On Motivation

“If you don’t have a dream, then you have nothing to work for, nothing to get up in the morning for, no reason…and no purpose to be. But friends we do have a dream and dreams do come true not because we keep believing but we keep working hard” – Kai Greene

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I’m starting this blog to share with you my outlook on balancing physical wellness with a career in today’s lightning-fast world.  I suspect I will go on to write about much more than that over time.  Ultimately, I have always offered my support and insight to friends and acquaintances who have come to me, and I finally feel it time to commit to cataloging my thoughts on the questions I’ve been asked, as well as my own thoughts on this insane world and how we try to balance with our lives.  I so strongly believe everything should be paid forward, and only ask you take anything I write as simply my opinion, and realize that I do not write a single word without serious care and scrutiny knowing I am sharing this with more than just myself.

That being said, I wanted to start this blog off on something much more abstract.  I wanted to start this all off writing on what I believe is the most fundamental element that we have control of in searching for success in our lives.  Motivation.

Motivation is the difference between waking up with your alarm, and slapping the snooze button until your life turns into a race.  Motivation is the difference between a New Year’s resolution becoming a part of your everyday life, or it becoming a running joke of accepting assured failure before you even take the first step.   Motivation is why so many of us sprout these beautiful, seemingly incredible ideas with such vigor and passion – and its fickleness is why we so quickly let them fall to the wayside to accommodate safe, warm, humble…and ever unchanging, monotonous realities.  I believe motivation is everything, and without it our dreams – the goals so vividly wild and incredible we (almost) dismiss them as unattainable – will, in fact, become unreachable.  Ultimately, I believe success is motivation, and without motivation there can be no success.  Some might disagree.

Allow me to deviate here.  The word success bothers me, or at least its interpretation does.  I feel as though ‘success’ has come to imply for many a set societal standard of an ever-lengthening financial or political finish line; an eerie outwards-facing-in measure forcing Generation Y and Z (and honestly, even X) into a rat race of peer one-upsmanship, and a blind pursuit of a fixed idea of what life is supposed to be, instead of what life could be.  Regardless, we can all agree success and its pursuit are incredibly important drivers of our daily happiness, self-worth, and satisfaction on this earth.  Yet I argue that because of this, we cannot allow success to be something that is standardized, but instead something unique for each of us.  It cannot be born into, won in a lottery, or gifted and be expected to yield the same deep-rooted fulfillment as when it is toiled after through a daily bout of effort, grit, and dedication that becomes a part of our personalities and who we are over time.  Success is something that becomes an internal acknowledgement of a pure pursuit towards anything of passion and belief.  It is something impermeable by outside judgment, a sort of peace rewarded after a long day, or month, or year, or life’s pursuit of a belief or dream – not of some expectation.  I hope some of you have been lucky enough to have discovered and committed to such a belief as you’ve progressed through life.  I’m not so sure I have yet.

But I’m rambling.  My bottom line is that without motivation, there can be no sustained success and fulfillment at the end of the road.  But look, what I’m saying here is nothing new to you.  I know you know what motivation is, I know you’ve felt it time and time (and time) again.  Whether having allowed it to yield success or failure, you have felt motivation.

Yet what I’ve come to realize is, so many of us don’t understand motivation.  Not how fickle and passing it can be if left uncultivated and uncared for.  Not how easily it can be extinguished as some passing spark of a dream, never to be rekindled again, no matter how hard we try.  And not how critically vital it can be if fostered, visualized, and made ironclad into a fact of life.  Motivation is finite, this is a fact, and it will run out leaving you empty-handed and unfulfilled – another thing I know we all have felt.  Simply put, it is a beast we must learn to tame if we wish to journey the places it can take us.  This applies to success, fulfillment, academic achievement, and financial, physical, or mechanical advancement.  While I’d wholeheartedly encourage you to focus on the fulfillment aspect of all this, motivation applies to everything currently outside our grasp.  In the simplest terms: everything attainable if the motivation is there.

