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What’s Your Cut Off Time?

Zonya and I just spent 4 crazy busy, laughter-packed, hard-working, incredibly fun-filled days together in Michigan.


We are working on new content and videos for Eat REAL America, plus some other great surprises coming this year!

During our time together, we taught each other a number of things.  I was able to show Zonya some tricks such as shredding meat in the slow cooker, different ways to use a microplane zester and that there is more than one way to cut a spaghetti squash!

I have to say, though, these tricks seem to pale in comparison to what she is teaching me.  As you can probably imagine, when you spend this amount of time with America’s Nutrition Leader, let’s just say…you learn a lot!

Of course, there are some memorable moments, such as when, in between video takes, we collided into each other dropping, breaking and splattering tomato sauce all over the beautifully clean kitchen set…at least we can laugh about it now!  But there were some valuable learning moments that were so powerful and mind-blowing, we plan to share them with you!

For example, one evening after a short dinner break, we sat down, around 8:00 PM, to get back to work (it’s a good thing we are both night owls and get our second wind around dinnertime).  I was sipping my steaming hot cup of coffee and Zonya stopped, dead in her tracks, saying…”does that have caffeine?  Don’t you have a ‘caffeine cut-off time’?”

Well, not exactly…I completely forgot about the importance of not having caffeine late in the day.  In my mind I was thinking, this is what will keep me going a few more hours!  But once you hear Zonya explain how caffeine can drastically affect your sleep…well, let’s just say, that was the end of my evening cup of joe.

Zonya explains what it means to have a caffeine cut-off time!

You know the frustration when you wake up in the morning and look at your phone (that has been charging all night long) and it only says 60% battery?  Well, that phone battery is like your body.  When you have caffeine within hours of going to sleep, you end up only partially charged.  This leads to possibly more caffeine use the next day and the next, trapping you in a vicious cycle of tiredness!

So, when should you cut it off?

You should stop the caffeine intake at least 6-8 hours before bedtime.  This will allow you to get the deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep you need to fully re-charge your battery!  And, when you get quality REM sleep, it eliminates that “I am so tired” feeling and you have more energy during the day — it actually decreases your daytime dependence on caffeine.  We know, you may be thinking "I can drink caffeine in the evening and have no problem going to sleep and staying asleep"...but, the caffeine can still be robbing you from the recharging "REM" sleep you desperately need.  A night with quality REM sleep is what gives you a "full charge" and reliance on caffeine can create a vicious cycle of robbing us of truly deep sleep, and having us wake up to being only “63% charged.”

It Does Have Benefits!

Don’t worry, caffeine, in moderation, does provide a variety of health benefits!  Thank goodness, right?!  Moderation is considered to be about 300 mg per day, which is the equivalent to about 2 to 3 cups of coffee.  FYI, roasting coffee beans decreases the amount of caffeine…that is why darker roasts generally have less caffeine than lighter roasts.  And, tea leaves have a higher caffeine content than coffee beans; however, the brewing process results in brewed tea having less caffeine than brewed coffee.

So, keep it in moderation and your coffee or tea can improve your memory, decrease fatigue, and improve mental functioning.  Even better, it can help prevent type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and liver disease…including cancer.  Another benefit to coffee is coffee beans also contain a massive amount of antioxidants and other compounds, which can reduce the risk of stroke and other types of cancer by as much as 50%!

Hidden Foods?

Since the Food and Drug Administration does not require manufacturers to list caffeine content on the nutrition label, caffeine can be hiding in the most unexpected places!  Energy water, especially those flavored with guarana, a Brazilian plant that is a natural source of caffeine, can contain as much as 50 mg of caffeine.  As we know, caffeine is found naturally in cocoa beans, so any chocolate has a little bit of this stimulant, and keep in mind, the darker the chocolate, the higher the caffeine content.  Your chocolate or coffee ice cream may contain a slight amount of caffeine, but typically it will be a very small amount.  Caffeine can also show up in gum and mints!  And, energized sunflower seeds?  Sunflower seeds can be a vitamin powerhouse, but one serving of these "energized" seeds can contain as much caffeine as 4 cans of Coke!  So, read those ingredient labels!

Too Much of a Good Thing?

The effects of caffeine can widely vary person to person, which is probably why there are so many mixed messages whether it is good or bad for us.  But, you can have too much caffeine, which can lead to insomnia, stomach irritability, fast heartbeat or even muscle tremors.  Also, use caution if your caffeine intake is in soft drink form, as daily soft drink consumption may lower bone mineral density and is linked to many other health issues.  Of course, it goes without saying that loading your coffee up with sugars (like in a mocha frappuccino) can create issues that more than offset the benefits of the coffee.  It is also important to be mindful of caffeine intake with children and teens, because it does interfere with sleep and therefore affects learning and their developing brains.

“Use caffeine to your benefit, not your detriment!”

  1. Before consuming caffeine in the morning, hydrate with a large glass of water first.  (Everyone wakes up a bit dehydrated and, according to research, 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated!)
  2. Keep caffeine intake to two or fewer servings per day.
  3. Have a caffeine cut-off time (6-8 hours before bedtime.)

If you are not doing this already, try Zonya’s tips and see if you can tell a difference — it might surprise you how much better you sleep!  As soon as the next night, I slept better and I could tell that Zonya was right!

We are so happy to be working together to bring you weekly coaching tips, great-tasting meal ideas and delicious seasonal recipes.  And so much more is on the way!

Thank you for joining us on our journey to EAT REAL!  We appreciate feedback - we would love to hear from you!

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