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A Lesson Learned Through Decaf Coffee

The Huberman Lab podcast was one of the great additions to my life in 2022. One particular episode pushed me to finally tackle my coffee addiction. The change started after I heard Professor Huberman, neuroscientist and researcher, discuss the benefits of delayed morning caffeine.

“Delaying your caffeine intake by an hour or two after waking up can offset the coffee crash.”

The thought, as I understand it, is that after waking our bodies still have traces of the “sleepiness” molecule, adenosine. This builds throughout the day and fuels our evening slumber. Drinking caffeine immediately after waking stops the molecule from being fully cleared. Early caffeine also increases sensitivity to the molecule after the caffeine wears off. More “sleepiness receptors” appear to combat the caffeine and the molecules that never cleared are suddenly extra-effective. That’s the mid-morning crash.

This was crucial knowledge to addressing my reliance on caffeine. I treasure early mornings and coffee has long been a faithful companion in the dark, early hours. Waiting ninety minutes would be painful. Fortunately, there’s decaf.

For all the coffee I’ve drank, I was never enticed by decaf. Mostly, I hadn’t looked at regular coffee as problematic. I’d drink three to five cups a day, never past late afternoon. I attributed late nights to a reticence to sleep, not over-caffeination. Deeper down, though, there was another worry.

I’ve maintained a rather clean diet for nearly a decade, consuming unaltered food where possible. Decaffeinated coffee appeared to be another deception from Big Food. I was convinced chemicals were applied to eliminate the caffeine and marketers downplayed potential risks. We’ve all watched as high fructose corn syrup has created addicts and caused disease. Food producers haven’t taken any responsibility. Decaf was just another trap. It must be safer to consume Mother Nature’s natural products than take my chances with anything produced in a lab.

My lack of understanding caused worry and concern. Continuing on the current path was practically effortless. For me, that meant a bottomless mug with no plan to change. But as with other anxiety-inducing situations, my caffeine addiction was not effortless. I was bound to the cup and adjusting my life to make ends meet. Focused mornings were offset by aimless afternoons, kept at bay with yet another cup. Thankfully, Huberman’s insight struck a chord. My post-Deep-Work hours, when the clarity and energy of the morning had faded, were never focused. Decaf was worth another look.

Thankfully, it was a quick exercise to learn the process for creating decaf coffee. Chemicals were once the cheap, effective approach. In the late 70’s, studies highlighted potential dangers and the bad press drove companies to new methods of decaffeination, specifically the Swiss Water Method. Coffee beans are soaked in water, which separates the flavor and caffeine from the beans. The flavored, caffeinated water is run through a carbon filter, removing only the caffeine. Raw beans then enter an 8 hour bath in the flavored, decaffeinated water. This extracts only the caffeine, leaving the flavor intact because it’s already present in the water. Chemical free. The result: flavored beans with 97% less caffeine.

Decaf coffee quickly became my early morning pleasure. My first regular cup of the day is far more effective and full caffeine coffee is not a necessity but a tool. When I’m in need of a boost, it’s there.

My aversion to decaf coffee never felt like an issue. I believed I was doing best for my body, but it was only an excuse for the addiction. Thankfully, understand the process didn’t take much. Address the rumors that had disguised as fact. Become familiar with the science. We protect ourselves at all costs, often aided by fabricated ideas of how the world works. A little knowledge can reveal the truth and avoid a life driven by myth.


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