I’m writing this post (and any that may follow it) through the lens I know best.  Until recently, everything I knew of motivation was tied to physical wellness and scholarship – a direct result of my definition of success being shaped by the collegiate system and growing up overweight and bullied throughout elementary and middle school.  I carried some very deep demons that I was so incredibly fortunate enough to recognize did not have to continue dragging me down into some dark place, but could be harnessed into a fuel of sorts.   Learning to channel raw and bruised emotions into something I could so clearly see in front of me every morning when I woke up and every night when I closed my eyes to go to bed.  A conception powerful enough to overcome temptation, sickness, and the all-too-human instinct of short-term gratification.  A vision ironclad enough to withstand and drown out the siren calls beaconing me to unwind or revel every night with friends whom I truly adored (and I am certainly not suggesting these actions are detriments to success, I would have been equally crushed without them).

I imagined what it would feel like to take steps on Stanford grounds, which classes I would take, how I would have to buy more layers to deal with that chilly (but not-so-chilly) climate.  I closed my eyes and saw my quadriceps striating, felt my calves separating, my abdominals cutting through my thick, genetically stubborn skin.  I visualized those emotions and that dark-rooted motivation into something bright, beautiful, and most importantly tangible…and I did not (under ANY circumstance) let go, because it was far too valuable for me, and because I also visualized, with equal clarity, losing it all again.  This was my answer to feeling good about myself, something I had wanted since I was ten, and I would NOT let go.  That drive was ironclad.  That drive is what I encourage you to seek.  I now am…

Until recently, my motivation was unstoppable – the path to success was coming easy, because motivation came easy.  Then something happened.  It wasn’t until I began working when I started to struggle with what had come so naturally for the past seven years.  With a full time career came a substantial loss of control over my own life.  Things I was so easily able to account for and plan around in pursuit of my dreams were no longer in my hands, but variable and subject to change on a daily basis.  My world of structure and discipline shifted.  Going from twenty-two years of shelter, structure, and a societally defined path of education to the professional world where nothing is certain is an incredibly hard adjustment for some to make (and I warn anyone preparing to make that change who is reading this to be cognizant of this as you move forward).  Everything changed and it almost broke me, and I quickly realized how fragile I still was.  But as time passed, as with almost all things, I learned to adapt and build my own structure once again – granted through much more toil and quite a bit less sleep.  Yet, in doing this, I found a new strength I never knew I had – an independence and a will bred by something deeper than old pains and demons.  Emerging from those first difficult months of my career, it became clear to me that I finally did feel good about who I was.  And with that, I realized that my motivation was bread through bitterness and spite, not happiness and fulfillment.  But that realization changed everything.

I no longer carry the same unwavering determination driven by those dark feelings – for that I am grateful and feel so freed.  But on the other hand, that determination really was unwavering – I used to be unstoppable.  Today, I’m still working towards finding a new, healthier, and sustainable balance between motivation, work, and success.  I don’t restrain myself anymore from an impromptu Thursday happy hour, but by the same token, I tackle the workweek with a religious precision and schedule that allows me the time to do so without sacrificing the goals I still wish to meet.  I still desire, with more than anything in my heart, to find myself at Stanford where I can foster a career in venture capital – a place where I can dig my fingers into the motivation of other hopefuls and help foster their dreams.  I still desire to fight in the cage.  I still desire to gain a physique sponsorship.  But I do so now out of passion and challenge, not of spite and grudge.  The difference is something I struggle to describe through writing, but I no longer feel trapped by having to prove something.  What I wake up for every morning and put myself to bed early for every night is for my own success, and my own fulfillment.  Nobody else’s.  I believe that is happiness.  I believe we are all capable of it if we understand the power of motivation, and the power of visualizing it until it’s tangible and ironclad.

I hope you all find your motivation.  Your success and fulfillment.  But above all, your happiness.

