Thursday, September 16, 2010

Driving that train, high on caffeine.....

So what’s the first thing you think about when you wake up in the morning?  My back hurts...wish I had slept better...wish I hadn’t drank so much last night...shit...I’m already running late...I NEED SOME COFFEE!  Sound familiar?  (BTW, I don’t think this way but most people I know do...I just jump up and get on my bike for a predawn 25 miler.  However while riding I usually am hearing the lyrics from a Clapton song...”If your thing is gone and you wanna ride on....caffeine”)

We drink coffee habitually to wake attack the day.  We also drink it because of our addiction to it.  Yep..there’s a reason you wake up thinking about a cup of black coffee from Starbucks...and it’s the driver of the economic engine that has made that company wildly successful.  It’s the same force that has toppled banana republics and is killing Mexican tourism...addiction to a drug...and the business of supplying that drug.

Yes, coffee is legal.  So is Jim Beam and Oxycodone (by prescription).  The active ingredient in coffee, caffeine,  is not only addictive...its dirt cheap to produce.  So cheap, that if you can create a product that successfully hooks people you can get rich quick.  

Its sort of like the potato chip business...if you can get your brand in the store and have reasonable success, you will be garnering around $3.99 for .08 cents of potatoes, oil and salt.

I mean these caffeine dealers are smart...and their product is available at every corner.  And the branding is straight from Madison Avenue.  A partial list includes: Kronik, Jolt Energy, Hype, Howling Monkey, Hydrive, Kaboom Infinite Energy, (Infinite?) Monster Nitrous (also used in drag racing machines), NeuroGasm, (over-rated), OnGo Energy Shot, Rage and Rage Inferno (one cold, one hot), Roaring Lion, RockStar Juiced (If you wanna hang out you’ve got to take her out....caffeine), Speed Stack Pumped N.O., Vault, Who’s Your Daddy and finally Whoop Ass. 

The complete list is at “” sort of the Physicians Desk Reference of caffeine addiction.

All the big brands are listed there as well including Coke, Pepsi, Sun Drop, Mountain Dew, Starbucks, McDonalds, Venom Death Adder, Zombie Blood Energy Potion, Diet Dr. Pepper and Cougar Energy Double Shot.  This last one is named after it’s target market, who drinks it with high end vodka in an attempt to match the energy level of testosterone fueled 20 year old males and to ease the pain of Botox injections.

She don’t lie, she don’t like, she don’t lie; caffeine!

Just so you’ll know...but you won’t care, here is the science of caffeine addiction. Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist. This means it prevents adenosine from doing its job. Your brain is filled with keys which fit specific keyholes. Adenosine is one of those keys, but caffeine can fit in the same keyhole.  This is how cocaine and nicotine addiction works as well.

When caffeine gets in there, it keeps adenosine from getting in.
Adenosine does a lot of stuff all throughout your body, but the most noticeable job it has is to suppress your nervous system. With caffeine stuck in the keyhole, adenosine can’t calm you down. It can’t make you drowsy. It can’t get you to shut up.

That crazy wired feeling you get when you drink a lot of coffee is what it feels like when your brain can’t its natural dose of adenosine.  When this happens, your brain starts to rewire itself.

Your smart-ass brain creates a ton of new receptor sites. The plan is to have more keyholes than false keys. The result is you become very sensitive to adenosine, and without coffee you get overwhelmed by its effects.

After eight hours of sleep, you wake up with a head swimming with adenosine. You feel like shit until you get that black gold in you to clean out those receptor sites. That perk you feel isn’t adding anything substantial to you – it’s bringing you back to just above zero.

In addition, coffee stimulates your adrenal glands, which makes you feel like you could take a bullet and eat glass. When the adrenaline runs dry, you feel like you’ve been running a marathon, which leads you to look for more coffee to get those glands pumping again.

