutes.

Getting up, as I mentioned, increases cognition. The specific mechanism is not well understood, however, it is clearly observed and has something to do with your heart rate and body chemistry when it is elevated. So you get some more energon. and work through the slump until lunch. When you finally hit lunch you are up and active again, either upstairs making a nice dagwood, or you took a trip to a nearby eatery. Either way, you’ve trudged up the stairs, or you’ve trudged down the street, and trudging anywhere is going to get your blood pumping and then you can bounce yourself back to your desk with either a full sack of goodies or in my case, a full belly of whatever I found in the fridge.

Then you sit in your chair and your pulse drops again, and any endorphins you got from your brisk walk drop out. Your heart rate plummets because sitting in a chair basically the same as lying down in a bed. Then you finally hit it, the 2 o’clock slump. Funny this is the second slump you’ve hit today, and you reach for your third serving of caffeine, or maybe you had some at lunch and this is your fourth. Either way, you are a junkie going in for one more hit, you’ll have one right before you leave too.

Up to this point, the clever reader will notice I’ve not said coffee, only caffeine. Caffeine comes in a variety of delivery systems. Coffee is the one most typically associated with the workaday folks like me. Although there is a very active and thriving community of tea drinkers among us as well. Don’t forget about the little energy bottles and tall cans either.

As far as I can tell tea-drinkers are a minority against coffee drinkers in the area I live in, both can value their drinks for the raw caffeinated power, or the subtleties and nuances of the flavors themselves. Enter the competitor though. A tall can with as much as a Starbucks grande plus whip. If you walk out of Starbucks with one of those, nobody bats an eye. If you walk out of the corner shop with a can of Monster, then people think you are taking your life in your hands.

And there it is the double standard. Nobody notices a coffee with far more caffeine and sugar than the black can, yet you are judged for drinking from the mystical tall can full of energy drink. Now, this isn’t a product endorsement, (still waiting for the callback from Monster), but it is simply my observation. Coffee drinkers are normal, sensible people who rarely get noticed, however, sensationalized news about the ‘deadly’ quantities of caffeine killing people make a murderer out of the red bull.

I will concede that there are extra things added to energy drinks that are not found in coffee: herbal supplements, vitamins, etc. however, what about the equally large mountain of sugar in a Starbucks anything. By the by, sugar is another highly addictive substance, but I digress.

Why the stigma then. If I get my caffeine from an energy drink, and you drink coffee, and he drinks tea, why am I the dangerous one? Herbal teas have been around for centuries, vitamin supplements are common and even recommended for general health and well-being. If I put them together what seems to be the problem? Is it the carbonation? If it is the sugar then can I get a zero-sugar one and stop being ‘that guy’?

There are exceptions, but your typical energy drink, oz-for-oz, contains about half as much caffeine as drip-brewed coffee. It contains an equal amount of caffeine to a Starbucks brewed. Meaning that a 16 oz monster has as much caffeine as an 8 oz cup of brewed coffee.

Why the stigma then? Why is the person who drinks 5 cups of coffee during the day perfectly normal, but the person drinks even 3 Monsters is dancing with instant death? What is it about coffee that makes it okay? A person who drinks coffee a Grande Frappuccino at Starbucks gets almost double the caffeine of an energy drink, not to mention tons of sugar. My caffeine just has fizz.

By Phillip

Phillip is a dad of three boys married to a beautiful dedicated woman. An aspiring artist and science fiction author. He has been an IT professional for the past 15+ years. He is currently working on a full-length sci-fi novel, but he also makes small drawings/watercolors for his school-age son's lunchbox and occasionally pretends to be a comedian. He also still struggles with putting two spaces at the end of sentences.