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Stay awake without the crash: The Carroll News tests the effects of caffeine alternatives

October 14th, 2010

It’s 3 a.m. Sitting in front of you is your English prompt and a blank Word document.

Five hours from now, your grade is going to crash and burn if you don’t finish the essay.

What do you do? Is it time to reach for the four cups of coffee? Do you have any other options at this point?

Before you decide, consider these alternatives that will give you energy and won’t leave you sluggish as you go about your day.

Each method was used over a two-day period to test the results, starting on a Thursday night and concluding on a Saturday morning (this was an unscientific experiment).

LATE THURSDAY: Chocolate Bar

Caffeine is naturally found in cocoa beans, meaning that any chocolate you consume will contain some amount of caffeine. Health.com claims that specially made bars, like the Snickers Charge bar, contain around 60 mg. of caffeine, roughly the equivalent of a cup of tea.

Although it has a high dose of caffeine, you run the risk of a small “sugar high” that might leave you sluggish later. The Snickers Charge bar definitely worked, but two bars would have had more of an effect.

It gave a definite buzz shortly after and had no real side effects.

LATE FRIDAY: Vitamin Water Energy

Recently, both Propel and VitaminWater have released a brand of energy water that contains around 50 mg.of caffeine. This lower dose of caffeine will leave you with energy and less of a crash due to the natural caffeine.

The VitaminWater Energy drink had a very strong tropical fruit flavor that left a strong aftertaste.

However, it did have many of the same effects of coffee without the “wired” feeling that a cup of Starbucks will leave you with.

EARLY SATURDAY: Decaf Coffee

Don’t be thrown off by the name. Decaf coffee is not actually caffeine free. In a 2007 study, Consumer Reports found that most decaf coffee averages 20 mg of caffeine compared to 100 mg per regular cup. It is also a good alternative for people counting calories. The average cup of decaf contains five to 20 calories, as opposed to the calorie-packed Charge bar and the 50 calories in a VitaminWater. The coffee definitely worked like a charm, although the amount of caffeine was smaller than that of the VitaminWater and Charge bar.

While these three options were the most effective, you don’t have to look far for equally accessible sources of caffeine.

Common foods like ice cream, root beer and orange soda contain large amounts of caffeine but cause a less dramatic “crash.”

It is just as important, though, to note that frequent late-night use of caffeine can be dangerous.

According to WebMD, caffeine is not only an addictive chemical, it also dehydrates.

While coffee can be helpful, its diuretic properties will dehydrate the body if overused.

It is tough as a college student to monitor what and when you eat, but it is also very important to pay attention to the 300 mg. recommended daily limit of caffeine, i.e. three cups of coffee.

When that 3 a.m. crisis looms, look at the options. It isn’t as difficult to find them as it seems.