Welcome to episode four of the 911 Shift Ready podcast.
Today we are diving into a bit of a controversial subject. We are going to be getting into coffee, caffeine, energy drinks, and talking about why they are not the best choice for energy throughout a first responder’s shift.
Before we go any further, I do want you to understand that I’m not here to take coffee away from you. I’m not here to bash. We are here to really dive into the facts. Coffee is coffee has saved lives in many first responder’s services.
Fire that’s what you do post call. When you are able to is you all sit in the firehouse, sit around the table with a coffee and you talk. And some of those conversations have really made a difference in saving someone’s life. It’s helped them through personal struggles, helped them understanding traumas that have happened on the job and working through different struggles that have had in life. So I am definitely not here to be taking that coffee away.
Everywhere you go in any service, there is definitely coffee to be had. It is deep rooted into the culture and which brings up this meme that I saw one day, where there was a fire truck and a cop was actually standing in front of this fire truck, looking at all of the hoses and valves and wondering where the coffee dispenser was. And this just rings true to home that coffee is big in all services. I mean, hack some of the greatest businesses that have black rifle that believe that’s military started there’s firehouse coffee. There’s so many different entrepreneurs that have come from services that have started coffee businesses. It is definitely a highlight and it is something that so many of you enjoy. So I’m not here to take that away from you.
The thing though that I would like you to think is when and where and that’s what we’re diving into today. So I just have a question to start off with is if coffee increases your energy on shift, why do you need more and more coffee over time in order to get that same energy hit or worse, where you get to that point with coffee, where you’re having more and more and you’re not really getting an energy hit at all. That coffee is pretty much just keeping you at baseline, keeping you where you are needing to still push and push.
So if coffee was that source that was in order to give you that energy, then why do you need more and more over time? If coffee did give you that energy, then wouldn’t all first responders have tons of energy all the time? Would they be full of energy? Have a lot of brain focus. Would they be on top of their game all of the time, if coffee, caffeine, energy drinks, if they were really the best source of energy for you in order to get through shift?
Now, if we dive into this as well, we have Tom Brady, David Goggins, Jocko Willink. These guys are really well known for being top of their game, physically for being tactical athletes for David Goggins and Jocko Willink and Tom Brady is that professional athlete that has stood the test of time. He has been on top of his game, able to peak during games. Tom Brady and Jocko Willink, they have coffee once in a while, but that is not what they are relying on in order to make it through special assignments in order to make it through the games. David Goggins doesn’t even drink coffee at all. And man, that man is a beast. So if we start looking at this from a different lens and, and really looking at it as far as is this your best energy source for you? And if not, then what we’ll dive into at the end of this podcast or what other options are there for you.
So let’s first look at the difference between being controlled by coffee versus coffee, being that enjoyment, being that part of the community in your service. So if you are controlled by coffee, then one of the following will be pertaining to you. So if you are controlled by coffee, then you would be needing coffee in order to feel like a human in order to wake up. Pretty much needing that IV drip or pots of coffee, like multiple coffees in order to even start getting your day going, your family may know not to speak to you until you have had your cup of coffee.
You may need a pre-workout drink in order to make it through a workout instead of it enhancing your workout. You may require two or more coffees in order to make it through shift. If you are controlled by coffee. Caffeine doesn’t give you that kick that it used to and it doesn’t help to keep you going. Drinking coffee, even when you don’t like the taste, because you need it for the effects. So you don’t like it, but you’re eating it or taking it then that is telling you that you are controlled by coffee. Sometimes too you have that weight gain around your middle, that you can’t lose no matter how much you exercise or how healthy you eat, that can actually it’s related to coffee.
There’s, we’ll dive into this a little bit later on as to where that comes from, but that having multiple coffees sets off certain things causes effects going on in your body. That can start getting that weight gain around your middle. And if you’re letting coffee rule you, so that you can’t be human without it then coffee is controlling you. And it is not just a part of the community.
Now, mistakes that we do see with coffee as well is not realizing that when you need a coffee, when you’re getting that sign, that your energy is low and you need a pick me up that it’s actually your body giving you a signal that your stress system, your energy actually needs support. And having that coffee is often masking that symptom, it’s putting a bandaid on it. It’s not actually fixing it. So when we’re thinking of energy from coffee, it’s only that temporary effect. It’s not fixing that root cause. And so the mistake is that we’re not diving into the root cause of why we need coffee to start with and we’re not relating to that there is a correlation between really needing coffee needing that pot of coffee to get going, that Ivy drip of coffee needing a pre-workout drink before you can work out and not relating that to possibly being signs of burnout that your body needs certain supports and instead, we just keep throwing on that bandaid and having that coffee.
