Geekly Get Fit: Caffeine

By Matt Ortiz on


I love coffee. It’s warm, intense, flavorful and, most importantly, has caffeine!

It’s getting to the point that I like to grind my own beans and make specialty coffees on the weekend. Between my french press, moka pot, and Vietnamese phin filter, it’s hard to choose sometimes.

However, I didn’t always like coffee. I mainly rediscovered it during a trip to Vietnam with my wife. Before that, I used between 1-3 energy drinks per day at work and maybe a soda or energy drink on my weekends. I would always have one during gaming sessions for D&D or Warcraft.

So what is the science behind caffeine that helps us stay awake or more alert? (Although, it seems to make some people sleepy.) The chemical formula of caffeine is: C8H10N4O2 (meaning 8 carbon atoms, 10 hydrogen, 4 nitrogen, and 2 oxygen) and while considered a drug, it has been deemed generally accepted as safe for everyday use for the majority of the healthy population.

While largely consumed throughout history (potentially first discovered via tea), it was first isolated (removed chemically) from coffee by Friedlieb Ferdinand Runge in 1819. Later in 1859, the chemist Hermann Emil Fischer first synthesized caffeine from its base components.

Enough history. While interesting, isn’t quite relevant when you drink your soda.

Caffeine takes a while to cycle through your system. Consensus is that it takes roughly 5 hours for half of your caffeine intake to pass through your system. So let’s take my college days…it’s finals week, I’ve started my day rough, I need a two shot mocha just before class at 8 am, I’ll get done with this block by 12 pm, have [non-color specific bovine] drink (16 oz) and, while I relax playing some Diablo 2 at 8 pm, I’ll have a Mountain Dew (12 oz). Three sources of caffeine isn’t too bad, I’ve heard of worse…to the Science Lab!!!!

As you can see, while the amount of caffeine in my system reduces slowly over the course of the day, it spikes whenever I had a drink. This caused my net caffeine level to stay over 64 mg (1 shot of espresso) for over 17 hours and, even after I fell asleep and till I woke up the next morning, I STILL had caffeine in my system from the day before!

So what does this mean? Do I need to drink less caffeine? Am I overdoing it? Can you eventually overdose on caffeine this way? Well like any complex system, it’s hard to say. I certainly gained weight during that time but that was very likely due to all the sugar and sitting I was doing. I did get the jitters now and then and was dehydrated a lot. You can overdose on caffeine, but it takes an incredible amount in order to do so over an incredibly short amount of time. One such death was a 19 year old who took two dozen caffeine pills. The total amount ingested and metabolized was 4800 mg of caffeine (that’s roughly 100 drip coffees within ). I’m nowhere near that and, very likely, neither is the typical consumer. As with everything from video games to tabletop RPG’s to food and exercise, moderation is key. So know what you are doing to yourself and you’ll feel better knowing how to hack your body.


Weekly motivation:

Music: Röyksopp

Youtube: (I’ve been on a Kerbal Space Program kick lately)

Quote: Ever tried. Ever failed. Try again. Fail again. Fail better. – Samuel Beckett

You can reach me on social media via Twitter @foodfistway

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