Ben Nadel
On User Experience (UX) Design, JavaScript, ColdFusion, Node.js, Life, and Love.
I am the chief technical officer at InVision App, Inc - a prototyping and collaboration platform for designers, built by designers. I also rock out in JavaScript and ColdFusion 24x7.
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Ben Nadel at Scotch On The Rocks (SOTR) 2011 (Edinburgh) with:

Project HUGE: Adding Caffeine For Health And Performance Benefits

By Ben Nadel on

I am not a coffee drinker. In the morning, I have a few cups of Genmaicha - a green tea with brown rice - that has about 80% less caffeine that brewed coffee. In short, I don't get a whole lot of caffeine in my daily routine. And for some reason, I have this imaginary belief that caffeine is not good for you. I have no facts to back up that belief. Maybe it's because I drank Diet Coke in excess for so many years that I just associate caffeine to the problems I was having on it (constant urination and extremely poor sleep). Or maybe I've heard people talk about blood pressure on caffeine. I don't really know.

As January 2009 is gonna be my month of getting back on the health track, I figured I would look up some information on caffeine and see if it needs to be added to my daily intake. Thanks to Google there is a ton of information on the subject. Since the internet has so much unregulated information, it can be hard to tell fact from fiction. But, most articles seemed to say the same things (including articles from "reputable" sources such as Men's Health). As it turns out, not only is caffeine not bad for you, it has a host of health and performance benefits. From what I gathered:

  • Caffeinated coffee can help reduce the risk of developing diseases like Parkinson's, Alzheimer's, colon cancer, liver cirrhosis, gallstones, kidney stones, heart disease, and diabetes.
  • Both caffeinated tea and coffee have a host of anti-oxidants which offer an array of health benefits mentioned above.
  • Caffeine will boost your brain power.
  • Caffeine will increase your heart rate and breathing reate, preparing your body for peak performance, including the ability to recruit more motor units to innervate more muscle fibers.
  • Caffeine allows for stronger muscle contractions.
  • Caffeine increases your metabolism and helps break down fat in a way that prevents you from feeling hungry.

In fact, I was hard pressed to find anything bad about caffeine at all. Apparently, there are some issues with osteoporosis if you have poor calcium intake and if you have a family history of high blood pressure, you should proceed with caution. But other than that, it was just a whole lot of information on the benefits of caffeine. Granted, a lot of the studies involved the intake of caffeine via coffee which has many anti-oxidants; however, articles that studied caffeine outside of coffee had much of the same information.

I think it's time to add more caffeine to my diet. I can't stand the taste of coffee and I already drink green tea, so I figured I would start off with a sport supplement just to see how I feel. Yesterday and today, I tried drinking the "5-Hour Energy" shot 15 minutes or so before my workout:


 
 
 

 
Ben Nadel Taking The 5-Hour Energy Sports Supplement To Enhance His Workouts And Aide Fat Loss.  
 
 
 

I have to say, my Back workout yesterday was pretty beefy and my Leg workout today felt really good. What I noticed mostly was my mental alertness. Even when my body started to feel tired, I found that my mind was still quite active. Usually, when my body starts to slow down, my mind follows and I quickly lose motivation to be at the gym. With the 5-Hour Energy drink, however, I found myself wanting to continue the workout with enthusiasm.

I'm gonna stick to this for a little while and see how it goes. My biggest concern is that the caffeine will affect my sleep. The past two days, I have worked out early in the day, around 2PM. However, going forward, I am going to be working out at night - maybe around 7PM or so. If I drink caffeine at 6:30, will it have been voided from my system enough to fall asleep at 12AM? We shall see.



Reader Comments

I was under the impression the 5-hour energy was caffeine free (thus the claim there is no 'crash'), but instead was some sort of b-vitamin cocktail.

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The amount in it is about the same as 1 cup of coffee. They also have a decaf one now.

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I also went through a caffeine epiphany after avoiding it for years. I like zipfizz, http://www.zipfizz.com/, for an afternoon boost during the weekday (though I also go for a couple cups of green tea as well). In addition to the caffeine, it also features beaucoup B12 and lots of Vitamin C - of course since the temp can't seem to stay below 80 here in FL this "winter", not as worried about the Vitamin C boost.

I'm still waiting for safe nootropics (like steroids for the brain) to become OTC, but until then caffeine will have to suffice.

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@Ryan,

Brian is correct. On the box is says it's equivalent to about a cup of coffee. And, since my green tea is 80% less caffeine than coffee, I suppose the math makes it about equal to 5 cups of green tea.

@Jason,

ZipFizz looks cool. I'm never against something that extra nutrients :) Next time I'm in a GNC or a Vitamin Shoppe, I'll pick up one, give it a try.

