Is it bad to rely on caffeine?

Feeling like you can't go throughout your day without a pick-me-up from an iced latte or energy drink? Or worse, does a day lacking caffeine leave you with a headache or nausea? If you fall into a routine of relying on coffee every morning or an energy drink every afternoon, it can leave you with caffeine reliance—which could give you some pretty serious side effects. 

What can cause a reliance on caffeine?
A lack of sleep or poor nutrition can leave you feeling wiped, leading to a tendency to pick up coffee as a substitute. "School definitely caused me to rely on caffeine. Senior year especially has increased my coffee intake. With more AP and honors classes, extracurricular responsibilities and endless college applications, I’ve been seriously lacking sleep. I’m almost always tired when I go to school and when I come back home, so I usually feel like I need a caffeine boost," said Jinny. K., 17.

While your late nights and early mornings may help you stay on top of your homework, it's *super* important to be clocking in at least eight hours of sleep per night. While sleep is #1 when it comes to helping you feel awake, having healthy eating habits can also help you perk up. Skipping meals is a no-go, and munching on foods such as bananas, oatmeal, hummus and carrots will help give you a caffeine-free boost. 

What *really* is a reliance on caffeine?
If you find yourself needing a venti iced mocha in the mornings (and not having one basically makes your whole day worse), you're probably relying a bit too much on caffeine. While having Starbucks once or twice a week is perfectly fine, getting more than that can leave you v. dependable on your next caffeine run. Doctors recommend no more than 100 mg (roughly one cup of coffee) a day—but this number is even less for teens, and especially not every day. 

What can you do to stop relying on caffeine?
While you don't have to eliminate caffeine cold turkey, cut back on the amount you're consuming each week. This can be anything from substituting one of your Starbucks runs with a smoothie, or trying out an energy boost that has less caffeine (think: green tea).

Matcha is another *great* option—it has enough caffeine to give you a boost (about half the amount of coffee) and it can help you decrease your reliance on caffeine. Additionally, getting more sleep and eating healthy will give you more energy. "Not drinking caffeinated drinks ultimately makes me feel more energized. When I simply rely on sleep and eating a well-balanced breakfast in the morning, I tend to feel better," said Eva M., 16. Ultimately, relying on sleep and nutrition to get your energy will help you feel more awake in the long run and leave you living a healthier lifestyle.

What are your favorite hacks for staying awake, sans coffee? Let us know on Twitter @girlslifemag!

Need more pick-me up advice? Check out these related posts:
📚 Struggling with burnout? Here's how to manage academic stress
😴 The ultimate guide to improving your sleep schedule
🛁 9 easy ways to destress after a long school day

Slider image: @emmachamberlain
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by Serena Sherwood | 1/31/2022