health

ROAD TEST: "I swapped drinking coffee for energy multivitamins. Here's what happened."

I am a big coffee fan. No, scratch that. I am a coffee addict. I drink it first thing in the morning, I drink it in the middle of the day and I drink it right after dinner.

Sometimes, when I’m hungry and can’t think of a snack I’d like to eat, I’ll just drink coffee. I love the smell, I love the boost it gives me, and I really, really love the taste.

A few weeks ago, though, I ran into a problem.

My daily java consumption wasn’t sprucing me up like it normally did. My sleep patterns were off, and it became difficult for me to retain focus during the day. My first instinct was to, obviously, consume more coffee, but after some reflection, I thought I’d try a different approach.

I had noticed ads on Instagram and Facebook promoting these trendy-looking vitamins that were promising to help women with their energy levels and thought I’d take a closer look.

People were raving about how great they felt after regularly popping these pills, so I thought: “hey, maybe a multivitamin could stop me from feeling like a damn zombie?!”

Sadly the trendy Instagram vitamins I had spotted online were not available in Australia, but I was able to get an idea of which vitamins and supplements were best suited to what I needed (magnesium, iron and vitamin B12) from looking at the ingredients. From there I chose an option from the pharmacy which contained those.

Once I found a multivitamin I decided to try out a little experiment. I was going to completely cut out coffee and replace it with a daily vitamin.

To prep myself, I spoke with nutritionist Fiona Tuck about the impact coffee has on your system compared to energy-boosting supplements.

“No comparison really,” she said.

Great start.

“The caffeine in coffee acts as a stimulant much the same way as adrenalin, stimulating the nervous system and helping us to feel mentally alert.

“Too much caffeine – some people are more sensitive to caffeine than others and can tolerate different amounts – can make us feel wired, overtaxing the nervous system leading to possible side effects such as hyperactivity, irritability and insomnia and then resulting in energy crashes.”

Tuck went on to explain that “nutrients such as magnesium, Coenzyme Q10 and many of the B vitamins” are linked to energy production, but that the best way to get them is through food. She shared that long-term reliance on supplements could lead to imbalances in the body (which is why it’s recommended you chat to a health professional before taking this stuff).

For this reason, I decided to keep my test to a week, which I hoped would help fill any gaps my diet was leaving.

Here’s how it went… I’ll be honest. I failed on day one.

Yum. Image: Getty.
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By 11:30am I felt like my soul was slowly leaving my body so caved and bought a cappuccino. I know, I know! Pathetic start. I’m sorry, you guys but the withdrawals were real.

Days two and three were rough. My energy levels were near nought, and I woke up each morning feeling sluggish and gross. I also got hit with a big headache which was really motivating (motivating me to quit, I mean).

Midway through the week, I attempted to trick my brain into thinking I was feeding it regular coffee by sipping on decafs whenever I hit a wall. I only drank one cup a day and it got me by, which was great because there was no major caffeine high followed by an equally sizeable crash.

Day four and five was when I started to see a shift, though. I began waking up earlier and getting to sleep at night was much easier. My mood lifted, and I began feeling a little less lethargic during the day (I was still no Energiser Bunny, sadly).

By day six, I was waking up before my alarm. I felt brighter and more well-rested than usual, which was really nice to experience as someone who has n-e-v-e-r been a morning person.

Admittedly, I hit a wall at about two in the afternoon and began scouting potential nap spots but on the upside, my headache finally disappeared.

The final day of my trial was the easiest of them all (unsurprisingly). I woke up quite early and any morning fogginess had melted away completely. I was amazed.

I was on my way to becoming one of those people who hop out of bed in the morning. I hate those people!

The funniest part of the test was that by the end, I wasn’t cursing my new routine. And even when I returned to coffee (because LOL, as if I was going to give it up for good) I cut down to one a day.

Whether the results were from placebo, the ability to get to bed at a normal hour, the multivitamin, or a mix of the three, I really don’t know… but this nightmare of an experiment really delivered.

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