Thursday, September 21, 2006

One way to give up caffeinated soda drinks.

09/21/2006. I'm addicted to Diet Coke and similar caffeinated diet colas. It's easy to quit, I've done it many times. The problem is going back to it.

Aside from caffeine addiction, another detrimental effect of soft drinks, caffeinated or not, is that they make you retain water. If you want to lose 2 to 3 pounds in 2 days, stop drinking sodas, and replace the same volume of beverages with water, and see what happens. The health advice that says "your body treats sodas as 'food' as opposed to 'water'" seems to be true. If you drink sodas, your body thinks it's not getting enough water, so it hoards it. If you drink sufficient water (real water, not sodas, etc.) your body says "I'm getting sufficient water on a regular basis, so I won't hoard water any more."

Anyway, I think I've found a new trick to quitting, that seems to be starting off well. Inexpensive caffeine tablets (200 mg) from the drug store. Popular brands, as many of us remember from our student days, are "No Doz" and "Vivarin," but the generics are less expensive.

My goal is to give up one addiction at a time. First, to give up the habit of always reaching for a soda. Second, only take enough caffeine tablets to ward off headaches and to maintain energy level. Then third, gradually cut down the caffeine tablets. That way I won't have to struggle with the soda-drinking habit and the caffeine habit at the same time.

The first benefit I see, even after just 2 days, is that the amount of caffeine I presently "need" via the tablets is much less than the amount I was drinking.

Depending on the flavor and brand, most caffeinated sodas generally have from 36 to 45 mg of caffeine per 12 ounce can. Mountain Dew has 55, and Jolt 71. There are web pages that list the caffeine content of various soft drinks, here, here, here, here. Or do a search on "amount caffeine in coke".

I used to quit colas cold turkey, and would get tremendous caffeine-withdrawal headaches, which would gradually reduce until they totally stopped after two weeks. My energy levels would drop too, because caffeine artificially increases blood-sugar levels. Drinking caffeine in large amounts over a short period of time has been shown to raise blood sugar, as described here, here, and here.

The last couple times I quit, I used the "taper off" method, rationing myself with 12 ounce cans (rather than the 24 ounce mason jar poured from a 2-liter). I'd ration myself, cutting down a little every day, but also allowing myself a "hit" whenever I started to get a headache. After a week, I was at the point where I only had a can of soda whenever I had a headache. After two weeks, I was down to zero.

Since a can of cola has only one-fourth the caffeine in a tablet, I use a pill cutter (just a couple dollars at the drug store) to divide the tablets up into smaller doses.

I think the soda-drinking habit will be overcome in one to two weeks. Besides, it wasn't the craving to drink something bubbly that made me fall off the wagon all those times. It was the lethargy, whether real or relative, due to not having caffeine in me all the time.

Even if I take only one 200 mg tablet of caffeine per day, that's less than 1/2 the amount of caffeine I was injesting via sodas. Plus it will save hundreds of dollars per year not buying all that soda. $2/day times 365 days/year = $730/year.


At 9/21/2006 01:57:00 PM, Blogger Clark Goble said...

It's not hard for me to quit and when I've been physically active I have. (The carbonation is bad for endurance and so forth)

However when I'm pushing myself endurance-wise at work and home (i.e. trying to stay awake) then the diet Coke is so easy. And it works. But it doesn't exactly help ones appearance or fitness.

I need to get off it but running one business, starting an other, and a new baby to boot. It's hard.

At 9/21/2006 02:09:00 PM, Anonymous Brian Duffin said...

I've cut back on my diet cola habit by increasing my intake of water, and by drinking Crystal Light. I guess I should also go the rest of the way and just quit for good!

At 9/21/2006 03:40:00 PM, Blogger Bookslinger said...

It didn't hit me that carbonated soda was a separate issue from caffeine-addiction until one Sunday that I spent about 7 hours at church. (My ward is in the morning, but I escorted an investigator for the afternoon meetings.)

I took a few caffeine tablets throughout the day to maintain alertness, and had very little soda in the morning before church and in the evening. But I ended up losing 3 pounds in one day (weighed the next morning), and the only way I can explain it is the water loss. I did eat a small lunch that Sunday, which should have affected my weight by only 1 pound that day.

My weight varies plus or minus 2 pounds (4 pound swing) throughout the week, and it generally takes me a week to lose 1 pound. (Hat tip to Stephen at Ethesis for exhorting weight loss too.)

The day after, Monday, I went back to full soda consumption, and at my Tuesday morning weigh-in, saw that I had gained it all back and another pound.

I've read that you can have 5 to 10 pounds of food in your intestines, and that that amount varies according to the types of food you eat; meat and other heavy stuff taking longer to transit than fruit/veggies.

One of my sins has been looking down my nose at people with eating disorders and eating problems that are directly related to their obesity. My guilty conscience then pointed out that I have my own problems of compulsive eating behavior with soda and caffeine.

Another compulsive behavior I'm working on (or trying to work on) is Internet addiction.

I used to be an IRC (chat room) addict. Then it was buying books and other stuff on eBay. Now it's blogging. The common denominator is that it's online, and most likely that I'm using it to avoid things I don't want to deal with.

I know one of the things I'm avoiding (that I shouldn't avoid) by going to the Internet, but I'm not sure of the reasons.

I know of one other thing that I'm avoiding and why I avoid it, but am not sure how to deal with it.

It just occurred to me that I'm avoiding things that cause pain.

At 9/21/2006 09:51:00 PM, Anonymous C Jones said...

What is your opinion of green tea capsules? I see them advertised as being health promoting, but couldn't you take them instead of the No-Doz and get the caffeine plus the antioxidants?

At 9/21/2006 11:56:00 PM, Blogger Guy Murray said...

Great tips. For me its not so much the caffeniated drinks as much as it is the soda part. I'll give straight water a better shot and see what happens!

At 9/22/2006 12:31:00 AM, Blogger Bookslinger said...

Since green tea is still tea, and it does have caffeine, my personal decision is to play it safe and avoid it.

After reading up on it, green tea and black tea come from the same plants, it's just the processing that's different. Black tea is oxidized (fermented) before further processing the leaves, and green tea is not.

Black tea has about 40 mg caffeine per cup, green tea has about 30 mg per cup, and coffee has 120 mg per cup. Diet coke has 45 mg caffeine per 12 ounces, or 30 mg per 8 ounce cup.

So if green tea is against the Word of Wisdom when taken as a hot drink, I'm going to play it safe and avoid the pill forms.

At 9/22/2006 03:07:00 PM, Blogger Bookslinger said...

Friday, Sept. 22nd. So far so good. I tried to have some Diet Coke this morning, and it tasted skanky to me. I ended up pouring the rest of it down the drain. It wasn't expired or open too long either.

The addictive nature of Diet Coke seems to be the caffeine.

And for those who wonder, yes, I always could tell the difference between Diet Coke and Caffeine-free Diet Coke. And I could tell the difference between Diet Pepsi and Caffeine-free Diet Pepsi.

Caffeine does add flavor. But it's looking like it was the key component of soda addiction for me.

If you've ever had skanky diet cola in cans or bottles, either from the store, or from a vending machine, check the expiration date on the container.

Aspartame breaks down and loses its sweetening/flavoring ability. After a while, you can discern the old aspartame taste.


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