Book Nook: Caffeine, by Michael Pollan

Let’s be honest here. Most of us do drugs.

Well, one drug specifically–caffeine.

Caffeine has been used regularly for centuries now, and Michael Pollan decided it was time to take a look at the history and try to explore some of the ramifications of our developed addiction to those little plants–coffee and tea. Pollan is most notably known for The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Cooked, the latter of which still sits on my coffee table in my stack of books to get to.

Caffeine was a shorter Audible recording, focused solely on one aspect of our diets that has played a profound role in our lives for several generations now.

The audiobook explores the history of caffeine, from pollination science through the industrial revolution, which was largely fueled by, you guessed it, caffeine.

Pollan also explores the addiction side, and the side effects of it as well. He quits caffeine in the name of writing the book. He offers a conclusion after he has re-introduced it back into his life and the lessons he learns from both experiments.

The main takeaways of the book:

  • Caffeine helps us cope with the world that caffeine helped create.
  • The shorter you sleep, the shorter you live. And caffeine does mess with your sleep, even if you swear you fall asleep just fine.
  • The energy you receive from caffeine has been borrowed from the future. It is mostly an adenosine block. That dam will burst eventually.
  • Fun fact: caffeine played a role in the opium epidemic in China, due to England’s trade deficits. Okay, maybe not exactly a fun fact.

My personal experience: Pretty much the first thing I do every morning is pop open a Rockstar Recovery Lemonade. 160mg of caffeine. I take an ashwagandha pill after breakfast that also has another 150mg of caffeine. I typically have a Pepsi Max in the afternoons, usually at a ballgame around 5 p.m. You know the one–the ginseng-infused one with extra caffeine. Another 69mg per 12 oz. I usually get the 16 oz. bottle.

So, yeah, I’m a walking chemistry experiment. Since finishing this book, I have gotten back to not having any caffeine after noon. Even that minor adjustment alone I can tell a difference in my sleep quality. Tolerance differences exist, but the average half-life for caffeine is around 12 hours. Stopping at my noon is my current negotiation with my addiction. Yes, I’m an addict. I will rationalize the hell out of this addiction too. I promise I have it under control…

In his book, Pollan goes three months without caffeine. He kicks the habit, or so he thinks (spoiler foreshadow).

If you pour copious amounts of caffeine into your system like I do, I recommend giving this one a read. It is just 2 hours, 2 minutes for those of you who listen at 1x.

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