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Good Habits #4 – Blessed Brown Water of Life

So I’ve been spending the past few weeks writing about assorted things COVID and a few other random topics, but I think it’s time to get back to some of the basics.  Actually, it’s been months.  The lockdown is causing me to lose track of time.  What day is it?  Anyway, the original purpose of this blog was to write about what I’ve discovered about the benefits of exercise and how to squeeze it into my schedule, the good dietary habits I’ve acquired, and the bad ones I’m trying to get rid of.

So today, I’m writing about my favorite thing.  The murky, caramel colored stew beloved by the denizens of cubicles everywhere.  The dark liquid of alertness and heart palpitations.  The caffeinated rocket fuel that powers the greatest economy in the history of the world.  The Blessed Brown Water of Life.

I’m talking about coffee, of course.  The drink that keeps truckers awake on long hauls, cops awake on long shifts, and desk jockeys like me awake during the mind-numbing banality that is our daily work.  The drink so American that Sons of Liberty leader Sam Adams declared it preferable to drink coffee because tea drinking was unpatriotic.  This was probably right after he and his guys culturally appropriated outfits from American Indians and dumped all of the tea in the harbor.  In order to show our patriotism, we would stop drinking things imported from China and drink things imported from…Columbia.

I’m sure I’ve used that joke before somewhere on this blog, but I don’t care.  Even the greats reuse material.  Anyway, as I’ve mentioned in virtually every blog that I write, I’m a CPA, and this stuff keeps me going through the day.  And every other office worker who performs humdrum work.  Or, more succinctly, every other office worker.  

The average American drinks three cups a day.  Which means the average American is a weak sauce, caffeine lightweight.  At least, by my previous standards.  A cup per hour used to be the norm for me, from nine to five every day.  It’s necessary in the accounting world.  Without coffee, I’d take one look at a spreadsheet and collapse unconscious.  Out of either despair at the sheer mundanity of my job or abject boredom (also because of the sheer mundanity of my job) or some combination of the two.

And now that I’ve been tracking my nutrients and calories, I’ve discovered, to my great joy, that the stuff provides a pretty decent number of micronutrients.  The seven cups or so I used to drink gave me one quarter of my daily allowance in potassium, one eighth of my magnesium needs (something that is surprisingly difficult to get enough of, as I’ve noted previously), one fifth of niacin and thiamine needs, nearly all of the vitamin B5 I’ll need, and all of the Riboflavin I might need.  

The unfortunate thing I discovered is that it can also cause you to lose magnesium and calcium.  So I’ve dialed it back to four cups, which is what doctors recommend as the max.  This way, I get the benefits, while limiting the side effects.  So, if you want to know the nutrients I get from my current dosage, take every fraction I listed in the previous paragraph and multiply by four sevenths.  I’ll wait.

Now, I’d heard that there are other side effects.  I’d often heard that too much is bad for your heart and your kidneys, amongst other things.  I even heard that this could cause Rhabdomyolysis.  Rhabdomyolysis is a word that makes me thank God and all that is good and right and just that I’m a blogger.  Because I don’t have to try to pronounce that awful word verbally.  And spell check is available when I inevitably misspell it.  Apparently, this is muscle breakdown that releases something into your blood that damages your kidneys.

But according to the National Institutes of Health, Rha- screw it, I don’t feel like typing it again.  The Disease That Shall Not Be Named is rarely caused by coffee.  One lady drank a liter and had bad problems.  Which is less than I used to drink.  But if you limit your consumption to four, the risks decrease, and they weren’t that high to begin with.

As for heart disease and stroke, the risks are not increased.  They’re actually decreased.  Also, risks of certain cancers, Parkinson’s, and dementia are decreased.  And although coffee increases blood pressure when you drink it, the increase is temporary, so it’s only a problem if you suffer from pretty serious hypertension.  So basically this stuff is bronze colored elixir which helps cure all ills.  Unless you drink decaf.  Which is a monstrosity that would justly see you condemned to the innermost circles of Hell.  You need to drink the regular stuff to get the benefits, the higher the octane, the better.

There are a few other downsides.  One obvious one is that it’ll result in a few extra trips to the bathroom.  But I can live with that.  It gives me an excuse to get away from my annoying co-workers.  Besides, it helps with the bowel movements.  This can be great for people who like burritos, like me.  That trip to Chipotle that leaves you backed up is easily cured with coffee.  It’s basically caffeinated Drano.  Except that it won’t kill you like actual Drano.

And there are a few other drawbacks.  It can cause heartburn.  It can aggravate things like acid reflux.  And if I have too much, I might feel a slightly sour stomach.  So if any of these happen, this is when I stop and eat something and drink some water.  It’s important to eat stuff.  Or else bad things can happen.