New Year’s Resolutions & Nine Unwritten Rules of Gym Etiquette

Each year, sometime around December 29th or 30th, I start to see my Twitter and Facebook timelines gravitate towards a common theme – one that really pisses me off. Quips, like …”they better not touch my treadmill”, “get ready for curls in the squat rack”, and “just give it two weeks, it’ll all be back to normal” pollute my timeline, forcing me to read through a truly disgusting display of negativity and selfish insecurity. It’s hard getting started in the gym, really hard. I remember the unnerving anxiety and perpetual fear of judgment – not knowing what exactly I should do to placate these intense, maniacal animals lifting metal and pounding on rubber around me. And instead of encouragement, some treat the men and women making a genuine effort to change their lives like pariahs for not knowing exactly what to do.

I’m not sure how it happened, but it seems to have become fashionable to denigrate people who have committed their New Year’s Resolution to getting in the gym, getting in shape, and getting their lives together. Is it that by degrading the status of a beginner for their lack of know-how, one implicitly proclaims their own superiority and domain over the gym and fitness? Because then my question is …why does such a person need to prove their gym tenure to anyone in the first place, let alone by attacking another’s inexperience? Or maybe it’s not even that – maybe it’s just the “inconvenience” of having to deal with someone unfamiliar with how your gym works. Well, now my question becomes, why not help the situation by doing something constructive about it, instead of being destructive by doing nothing about it except projecting negativity and a saboteur’s ill will?

I want to ask these hate-mongering, self-proclaimed experts (usually those who have no room to talk), why do you think beginners don’t know the standards and colloquial norms of your gym? Perhaps it’s because instead of being taught those unwritten rules, they’re met with a cold shoulder and colder stare? Perhaps it is because they fear to ask those who may know better, because those who may know better are the same ones rooting for the beginners to drop out in the first place, and they’re not making it a secret. Attacking those with the resolution to change their lives for the better is sick, insecure, and pathetic…but unfortunately I get it; I understand where it stems from – because I’ve felt it too. As much as can be blamed on those who choose to ostracize and root against New Year’s Resolvers (hereafter “NYRs”), some can be blamed on the NYRs for failing to do their homework. Some unwritten rules must be imparted over time, but others can be learned before even stepping foot into the gym.

This is my attempt to actually do something about it. I’ve put together a list of good practices I feel would be good for anyone to adhere to (whether a NYR or veterans of the gym, because honestly, some of the most grizzled [and vocal] gym rats have miraculously escaped picking some of this stuff up themselves). I did not write it with the intention of making anyone feel anxious by reading it – if you don’t adhere to each and every one of these principles, I promise you won’t be ostracized. Learning a new culture takes time, and I hope this list serves simply as an easy introduction guide to doing so.

Keep in mind, this list has nothing to do with the technical advice and principles one should study or be taught before setting off to achieving their goals or resolutions. Before all, proper technique is of the utmost importance to helping you stay safe, healthy, and consistent on the path to success. Consult a trainer (or take to YouTube) and start light and slow when starting out.

And with that, I give you:

