January 26, 2010

BABY STEP 26 - Hop to it! (Jan 26)

“I believe that water is the only drink for a wise man.” (Henry David Thoreau)
Why not just enjoy a cold glass of Coke or Pepsi instead of water? Or a hot cup of coffee? (I don’t drink coffee or tea, but I did--up until twenty-seven days ago--drink Pepsi. Diet Pepsi with cherry, to be exact.)
Why water?
Okay, okay, I get that my body is not composed of 60% Pepsi. (Most days, anyway.)
Don’t panic, I’m not going to tell you that you have to give up your soft drinks. I’m just going to point to a healthier way and let you come to your own decision. You’re a big girl (or boy).
I just want to point out some facts that I tended to overlook last year when I started drinking lots and lots of Pepsi.
Facts like ... Caffeine. The pick-me-up stuff. (But could it also be the keeps-me-from-sleeping-soundly stuff?)
Okay, here’s my scientific explanation.
There’s a neurotransmitter in your body (adenosine) that normally causes you to feel more calm. That’s good, right? We want to be calm. I could use more calm in my life.
Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, blocking adenosine’s calming effect. Instead of calming, caffeine causes a release of adrenaline, the "fight or flight" hormone. What does that do to your body? Your heart rate picks up, your pupils actually dilate, and your muscles tighten. Also, sugar (glucose) is released into your blood stream to give you extra energy.
So ... the caffeine buzz? Or calm? It’s a tougher choice than it sounds like.
And caffeine is addictive. It increases dopamine, which activates the pleasure response in the brain. Who wouldn’t want another shot of dopamine?
The up side? Caffeine perks us up, make us feel alert, gives us energy with adrenaline, and makes us feel good with dopamine.
But what does up does come down. Since caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, you get some unpleasant effects, like restlessness and headaches. How about irritability? It raises your heart rate and blood pressure. And, as you use it for a long period of time, you have to take more and more to get the same effect.
I know our lives are tough, but do we really have to be in a constant state of adrenalized emergency readiness? I’m thinking that’s not healthy. Plus you’re probably not sleeping as deeply because of the long-term effects.
And, since we’re talking ultimately about water, caffeine is a diuretic. That means a loss of fluid. That means dehydration.
So on the next hot day (months away), when you really want a caffeinated soft drink, think about how you’re actually dehydrating your body instead of hydrating it.
So today just think about the possibility of giving up soft drinks. But for sure drink your extra glass of water. Have you fancied it up yet?
What are you waiting for? Hop to it. And, if you’re still drinking caffeine, you can not only hop, but add the proverbial skip and a jump. (I don’t think it’s a valid exercise plan, though.)

© Copyright 2010 Heather Horrocks

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