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Ask Amy: The Caffeine Question

How can I wean myself off my coffee fix without experiencing headaches and crankiness that will disrupt my rehearsal process? —Lauryn


Trust me, I know the feeling—I love my morning coffee! However, caffeine is a habit-forming stimulant. Drinking excessive amounts, whether in coffee or other beverages like soda, can make you jittery and anxious, increase your heart rate and disrupt sleep patterns. (400 mg, or approximately four cups of coffee daily, is considered safe for adults, according to numerous studies.) And if you regularly go to Starbucks for your daily fix, the cost can add up fast. That said, coffee has a lot of health benefits: It's rich in antioxidants, has been shown to lower the risk of Parkinson's disease and diabetes, and can improve your athletic performance.

Trying to quit caffeine cold turkey will produce the headaches and crankiness you're afraid of. Instead, slowly removing it from your diet will be easier on your body. You may want to start by cutting half a cup of regular coffee with decaf to minimize initial withdrawal symptoms. After a few days, progress to a larger ratio of decaffeinated-to-regular and so on, until you can comfortably drink straight decaf without producing headaches or irritability. Or, replace one of your usual afternoon cups of coffee with a non- caffeinated beverage like herbal tea, gradually phasing out coffee altogether. You may also want to try herbal coffee, a caffeine-free, brew-able blend of roasted herbs, nuts and fruits that can be found in most health food stores.

Have a question? Send it to Pointe editor in chief and former dancer Amy Brandt at askamy@dancemedia.com

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