THE UNWRITTEN RULES OF GYM ETIQUETTE

  1. If You’re Using Free-Weights, Re-rack your Damn Weight
    This is your job. This is not the job of the person using the equipment after. This is not the gym staff’s job (unless you go to a gym significantly softer than any I’ve ever seen). This is your job, and a part of your workout. The weight you choose to use is not the benchmark weight for the rest of the gym, so don’t insist on making it so. Clear it, and let people determine for themselves where to begin. The person that comes after you may be incapable of unloading your weight, let alone repping it. They could be significantly weaker than you, shorter than you (think of how high the bar needs to be for 6-foot plus folks on the squat racks), or injured. Your inability to clean up after yourself should, in no circumstance, inconvenience or delay the workout of another member of your club. It is your house, and you share it with others, so clean up your mess like you (hopefully) learned to do when you were a child – because people will notice, and people will care. Even if you don’t.
  2. Wipe Off Your Sweat
    Let’s keep this one short. If you sweat on equipment or anything someone may use after you, just wipe it off. Your gym should have antibacterial wipes scattered around the place. Moving on…
  3. Grunting
    Look, there’s nothing wrong with pushing yourself in the gym. Sometimes when we push to our limits – either unconsciously, or in an effort to channel our remaining strength – we let escape primal noises (we are still animals at our foundation, after all). But as self-aware animals, there’s a fine line between channeling the last vestiges of your strength and breath into one or two final, audible pushes to wrap up a set or circuit …and in turning into a fucking human-gorilla that bellows throughout their entire workout in an effort to make it known to the entire gym that you are doing some seriously hard work, and that everyone should know it. I don’t care how hard the set is, it’s not hard enough to make me question whether there’s a mortally wounded deer / Emily Rose in the corner of the gym screaming so loud that I have a hard time concentrating on my set. When your exertions start to inhibit other people’s workouts, it’s time to chill out or train smarter, because it should not be that difficult. If it truly is that hard, you’re likely pushing too hard and on a path to injury anyways. But more than likely, you’re just trying to show off, and it isn’t working.
  4. Be Mindful, Don’t Hop on Someone’s Equipment
    Realize that some people take water breaks and circuit train or superset between two or more different exercises, using different pieces of gym equipment in the process (this is common practice, and is in no circumstances rude if done properly). Just because someone isn’t currently standing in front of a piece of equipment, does not mean they won’t be returning shortly to finish a set. Now, it’s these people’s job to make known they’re still on that equipment, and usually they do so by leaving their towel, clothes, or a water bottle on the equipment or the ground in front. Before hopping on new equipment, check for signs that someone may still be using it, instead of assuming that it’s free to use because you don’t see a person.  Now there are undoubtedly limits as to how long one should hold equipment before coming across rude and self-serving. And with that:
  5. Don’t Monopolize Equipment
    It’s absolutely fine to step away from a piece of equipment for a moment and (as long as you’ve clearly marked you’re still using it) expect to return without someone else having hopped on. It’s even fine to superset by claiming two (or more) devices. A universal rule is that the gym is first come first serve, so you shouldn’t feel rushed or pressured to get off equipment you got to first …within reason and as long as you’re actively using it. The length of time you hold a piece of equipment is entirely relative to your gym – how many pieces of that same equipment your gym has, and how long exercises using that equipment typically take (someone deadlifting or squatting in a power rack is pretty damn likely to need more time than someone using the seated calve press). That being said, don’t expect to hold a power rack for half an hour if your gym only has two of them and someone is clearly waiting to jump in. Now, if you’re taking a lot of rest time between sets or if you’re supersetting and leaving a fair amount of time open at each piece of equipment, offer anyone that may be waiting to use the equipment to work in with you between your sets (just tell them how long you expect to be between those sets so they don’t interrupt your rhythm). Be polite and reasonable, don’t feel entitled, but know your rights and don’t get pushed around.
  6. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask
    If you want to use a piece of equipment and it’s taken – either wait, or politely ask how much longer the person has. My go-to line is: “do you mind if I ask you how many sets you have left?” If someone asks me, I tell them how many sets I have left, how long I expect them to take, and, if at all possible, I invite them to work in with me (unless they’ve violated any other rules on this list and are being a douchebag). If you feel comfortable asking, feel free to see if they’re cool with you working in between their sets. Now, be careful here, make absolutely sure that you:
  7. Don’t Interrupt Someone’s Set or Cardio
    Don’t you dare interrupt someone’s set to ask them a question. Not only is this incredibly rude, but you run the risk of breaking that person’s concentration, which could not only ruin their set and shift their mentality, but you could easily be setting that person up for injury. Weightlifting and cardio can be dangerous, and you leave people alone when they are in the middle of doing it. I’ve wanted to rip more heads off than I can count because of this. The same goes for re-racking your weight on a piece of equipment that’s someone is currently using. Don’t put your weight back on a squat rack that someone is in the middle of doing a set on, it’s extremely distractive and unacceptable.
  8. Wear What you Want, but Realize It’s Noticed
    I’m of the belief that you can and should wear whatever you feel most comfortable in to the gym. You’re going to be working hard and getting dirty, and if there’s something you can wear to help alleviate that, wear it. That being said, realize that the gym is still a public space, and there are still societal norms to adhere to. Breaking those norms and forcing people to see things they shouldn’t have to see (even though some probably want to) could cause some to form an opinion (whether good or bad). Guys, if you decide to wear a cutoff t-shirt that doesn’t even cover your nipples, you may come off like an inconsiderate asshole. Girls, pretty much the same thing when the bottom 4/5th of your ass is fighting for its life to keep from falling out of your shorts. That being said, your call; wear what will help you tear it up, but realize people notice and it may be distracting.
  9. Respect the House, Pay it Forward, and Don’t Quit
    I’m of the belief that the gym is a club – you are a member, along with everyone you see around you, and you are not entitled to more than what you put in. Some of us put in a lot and have made the gym a second home – a place with friends, stories, and memories – so we respect it and care for it as such. An open membership does not excuse anyone, beginner or no, from respecting the unwritten and veteran rules established by people who care for and about their home. I remember getting started. But, I also remember the kind people that guided my hand along the way. It is those people that inspire me to do the same, because without support, this is a god damn hard thing to conquer. As you continue to improve and progress, pay it forward and teach the lessons you were taught. Please be supportive, and please don’t be afraid to ask for support. You’ll find the gym is filled with people who would love to help. But whatever you do, just don’t quit.

