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Decaf Coffee and Cortisol

by (215)
Updated about 18 hours ago
Created January 09, 2012 at 4:30 PM

I have come to the conclusion that I may have some cortisol regulation issues. Namely I have a hard time falling asleep and feel groggy upon waking which usually lasts for about 30-45 minutes. I love coffee - more for taste than effects, and typically consume 12-16oz per day. My question is: could I switch to decaf as a step to figuring this out? Will it hinder my progress significantly? I am strict Paleo with the inclusion of coffee and 85-90% dark chocolate. I am 26, 5'10" and weigh 135lb - crossfit 3x per week, yoga 2x per week and an occasional recovery type workout 1x per week. Actual sleep time can be anywhere from 6-9 hours per night in a blacked out room. Obviously I'm not overweight and the only reason I think it's a cortisol thing is due to the wired evening and tired morning gig and the body fat I do have accumulates in the abdominal region. Thanks in advance for the input and insight!

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2486 · January 09, 2012 at 7:31 PM

Hard to find good numbers on the web, but it seems green tea is 25-50 mg per cup (http://www.energyfiend.com/caffeine-content/green-tea) and Yerba mate is 50-100 mg per cup (http://www.rain-tree.com/yerbamate.htm) I know I get a LOT more zing from Yerba, but could definitely be the other compounds in there.

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3499 · January 09, 2012 at 6:52 PM

Yerba mate has roughly the same caffeine content as green tea per volume brewed beverage. The other xanthines present in both may be a different story, though.

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9 Answers

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78422 · January 09, 2012 at 7:07 PM

Accordting to Dr Perricone, caffeine content has little to do with cortisol production, that it's the coffee itself. Here is a link - http://www.dailyperricone.com/2010/03/cortisol-the-death-hormone/ So decaf seems to be just as guilty.

On another note, one day some years back I got into a discussion with a counter guy at a Starbucks and he explained to me that the darker the roast, the less caffeine in the coffee. The green lightly cooked beans have the most caffiene and the dark roasts, like French, have the least. I know this is probably counter intuituve to the common belief that most of us think dark coffee is "stronger." I have experimented with this in the past and all I can say is that I seem to get more jittery with with green "regular" coffees and not so much with French and other dark roasts.

This is just fine with me as I like the darker roasts as much more flavorful anyway, stronger but more mellow and smoky, less bitter flavor. Nonetheless, I have a habit of mixing half dark roast caf with dark roast decaf (water-process, of course). I've had to cut back on caffeine over time, lest I do cartwheels down the hallway.

For cortisol reduction, besides avoiding coffee and stress, you might look into phosphatidylserine - http://www.vrp.com/stress/phosphatidylserine-lowers-cortisol-increases-testosterone

ashwaganda - http://www.lef.org/magazine/mag2006/jun2006_report_ashwa_01.htm

and also collagen - http://raypeat.com/articles/articles/gelatin.shtml

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17136 · January 09, 2012 at 6:22 PM

Decaf is made from Robusto beans that have had their caffeine removed either via hexane (really nasty solvent) or water. Unless your brand of decaf tells you decaffeinated by water, I'd stay away from it. Also, it seems that Arabica has less phytoestrogens than Robusto, so in that sense, it's better to go with normal rather than decaf.

One path might be to mix regular and decaf beans or grounds and brew your own, then over time switch to all decaf.

Another possibility is as you drink coffee from the pot, add in more water in the machine, and run'em over the old grounds. It will lighten the coffee. You can get away with about 25% more water before it becomes too light to drink. But then, the first cups will be strong, and the last weak.

Or you might want to try a "Cafe Americano" instead. That is make espresso, and add boiling hot water on top to fill the rest.

To be honest, I've tried decaf by titrating from regular coffee all the way down to decaf and stayed at decaf for a whole month and it made no difference, except to make me sleepy and not as alert when I needed to be alert. So in the end, I went back to regular.

I've had problems falling asleep in the past when drinking too much coffee, but I tend to be more careful with the dose these days, and no longer experience this (I could put away half a pot of coffee in a day previously. Now I'm down to about 2-3.)

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2486 · January 09, 2012 at 5:06 PM

Decaf coffee gives me the same symptoms as regular coffee: fluttery heart, tight chest, anxiety. Green tea is my morning drink of choice, with black tea w/cream a close second. If you need a larger caffeine hit, try Yerba mate.

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3499 · January 09, 2012 at 6:52 PM

Yerba mate has roughly the same caffeine content as green tea per volume brewed beverage. The other xanthines present in both may be a different story, though.

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2486 · January 09, 2012 at 7:31 PM

Hard to find good numbers on the web, but it seems green tea is 25-50 mg per cup (http://www.energyfiend.com/caffeine-content/green-tea) and Yerba mate is 50-100 mg per cup (http://www.rain-tree.com/yerbamate.htm) I know I get a LOT more zing from Yerba, but could definitely be the other compounds in there.

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8979 · January 09, 2012 at 4:37 PM

I would switch to green tea, and then eventually to decaf. Green tea is parodoxically relaxing and invigorating at the same time. The caffeine high is much smoother than coffee.

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78422 · November 27, 2012 at 8:49 PM

I would go for organo gold its healthy http://mycapturepage.com/cp23.php?id=470

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2531 · January 10, 2012 at 6:16 PM

switching to decaf was the best thing i've done for my sleep. sure it might be better if i didn't drink it at all -- but like you, i drink it for the taste. i sleep much more soundly and without tossing and turning.

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215 · January 10, 2012 at 5:26 PM

Thanks for the responses everyone! I guess the best thing to do is eliminate it completely for a month and go from there. After reading this it seems the decaf is out too for the time being. Any other suggestions on things I could/should do to stop this cortisol gig before it becomes a bigger problem? I would prefer suggestions on lifestyle mods and diet changes vs supplements to take. I'd rather remove or modify things in my life rather than add things in. Thanks again!

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78422 · January 10, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Another answer above points you in the correct direction. It's not the caffeine in coffee that raises adrenalin/cortisol. There is another, as far as I know, yet to be identified compound in coffee that causes this. I get the effect even from decaf.

I've read that drinking a glass of saltwater in the morning can help with cortisol. But I'm not going to google that for you. :)

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3499 · January 09, 2012 at 6:47 PM

n=1 but I've found that caffeine consumption or non-consumption doesn't have a predictable effect on my cortisol levels. One thing you should watch out for, though, is how you metabolize caffeine. There are two variants in the human genome for dealing with alkaloids: a fast one and a slow one. I can't find where I first read this, but I believe that the rate of metabolizing coffee-grade caffeine is about 4 hours for fast vs 14 hours for slow. This is why I have a rule about not drinking caffeine after 4pm: doing so can have an effect on my circadian rhythm that takes a long time to correct.

The slow metabolizers have also been found to have more adrenaline present in urine samples, so it's possible though unproven that there's already a predisposition to adrenaline resistance in this population. IMO, there's little danger in getting off the sauce for a while and seeing if it has any effect for you. If you're a slow metabolizer, it will decrease your heart attack risk.

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