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@Jason,

I've never heard of "nootropics". I just did some Googling. Looks interesting. Boosts brain function without affecting the nervous system. Can you give me the two second run down on that?

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sports medicine studies from toledo, spain & univ of illinois (urbana-champaign) has shown that giving caffeine to "dehydrated bicycle racers helps them ride faster, longer and with more power in hot weather" & that "caffeine helps to reduce muscle pain in riders pedaling as hard and as long as they can."

my anecdotal evidence is that it does have benefits, 3 weeks ago i started stopping for a hot latte (actually more because it's winter here in thailand & it's chilly in the early mornings & it's hard to find energy gels here) at the 50km mark on a 200km ride & i can say that my avg speed, uphill & against the wind, went up about 7km/hr. i had the crash part of the "flash & crash" about the 150km mark so i need to manage this better but i think there are real benefits to caffeine during hard exercise.

of course it could have simply been the cute baristas ;-)

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I completely stopped caffeine a couple of years ago and I really felt much better. However, I run a lot (~50 miles per week) and do strength training 3 or 4 days per week. There a certain days when it is hard to get into my runs, so I decided to try a caffeine supplement. I started with 5 Hour Energy and I must say that it not only works well, but tends to last more than 5 hours. Most days it feels like double that. The stuff is a little pricey, so I switched to Stacker's clone -- 6 Hour Power which is apparently the exact same thing. It's cheaper and produces the same results.

I'm reluctant to take this stuff more than 2 or 3 days per week. Both products have over 8000% of the RDA for certain B vitamins. Taking that much can't be good for you every day. You can overdose on vitamins just like anything else, and I question if it will become toxic in the liver or damage the kidneys.

There are only a couple of bad things about caffeine. Neither one of them serious. First of all people tend to build up a resistance to it over time, thus need more for the same effect. Secondly, caffeine makes you retain water. This is a big deal for athletes and when I used to drink diet soda, I could gain about 5 lbs in water weight when shifting between water and diet soda.

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Coffee worsened my prostate problems, but sticking with Bigelow Green Tea seems to do the trick. I believe it has Querticin in it, which aids prostate health.

And yeah, the caffeine gives me a boost at work. :)

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@PaulH,

Nothing wrong cute baristas :)

@Brad,

Can I ask you what kind of differences you felt going off of caffeine? I have never drank coffee, but I used to drink Diet Coke by the barrel. When I stopped cold-turkey, I had horrible tensions neck/head-aches for about a week and then nothing. I didn't much feel any different during the day, but I noticed that a few weeks after I stopped the Diet Coke, I was sleeping like a baby. Apparently the caffeine had really been keeping me up; I would lay away in bed, mind racing, trying to shut down.

The missus at the time told me that my skin looked a lot better after that as well. But I think she attributed that more to all the crap that is in Diet Coke, not to the caffeine.

I am interested to see how my body reacts to the caffeine this time around.

I'll have to check out the B-vitamin thing; I don't remember it having anything on the box.

As far as caffeine making you retain water - I was under the impression that it did just the opposite; that it was diuretic. I know when I was drinking Diet Coke, I peed constantly!! Of course, at the time, I didn't alternate between water and Diet Coke - pretty much DC only. So, perhaps when you are peeing so much, and you drink real water, your body wants to hold on to as much of it as possible.

@Will,

Green tea is pretty awesome. Talk about something that has a whole host of benefits unto itself!

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@Ben,

When I stopped caffeine I not only slept better, but I also felt less tired during the day. When I drank Diet Coke, I'd get really sleepy in mid-morning and afternoon, even if I had a lot of sleep. Of course the other benefits of not drinking Diet Coke (non-caffeine related) were that my chronic indigestion went away. It was probably all that acid.

Caffeine is a diuretic so you will pee a lot. However, your body is smart and after a short time it will start to store water to head off the possibility of becoming dehydrated. As a runner, being addicted to Diet Coke was a really bad thing. Even though I was drinking between 1 and 2 liters of soda per day, I was constantly dehydrated. It even showed up on some of my blood work at the doctors office as elevated BUN number. My doctor thought I had kidney problems, but after getting off the caffeine, everything went back to normal.

As far a the 5 Hour Energy is concerned, here's the label:

http://www.5hourenergy.com/healthfacts.asp

*2000% RDA of B6
*8333% RDA of B12

I do believe the performance enhancement has to do with the combination of caffeine and the B-vitamins. Just for fun, I took a No-Doze (about twice as much caffeine as in 5 hour) before working out. It helped some, but not nearly as much as the 5 Hour Energy.