 

Post Workout Salad

Saturday Post Workout:

Kale salad with oven roasted pesto-rubbed turkey, fresh baby beets, chickpeas, garbanzo beans, apples + turkey’s broth mixed with cilantro for dressing. Perfect for keeping a light stomach at the bars.

On Elevating Caffeine

America’s drug; caffeine has undeniably become engrained in today’s culture and our daily lives – and for quite a few good reasons.  Sharing a cup of coffee over a first date; that second Starbucks run of the day (an earned right); programmers and bankers chained to their desks at 1AM with Red Bull cans overflowing from their bins. For some, it’s a day starter. For others, it’s fuel, lifeblood, the Goblet of Fire.

Regardless, caffeine is an important part of today’s society and, surprisingly, many of us don’t know how it works or how to optimize it to maximize effectiveness and minimize addiction and tolerance.  In this post, I give my take on how to game caffeine to take full advantage of its benefits while minimizing tolerance and diminishing returns.

What it Does

Let’s start with what caffeine actually does (it affects our bodies in more ways than most realize).  You’re probably familiar with caffeine’s biggest claim to fame – its ability to reduce sleepiness and increase alertness.  But it doesn’t stop there.  Caffeine can:

  • Increase physical performance by masking muscle pain and boosting energy reserves (regular gym-goers are likely familiar with this)
  • Increase mental ability by focusing concentration and temporarily improving your memory creation and retention (your working memory – the kind you use for straightforward work or studying, not for learning radically new things)
  • Increase your resting metabolic rate (RMR) – the speed at which your body burns through calories (and ultimately one of the biggest drivers of weight-loss)
  • Helps alleviates headaches (your blood vessels expand during a headache; caffeine can partially counteract this)

All beautiful things.  That being said, excess consumption can eventually lead to anxiety, irritability, nausea, heartburn, insomnia, and way more.  Everything in moderation, as we’ll get to a little below.

How it Works

Now, let’s break down how caffeine does all that (in very simplified terms).  From the moment we wake up in the morning, the neurons in our brains begin firing away at a higher pace and producing more of a neuromodulator called “adenosine” as a byproduct.  One of the functions of adenosine is to act as a sort of “sleep regulator.”  Now over the course of the day, as your body begins to accumulate and detect higher levels of adenosine, it triggers a drowsy feeling letting you know it’s probably best to consider bed shortly.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.  Enter caffeine.  Caffeine is able to molecularly mimic adenosine – so when you dose yourself with the right amount, it floods in and sneakily binds with your adenosine receptors, blocking the flow of actual adenosine – preventing its absorption and the onset of groggy feelings.  But the effects don’t stop there.  In blocking the flow of adenosine, caffeine ultimately allows the brain to more efficiently release adrenaline and dopamine, both imparting stimulate effects on the body.  That’s where the jolted, alert feeling comes from, not from the caffeine itself interestingly enough.