After a few rides on the adrenal roller-coaster, you crash.
You might think all of this probably takes a while, but it takes about seven days to become addicted to caffeine.
Once addicted, you need more and more coffee to get buzzed as your brain gets covered in receptor sites. Neurologists report seeing patients regularly who drink two or three pots of coffee in one sitting before starting their day.
Coffee also releases dopamine, the feel-good chemical in the brain which is released when you have an orgasm, win the lottery and shoot heroin.

So next time you are sucking down a tall Starbucks and huffing on a Marlboro Light, perhaps you will feel more compassion for the homeless guy down the street whose hooked on crack.  You have much more in common with him than you ever thought.  At least your brain does.  

What’s really stunning is the profit margin in all those caffeinated drinks...and our willingness to pay the price every, every day.  Well, my adenosine receptors are sort of aching, and I could really use a dopamine lift.  Will end this caffeine addled ramble and go get more coffee...maybe then I can get some real work done.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Popcorn's Dark Secret

Let’s go to the movies!  OK...its raining cats and dogs but we don’t mind standing in line for five minutes for the luxury of paying ten dollars for a ticket...cause its raining.   Let’s get some popcorn and treats!  We don’t mind waiting in line another ten minutes to pay six dollars for popcorn, another 4 dollars for chocolate treats and three dollars for a diet Coke (brown drool).  
Uh oh...we're now late for the movie!  But wait...the movie hasn’t started due to a lineup of poorly produced local ads serving as prologue to a string of previews...all of which hurt my ears (and my eyes).   Good thing the sound of crunching popcorn filling my head is louder than the special effects. (Perhaps that is why they make the previews so loud.) 
But through it all, the love of movie popcorn makes  the whole experience worth it....or at least it did until I stumbled upon this latest research on the salty, buttery treat.  A large tub of popcorn at Regal Cinemas, for example, holds 20 cups of popcorn and has 1,200 calories, 980 milligrams of sodium and 60 grams of saturated fat. Adding just a tablespoon of butter adds 130 calories. And don’t forget that it comes with free refills, which nearly everyone gets.
Dude...the medium size popcorn, which comes in a bag, contains the same amount as the large!  And even the small, at 11 cups, delivers 670 calories, 550 milligrams of sodium and 24 grams of saturated fat...and I and others have always thought it was relatively healthy snack. 
Actually,  plain air-popped popcorn is low in calories, free of saturated fat and tastes like the styrofoam peanuts that conveniently are included in every UPS shipment.  Movie theater popcorn, however, is popped in oil — often coconut oil, which is 90 percent saturated fat. Add salt to the enormous portions, and your once-healthy snack turns into a health offender.  
“The issue here is quantity,” said Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition at New York University. “One of those large tubs is three-fourths of a day’s calories.” 
One thing is for sure, those hot actors with their perfect bodies are not eating movie popcorn.  If Jennifer Anniston is eating popcorn, she is choking down her air popped with copious quantities of imported mineral water. (Air popped...air head?  Naw, that’s too easy.)

Well, here we are watching Jen in yet another ultra-light romantic comedy involving either a dog, a monkey or a gold fish.  Good thing we can cut the boredom with a package of M&Ms, the 12 oz movie size.  Mix these with the popcorn and it adds another 1500 calories.  
This salty, sugary mix is very popular with movie goers in eastern North Carolina and LA (lower Alabama) and can replace the daily meal, although it usually augments it.  
The sugar and caffeine buzz from the coke and candy, combined with the blood pressure spike from the sodium creates a sort of euphoria that actors like Hugh Grant count on,  such that you may be fooled into believing he is actually talented.
I sort of hit the wall on all of this when I donned 3-D glasses for a screening of Piranha! and couldn’t see the fishes teeth because of all the coconut oil smeared on the lenses.  

Even worse, I had sworn off movie popcorn, but the glasses smelled of a fresh tub, and made me give in to the urge.  I proceeded to eat an entire tub whilst watching the movie in 2D.  I left the glasses sort of stuck in the sticky goo that comprises the floor in the theater...along with an imprint of the bottom of my sandal.