After I had initially experimented with drinking enormous amounts of coffee per day I abandoned coffee completely. The side effects were too bothersome. I slept too long, crashed too hard during the day and felt pronounced headaches unless I’ve drank a cup a day. Two extremes got me thinking - could I perhaps find an optimal middle ground?
With that in mind I’ve attempted a moderate approach. I have consumed at most 2 cups (or equivalent amount of caffeine-containing substances) a day. One cup almost immediately upon waking up and another one after lunch or in the afternoon. The morning coffee ritual became essential as I made a push away from evenings into early mornings. I have realized that with a full time job doing anything extra curricular in the evenings is difficult as there is little energy left. Now, I mostly use evenings for being with my wife, reading and relaxing. Of course, there are occasional activities so exciting that even low energy can’t stop me. Mornings is a completely different story. When fully rested I feel energized to work on difficult yet fun stuff. For example, every morning for the past 2 months (with rare exceptions) I’ve been studying German. I cannot imagine to study a foreign language in the evening. I feel tired, unmotivated and learning feels like a drag. In the long term I hope to gradually break into a habit of waking up at something like 5am while going to bed at 9pm or so. I’ll leave the evenings for wine and cigars.
Do I notice any side effects? Not really. I don’t feel too bad on days that I miss coffee. I don’t get insomnia after drinking an espresso shot at 7pm. I don’t feel particularly cranky. I don’t crash at 3-5pm.
Moderate amount of caffeine gives a subtle but noticeable mental boost. I am pleased with the results. I will likely continue the practice indefinitely. Perhaps I am stating the obvious with this experiment. Most people consume 1-2 cups a day anyway. In everyday life I take a lot of things for granted. But sometimes, I like to take out a piece of my life-style and change it to see if the change makes a difference. More often than not I arrive at trite conclusions and revert to the old ways. In rare cases I change my habits significantly. But in either case I come out with a better understanding of myself.
I should insert a disclaimer that I don’t pay much for coffee. It is free at work and at home I use an inexpensive capsule-based coffee maker. Occasionally (i.e. once every two months or so) I go for an extravagant drink at a coffee shop. If I had to pay for every coffee it costs in coffee shops I would abandon the practice very quickly. Sorry, but very few people realize just how expensive their coffee habit really is.