Now, those stimulating effects can begin taking place almost immediately, but usually peak at around one hour from ingestion and begin residing after that.  Caffeine has a half-life of anywhere from three-to-seven hours, depending on a multitude of factors.  As it begins exiting your system, the reserves of adenosine that have been building up begin flooding back through your central nervous system.  This explains the caffeine crash felt by some at the end of the day as the drug begins wearing off.

Tolerance

Of course, there’s always a caveat.  As with many drugs, our bodies develop a gradual tolerance to the effects of caffeine over time – diminishing its effects and requiring us to periodically increase the dosage to achieve the same levels of stimulation.  Most of us have encountered this; I remember when a tall blonde roast from Starbucks (that’s a small coffee, for you neophytes out there) was enough to keep me jolted for the afternoon.  Eventually, if left unchecked, those wondrous effects of caffeine can get washed out entirely – leaving you with nothing more than a dependency requiring regular consumption just to feel normal.

Caffeine tolerance actually begins building up at a very quick rate – anywhere from a week to 12 days before requiring an increase in dosage.  You can see how this can easily snowball if left unchecked.  Thankfully, the inverse is also true – your body is able to shed its tolerance to caffeine rather quickly.  In fact, withdrawal effects can be felt almost immediately after your last use, all depending on your regular level of consumption (the heaviest of users can start experiencing hell in as little has half a day from their last sip of coffee).  The length of time it takes to reset will vary based on your level of tolerance, but for most users, about ten days to two weeks of caffeine abstinence is enough to significantly reset built-up tolerance (and far fewer for less frequent consumers, as we’ll soon get to.)

Dosing Caffeine (Not All Coffee is Created Equal)

Caffeine is almost always measured and displayed in milligrams. Your coffee, energy drinks, and pills all publish their caffeine content in milligram form. This is relevant for anyone wanting to compare various available sources of the drug and keep track of their intake (which includes anyone who wants to game caffeine for a long, sustainable period of time without developing significant tolerance.)

So – how many milligrams of caffeine does it take to feel the effect?  As we’ve discussed, obviously that answer will differ based on a person’s tolerance, genetics, and a multitude of other factors (smokers, pregnant women, etc.).  Effects from caffeine can be felt at doses sometimes lower than 25mg in a non-tolerant user.  However, more formidable and hardened consumers will require a substantial amount more.  The best way to gauge your current tolerance would be to compare the caffeine content in the beverages or products you ordinarily consume (and the quantity of which you consume them) to the feeling you get after consumption.

As a starting place, let’s look at the world’s favorite sources – coffee and tea.  The average 8oz cup of coffee carries anywhere from 95-200mg of caffeine, and the average 8oz cup of tea can contain 14-70mg.  Those are some seriously wide ranges.  The level of caffeine can vary tremendously not only between different types of beverages, but within the different varieties of those beverages themselves.  Take a look at the below infographic capturing the caffeine content of the standard black coffee between your favorite coffee shops.

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I see you, Starbucks.  Let’s do some quick math.  A large black McDonald’s coffee contains 145.6 mg of caffeine.  Let’s compare that to a venti black Starbucks brew.  That beast packs 412 mg of caffeine.  Some of you might be thinking, no sweat, I’m used to crazier ways of getting my fix – Redbull, Rockstar, Nodoz, pre-workouts – whatever.   Well:

  • Red Bull Energy Drink (standard can) – 80mg
  • Cellucor C4 Extreme Preworkout Powder (per scoop) – 135mg
  • NoDoz Caffeine Pills (per pill) – 200mg
  • 5-Hour Energy Shot (per bottle) – 200mg
  • Rockstar (2x Strength) (standard can) – 250mg

That 20oz cup of Starbucks coffee is packing over five times the caffeine in your Red Bull (there are other stimulants involved in these drinks, but my point still stands).  My point is, caffeine content can be incredibly deceiving and it pays to do a little research on your regular sources of intake if you are going to try to regulate your tolerance and optimize your use of the drug.  A good source to search for caffeine content in your favorite products (other than Google, if you’re incapable of thinking on your own) can be found here.