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So I haven't seen the gym on a consistent basis for months and instead o waiting til New Year to kick it in gear I decided to go today ... why wait.

I grabbed some "6 Hour Power" to see how it worked, it matches up pretty close to 5 hour stuff, B3 was a little less. Since I am a pretty lazy bastard to begin with I'm not sure if anything can boost me, add 3 kids (6, 5 and almost 2) and tired is pretty much the norm.

I would say within 15 minutes of drinking it, my eyes felt a little goofy -- similar to when I have had the Rock Star drink. About 5 - 10 min later while working out I could feel my brain kick in a with a little more activity than usual for being in the gym.

When I finished up 2 exercises for chest and moved to other side of gym to dumbbells and sat down on the bench I felt a little burst of energy. I think the movement helped move the stuff around.

I may give the 5 hour stuff a try later in week and see if there is any difference.

Also I would like to try it post lunch to see if I can wake myself up. I hit a wall around 2:00pm and usually have to reach from a coke.

The goal is to be off soda, last time I dropped soda cold turkey I dropped about 5 pounds in a couple of weeks. I need to replace it with something though.

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@Brad,

Thanks for posting the health facts. It seems a little odd that it has Niacin in it. I have definitely heard about people taking too much Niacin and getting really uncomfortable - red flushing, extreme vaso-dilation. Of course, that was with actual Niacin supplements which were probably at a much higher dosage.

I've never had No-Doze, but I hear it can make people shaky and jittery.

@Brian,

Glad your goal is to get off Soda! All the power to you.

@All,

Last night, I slept really horribly. I tried to go to be about 12:30 AM and felt like I couldn't close my eyes. Then I woke up at 4:00AM and felt really agitated. I ended up getting out of bed to check some emails. I tried to go back to sleep at like 4:30AM. My apartment felt really warm.

Now, I took my 5-Hour Energy shot at about 1:45PM. There is NO way that this is what was responsible for my sleeping pattern. I am going to try the same thing today and I am sure the sleep tonight will be fine.

I might want to pick up some ear plugs, however; someone a few buildings over was having a techno-party till like 5:00AM (kids!!!).

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Just had my third workout on caffeine (5-Hour Energy). Definitely noticing that I am not getting tired during my workout. Granted, today was an "arm/calf" workout, which is an easy workout to stay focused on (awesome pump); but, regardless, I feel like I have much more staying power than I have had traditionally.

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@Ben,

You asked about nootropics. I first learned about them from a Reader's Digest article a few years back. As I recollect, the author was interviewing subjects of a test (not sure if it was part of actual clinical trials for an FDA certification process) on some particular pharmaceutical's effects on cognition for seniors. He reported that in all cases, memory and overall cognition dramatically improved. In the case of one test subject, he was going to do everything possible to acquire the drug after the test completed. Alas, I lent the issue to a friend with a more experimental bent and he lost it so I don't know the name of the drug. Not a surprise in that case, but damn damn damn.

Anyway the author managed to arrange a small prescription for himself with such positive results that he promptly quit taking it (he had found a way to acquire more through a mexican pharmacy, but then realized he was contemplating buying drugs from a mexican pharmacy so that he thought the better of it). Particularly interesting, however, was that the author not only reported more focused thinking, but an improved desire to accomplish his tasks. Damn, that's a nice little plus.

Right before deciding to start consuming caffeine again, I did more research and found that a different drug, modafinil, is in widespread use by the various militaries of the world. It is an anti-narcolepsy drug that can allow a healthy adult to operate for days on end without sleep and without the side-effects common to caffeine or to methamphetamines. It is my understanding that the French Foreign Legion used it around the time of the first Gulf War and that the US and other coalition forces used it during the last Gulf War and presently (the Air Force has received flack, pardon the pun, for its pilots sanctioned use of meth so this is potentially a really good alternative). In addition to alertness, one also is reported to have better memory recall, slightly improved cognition (problem solving skills) and a better disposition. I'm sure there are downsides, but the most common side-effect listed is headaches.

Being a child of the 80's, I have Nancy Reagan's "Just Say No" message embossed on my brain, so I tend to eschew such things. But there are times when it is awfully tempting.

You've mentioned that you've googled, so you've probably found lots of links, but for quick reference:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modafinil

There are plenty of other drugs with nootropic effects, but I suppose it all comes down to risk analysis with an incomplete set of data. The results look tempting, but what risks is one willing to take to get them?

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@Jason,

Interesting stuff. Nothing wrong with getting better brain activity. However, as far as the military stuff, I would be very hesitant of staying up for days on end. Sleep is so nice and so very important. There's not way that any good can come from messing your biorhythms :)

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I've always liked dark chocolate and caffeinated tea, and since about 3 years ago, I've become a devoted coffee consumer (the same time i went full-time freelance... coincidence? i think not!)