Such as the worst side effect: the jitters.  This is what happens when the caffeine hijacks your nervous system.  Too much coffee, especially on an empty stomach, sends signals to your brain which results in shakes, sweats, clammy skin, and an urge to eat bags and bags of potato chips or bars and bars of chocolate.  Which is not helpful if you’re trying to lose weight.

I’m told that some people lose sleep when they drink too much coffee.  These people are clearly genetically inferior weaklings, because it never stopped me.  But I’ve been told that even if I seem to fall asleep easily, I don’t necessarily sleep well.  So it probably is a good idea to cut back after lunch.  So now I have one more cup to offset my after lunch drowsiness, then switch to water.

Naturally, all of this doesn’t apply if you have some sort of medical condition. If you’re suffering from osteoporosis (I.E. bone loss that is common in old people, astronauts, and alcoholics), you should not drink something that literally makes you piss away your calcium.  Also, it doesn’t mix well with pregnancy.  You don’t want to make your kid hyperactive before he or she is even born.  And certain prescription drugs or other conditions may interact with it.  Consider this the obligatory “Ask Your Doctor” disclaimer.

So now that we’ve established why coffee is awesome (and also to be used with care), let’s discuss how we should drink it.  Of course, there are so many options out there, the undereducated coffee noob might get severe decision anxiety.  Even regular coffee comes in about a million different flavors.  Then there’s the non-standard options.  

Such as espresso, which is basically just coffee shots.  People who pound these are probably psychotic serial killers, so I don’t.  And if you’re a fancy lad or lass, you might like Cappuccino or one of the many bourgeois variations you get at Starbucks or Panera. But I avoid these too.  The fancy coffee oftentimes has a few hundred calories.  Getting fat off of coffee seems like a pretty pathetic way to get fat.  If you’re going to get fat, you should do it with cake and pie and doughnuts like a normal person.

And in addition to the numerous varieties of coffee, there’s a million possible add-ons.  Any coffee shop has an entire table or booth full of things you can add to it.  For example, you could put creamer in your coffee.  But that’s for the weak.  And you could put in powdered creamer, but that’s basically just sugar.  And it’s also for the weak.  Speaking of sugar, don’t mess with that either.  You’ll just add calories.  

Not all options are bad, though.  If you’re worried about that calcium and magnesium loss I mentioned earlier, you could put milk and dark chocolate in the coffee.  I was thrilled to learn that dark chocolate had magnesium.  It proves the existence of a higher power.  A cup of this type of coffee will replace any magnesium you might lose.

But the problem with all of these is that they’ll make you fat.  Drinking four cups of coffee with cream and sugar, or milk and chocolate, or those cutesy little syrups, is more than a meal’s worth of calories.  Best to stick to low-cal sweeteners, if you must sweeten it.  Despite what you may have heard, they don’t give you cancer.  Although I don’t touch that Stevia stuff.  It’s a travesty.  If a plant could vomit, I think that it would taste like Stevia.  But the other options are fine.  Four cups of coffee with nothing but sweetener (or nothing at all) is less than ten calories.  And given the nutrients and other benefits, it’s a bargain.

So it’s best to drink regular coffee, without too much added.  This isn’t as dull as it sounds, fortunately.  There are all sorts of flavor varieties, but I’ve found an easy way to decide what to get.  Ignore the name and look at the octane.  Most bags have a “strength” label.  Such as mild or medium, which is basically just feeble brown water.  This stuff is so lame, they might as well write “Forever Alone” on the side of the container as a warning to the people who might drink it.  Or “Here There Be Incels”.  Avoid this stuff if you have self-respect.

I drink medium-bold at the very least, which tends to taste more like percolated tree bark than brown water.  You know you’re getting high-powered stuff when it tastes like this.  But when I feel truly fearless, go with the extra bold, dark stuff.  This is hardcore motor oil.  That’s the stuff that keeps me awake through the tedious parts of accounting work.  Which is literally all of the parts of accounting work.

I guess you could drink some other caffeinated beverage.  But face it, soft drinks are for kids, energy drinks are for raving lunatics, and tea is for traitors to the American Revolution and a dishonor to all of the founding fathers.  So do as Samual Adams said and drink coffee.  This can keep you going and does all sorts of good things for you.  Just don’t overdo it, and don’t load it down with too much garbage.  It’ll keep you productive, awake, provide some good nutrients, and generally make the day easier to handle, no matter how dull your job is.  I should know.  Jobs don’t get much duller than mine.

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Published by drilldowndiet

Formerly obese CPA/health humorist using Cronometer and FitBod to lose weight. Sharing assorted life hacks to squeeze nutrition and exercise into a busy schedule. Also on Twitter at @drilldowndiet and Facebook.

9 thoughts on “Good Habits #4 – Blessed Brown Water of Life

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