Now that we understand measuring caffeine and comparing its sources, we can finally discuss how to game it.

Gaming Caffeine

My opinions begin here.  I’m of the mindset that while coffee should be enjoyed, caffeine is still a drug and a tool – and I use it as such – carefully.  That’s not to say I use a little bit of it, but what I’m advocating here it smart, cognizant use to minimize tolerance buildup and keep your body as receptive as possible and exactly when you need it to be.  How does one go about doing that?  Here’s what I do.

Caffeine cycling.  Earlier in the post, I noted that for almost all regular users, it would take about 10 days to 2 weeks to shed tolerance and leave your body fully receptive to caffeine.  I also said that number is far less for some.  By some, I was referring to almost all non-habitual users.  In fact, a 2001 study found it took approximately 72 hours of withdrawal to eliminate the effects of adenosine receptor blockade on the individuals tested.  That’s three days.  Let’s call it half a week.

Think about your week – at what point are you struggling the most?  For me, my morning workouts start taking their toll and making me sleep deprived and drained by Wednesday morning, as I head bob on the Orange Line for forty-five minutes until the god awful conductor breaks too hard and my head inevitably hits a pole.  That struggle continues through the workweek until I’m able to recuperate on sleep come Friday night.  It’s this period of time I take my caffeine.  From my first sip of that beautiful liquid gold that is Starbucks come Wednesday morning – through the rest of the week, up to my last sip of pre-workout come Saturday afternoon, caffeine has my back when I need it most.  It lets me continue destroying the gym when fatigue would otherwise start creeping in and it keeps me focused at work when I would otherwise be fighting like an animal to keep my eyelids from closing on themselves.  I depend on it and I’m not ashamed, because I do it wisely and cognizant.

Half a week – that’s 3.5 days on, 3.5 days off – enough time for your body to reset its tolerance, and to continue doing so on a weekly basis (that’s assuming you’ve already taken the initiative to clear yourself of any existing tolerance if you’re a seriously habitual user, of course).  For me, those days fall between Wednesday morning and Saturday afternoon.  For you, it could be whenever, it’s totally your call.  Half the week on, half the week off – it’s as simple as that.  Just be sure not to cheat too hard, because your body (and your adenosine receptors) are smarter than you, and will develop tolerance.  And don’t go gorging down more than you need, because you’ll find you’ll need a much smaller dosage to get a substantially greater jolt.  A venti will take you miles, and actually following the dosage on the back of your pre-workout won’t be pussy material anymore (and will keep your wallet fatter, too).

I’ve found this method manageable, sustainable, and most importantly, incredibly effective.  Caffeine can feel like it did that first time you had coffee – every time you use it.  Days without it will still suck, yes.  But I argue they’ll suck a hell of a lot less than that mild, dull buzz your body adapts to after months on end of continuous use.  Which sounds more effective?

So ask yourself why you take caffeine.  If you enjoy the taste of coffee every morning, keep on keeping on my friend – you’ll find no argument here.  But if you depend on caffeine like I do to survive the brutal reality of the 21st century workweek – and are tired of chasing an ever-increasing tolerance with no real avail – consider cycling your intake.

Here’s my routine, if you’re interested:

Wednesday-Friday:

5:30AM – 2 Crystal Light Strawberry Energy (caffeinated crystal light) – 240mg

11:00AM – Starbucks Venti (20 oz) half-caf* (~220mg)

4:00PM – Starbucks Venti (20 oz) half-caf* (~220mg) (only if I really need or want it)

*I get half-caf to spread out the intake over a longer period of time.  I almost always take my coffee hot with one Splenda per size (3 for my venti).  I’ve considered adding butter or cream to slow the metabolization, but I usually still abstain.

Saturday:

1:00PM – 1–1.25 scoops C4

Sunday – Tuesday

No caffeine (with the exception of a little decaf here and there, which still carries trivial amounts of the drug)