My tastes have progressed quickly - from dark roast whole-bean in a cheap drip machine to a small french press, then a very nice french press and most recently , an espresso machine. I mix my beans half regular and half unleaded, grind them on demand, and take quick, hot, honey- or un-sweetened shots a few times a day. I have found that the tiny shot format works really well as a quick boost, especially right before exercising, or other times when I don't want a bunch of hot liquid sloshing around in my gut

Like beer, bread, wine or chocolate, there are the 'real' ingredients that are good in many ways and the cheap versions that are 'bad for you'... same with coffee. There's a huge difference between a starbucks double-creme sugar-sludge delight and a simple cup of fresh, black coffee.

Heck, if it wasn't 1am I'd go make some espresso right now... tempting nonetheless, but a guy's gotta sleep sometime.

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Sorry for being late to the party on this one.

Re: the overdose of B vitamins in supplement bars et al:

Excess B vitamins are almost always excreted through the urine. They don't "build up" or become toxic. Depending on your diet/metabolism/excercise regime, you may need more or less of them, and while the amounts they usually put in these things (see also: energy drinks) are excessive, they're essentially harmless. (Quoth geeks everywhere: Taking vitamins doesn't usually do anything more than give you expensive wee).

This isn't necessarily the case with all vitamins - see vitamin A:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vitamin_a#Toxicity

But it's pretty rare for anything other than C or the various Bs to be "added" to pills, drinks or bars.

Note that if you're consistently exposed to nitrous oxide (laughing gas) for any prolonged period, you may well benefit from B supplements - N2O has a depleting effect on B12.

The moar you know!

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@Jono,

Thanks for the added insight. I move so much liquid through my body I am sure it's even less of a problem for me. I drink pretty much nonstop.

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stay away from the diet pop, diet anything - aspertame turns into formeldahide (i cant spell ). Thats what was messin you up. Any of the suger alternatives are really supoposed to be taking with anote from your doctor !!!!!!!!. I love coffie 3 pots a day's aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa coffiee. I find after siting for three 4 hours its just good to hop on the bike for 5 or ten minits to unclog everything. My dam feet go numb, i sit to much durring the winter.
@ben gave up on that other issue im on 7 not 8, and i get messed up to easilly to mix code practices.

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@James,

I used to drink Diet Coke like it was my job. I gave it up about 3 years ago. Since then, I actually had one over the weekend. It seemed insanely sweet! Too sweet to be enjoyable. It's funny how the taste buds adapt.

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Excess B vitamins are almost always excreted through the urine. They don't "build up" or become toxic. Depending on your diet and excercise regime, you may need more or less of them, and while the amounts they usually put in these things are excessive, they're essentially harmless.

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Hi Ben,

So far how have you been since your change of diet?

I was still skeptical about what you said:
"Caffeine will boost your brain power."

Like what you have been thinking, I was having a conception that having excessive Caffeine will ONLY damage brain. I just need some clarification.. because... I LOVE COFFEE! lol...

Please update me, thanks. :)

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I was taking "weight loss pills" a while back, from a local program called the Envision program. It's a big deal here I guess. You bought their supplements and it ended up being you took 1 multivitamin, 1 (200mg) caffeine pill, and 2 (1g) Omega 3-6-9 fat pills. They said the fat pills were for muscle tone and apetite suppresion, caffeine for weight loss and energy, and the multivitamin to help absorb everything else. Should I have just taken the caffeine pill to help with the workouts?

Also, something to add, I did a lot of research into this stuff before i started taking these pills (mind you I have quit now) but make sure you stay under 500 - 600 mg of caffeine a day for men, and 400 - 500 for women (I can't remember the exact number, sorry). Otherwise having too much caffeine in your body can kill you. Just something I read, not sure of its validity.

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@Joey,

Right now, caffeine is a large part of my daily routine. I'm not so much basing that on anything more than, as you, I really like it. I like the ritual of it - having it a certain times of the day. I like the taste of the drink.

@George,

I personally like caffeine before my workout, especially if I am going to workout early on Sat/Sun. But, I can't say whether or not it works; I feel like it does, but that's as scientific as I can get.

I think I have heard about high-dose caffeine being very dangerous; but can't remember what context I was reading that in. I do know they just banned some alcoholic + caffeine drink here in NY. 4Loko, specifically, but I think they banned (or were trying to ban) all caffeinated alcoholic beverages. Apparently it's been giving people blackouts or killing them or something. I don't drink alcohol, so I don't really have my finger on the pulse of that world.

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