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Decaf Coffee - Where's the Buzz?
Updated on March 11, 2012
I started drinking decaffeinated coffee when I was pregnant on the advice of the medical community because it was good for my baby. Sometime into my pregnancy I was on my way to Starbucks when a horrified friend intervened for the health of the baby. I brushed her off saying that I was going for a decaf. This incised her even more. How could decaf be bad for me or my baby? My doctor, obstretrician and every pregnancy book that I read (which amounted to a stack that now creating a sleep fortress on my bed side table) warned me against caffeinated coffee and suggested the perfect out, decaf?
Turns out it's an ugly process getting all the jittery stuff out of there. Typically, the beans are repeatedly steamed and then rinsed with one of three solvents to remove the caffeine. The first is dichloromethane or DCM, the body converts it to carbon monoxide in the body and has been linked to cancer of the liver, pancreas and lungs in lab animals. In my case, the worst news for my little bump, was that it crosses the placental barrier - although has even when maternal toxicity has been noted in animals, fetal toxicity has not. The next are triethylchloride and methylene chloride; however, as both have been linked to cancer, they are not often used. Most common is ethyl acetate, most commonly ingested as the byproduct of fermenting wine. That sounds ok. Maybe not for the baby but ok in general. As it naturally occurs in fruit (although is most often synthesized to cut costs), products that use it can be labeled natural. It has been proven thus far safe at low doses... But yes... It I'd the key ingredient in nail polish remover. Enter Swiss water decaf. This is the only real naturally decaffeinated coffee, it removes more caffeine, and it is the only process that leaves flavors intact. The other methods may have been safety approved but when it comes to chancing chemical sensitivity and my unborn child, I go with Swiss water. It amazes me that more people don't know.
Water, Water Everywhere
Updated on March 11, 2012
I ran a stair race this morning that took me six and a half minutes. That’s right, six and a half minutes. Even the group at the back took around fifteen minutes, which leads me to believe that race times were about equivalent to that person’s mile time plus about 5%. I have never seen a water station in a mile race, yet there were two water stations on this course.
As a coach and athlete, I realize that water consumption during exercise can be a deeply personal issue for people. Some cling to water bottles during 30 minute yoga classes, others forgo hydration during two hour hard interval sessions. But do either of these groups of people need or not need water? In Dr. Seuss fashion, I believe the answer is yes.
As has been shown recently, a 1-2% dehydration level (the amount typically agreed to trigger thirst) is not likely to cause a serious loss in performance. Ask Haile Gebreselaise if he was dehydrated when he ran the world record for the marathon, and he would tell you that he suffered a 10% loss in body weight due to dehydration. In fact, the faster you run, the more likely you are to be dehydrated at the finish line*.
So what about the piles of studies that show dehydration to be a big factor in a decline of performance? The same studies funded by bottled water and sport drink companies? Well, most often, the participants are in a forced state of dehydration and they are not allowed to drink according to their thirst cues. Of course, performance declines. Yet somehow, this decline is attributed to dehydration (and thus thirst being a poor indicator) as opposed to correctly reasoning that people should drink when they are thirsty lest their performance suffer. Suddenly a major part of sport performance is who can drink the most water. And people started dying.
Enter hyponatremia. Originally (and often still) thought to be at the opposite end of the spectrum from dehydration, it caused a major backlash against “overhydrating” some years ago. Interestingly, the sport drink companies managed to make lemonade from these lemons so to speak – by stating that electrolytes would prevent you from swinging either way. As we have seen from the fact that 30% of all Ironman triathlon finishers have been both dehydrated and hyponatremic, the spectrum appears to… well… not be a spectrum after all**.
So, if I have convinced you to forgo water and become as dehydrated as possible in order to run faster, you have really missed my point. The main problem with studies that look at dehydration is that they are typically performed in a lab under unnatural conditions with a total disregard for thirst cues. My argument is that yet again, you know best. If you get thirsty when you run and you have no water, that likely impacts your performance (not to mention your enjoyment) but if you do not get thirsty, it is doubtful that swigging water will give you game (maybe just a sloshy tummy).