Making conscious caffeine choices

Kelly Hueckman, Staff Writer

Often considered the nectar of the gods by college students, caffeinated beverages have long been associated with 8 a.m. classes and long nights spent hunched over textbooks.

Coffee, soda and energy drinks have allowed college students to reap the benefits of a moderate caffeine intake, including increase in alertness, elevation in mood and even fewer depressive symptoms.

However, a 2021 study from Mayo Clinic and Florida State University found that college students consume an average of 800 milligrams of caffeine per day, 400 milligrams over the recommended daily dose.

While it was concluded that further studies were needed to determine whether excessive caffeine intake causes high anxiety levels and depressive symptoms, a correlation was found between the two.

While I look forward to my morning Starbucks as much as the next person, it’s time to recognize the unhealthy dependency we have on caffeine.

For students looking to cut their caffeine levels for the sake of their mental health, here are some tips for the grieving process.

Advance-Titan photo
Energy drinks are common among college students looking for an energy boost, but they might have negative effects on mental health.

Keep track of your caffeine
It’s easy to underestimate just how many milligrams of caffeine you are putting into your body each day, especially with some energy drinks containing upwards of 200 milligrams per serving.
Logging your caffeine intake can help you better understand how much you’re consuming and encourage mindful decisions.
Looking at or searching online for nutrition labels is the first step to starting to cut your caffeine intake.

Decrease levels slowly
While quitting caffeine cold turkey is the fastest way to ditch a caffeine addiction, it is accompanied by some gruesome withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, trouble concentrating and high levels of irritability.
Furthermore, cutting caffeine out of a diet entirely is not realistic for most college students.
Gradually decreasing levels of caffeine can help students reach more moderate levels of caffeine consumption.
Next time you need your caffeine fix, try asking for half-caf coffee or slowly decreasing the amount of servings you consume.
Moderating caffeine intake can optimize the benefits of caffeine consumption while minimizing the negative side effects.

Find caffeine alternatives
One of the most appetizing parts of caffeinated beverages isn’t just the taste, but it’s also the boost of energy that comes with them.
For the many college students desperate for a few more hours of energy, there are other natural alternatives that can help students feel more alert.
As always, staying hydrated is key. Additionally, berries are a great source of fiber that have a connection to improved blood flow.
Along with berries, nuts are another nutrient-dense food that have shown to have positive effects on cognition, mimicking the alertness that comes with caffeine.
Adding these nutrient-packed foods to your diet can help reduce caffeine cravings and the fatigue that follows.

Give energy, get energy
We’re all a little too familiar with the afternoon slump that can cause us to crave caffeine to get us through the second half of the day.
However, instead of reaching for another cup of coffee, take a brisk walk or do a few body exercises to help fend off the cravings.
While expending energy when you feel like you’re severely lacking might seem counteractive, studies have shown that short bursts of exercise can combat fatigue.
Using time between classes or assignments to refresh yourself with a brisk walk and fresh air is a healthier alternative than a second serving of caffeine.

Take a break
And not just from the caffeine.
One of the main reasons students consume excessive amounts of caffeine is to keep up with piles of school work, jobs and other responsibilities.
In an individualistic culture that revolves around constant work, it’s important for students to take a much needed break from stressful responsibilities.
With more time to relax, the desire for caffeine should decrease along with stress levels.