So there’s a quote by a brain scientist, his name is Matt Walker that says to drink coffee. Coffee is not the problem, the dose and the timing is what makes the poison. So that’s the thing that we were going back to before where your community and having a coffee when you’re hanging out and that once in a while, because it’s a part of that community in your service. Absolutely. But understanding the dosage, the timing of it, so how much you’re having of it, the timing of when you’re having it really does have that effect on the stress being placed on your body, the energy that you have, and actually not depleting more energy and crashing after.
So let’s dive into a little bit about what we’re talking about as far as the timing goes. So this is a bit of a science lesson. You’ll learn from me throughout this podcast. I am a bit of a science geek. That’s where I base everything off of. So we’re gonna dive into two different hormones. We’re gonna dive into adenosine, which actually helps to build up it. It builds up in the brain. So adenosine is this hormone that you have a little bit in you when you’re waking up and as you’re going through your day more and more adenosine accumulates and the more adenosine that accumulates the sleepier that we feel. And it’s because adenosine starts to shut down your waking functions and the hormones in your brain that increase that waking and energy and the adenosine starts increasing your sleep functions. And there’s a whole stack of hormones that need to the kind of cascade go into one another for healing, repairing memory cognition that need to kick in. And as adenosine is going through your body and accumulating through your day, your body knows that it needs to shut down all those energy hormones at night and when it’s time to sleep and it’s ready to kick in all of your sleep and energy and repairing and healing hormones.
Thing is, is that caffeine when it comes into your system, it competes with this adenosine. So the adenosine is sitting on receptor sites, receptor sites are where hormones sit in your body and give signals of what to do. So these adenosine hormones are giving that signal for your body to know that it’s getting sleepier, he’s been awake for longer. We can start turning down systems and turning up systems. So it’s sitting on all of these receptor sites. There’s lots of them in your body that adenosine that are empty. And as your day goes on, they start attaching too and filling them up as the day goes on but caffeine comes in and it forces the adenosine out. It pretty much bullies them. It kicks them off of those receptor sites and caffeine then goes on to this receptor site, but it has no clue what it’s doing. So it pretty much just disables the adenosine. So now your body, if you think about it, all of these adenosine were on and they were telling your body, “Okay, you’ve been awake for the day. You’re getting tired.” And then all of a sudden they’re gone. And your body’s like, woo. All right. It’s morning time. I’m awake. I’ve got all this energy and it starts giving you more energy. And it starts kicking in all of your energy hormones. And while it’s doing that, these adenosine are just floating around, but more and more keep accumulating because you are awake more and more of them keep accumulating and as time is going on, as these caffeine receptors are taking over and attaching to these receptor sites. But eventually the caffeine activates it decreases inactivates. And gets broken down in your body. So now these receptor sites are all available.
The thing is, is that the caffeine was all put into your system at once. And a lot of those receptor sites start opening up at once. So these adenosines that have been floating around in your brain are like, “Ooh, receptor sites.” And they start, you know, getting in there and attaching to all these receptor sites in your body crashes. Your body’s like, holy heck, we are tired now. And all of those energy hormones stop and the sleep hormones start kicking in and you crash. Then this adenosine still though is continuing to build up in your brain as that day is going on. So kind of to give us a little bit of a metaphor, kind of think of it like your playing three on three basketball with your friends and these bullies come in and they take over the court. You can’t play anymore.
So you’re just kind of standing around and while you’re standing around more friends show up by the time that these bullies leave, you can come in and you have enough for a five on five game plus some subs. So you end up getting like a kick ass game going on, but you had to sit there and wait while the bullies. Were taken over that court during that time as well. So these bullies are pretty much that caffeine taking over the court and your adenosine is you sitting there trying to have that good time with your friends. So the, the bullies are stopping you from being able to have that good time.
Now, when we were talking as well about when the adenosine comes and it starts turning on your energy hormones, your energy hormone, the big one in your body is actually cortisol. Now cortisol is also your stress hormone. So cortisol is that hormone that manages your ability to handle stress. And when you’re drinking coffee and you keep pushing these out, even in your job. In your job, you’re going to calls all the time. Every time you go to a call, even if it’s cleared before you get there, your body is also setting up cortisol to handle the stress.
So you’re sending out all this cortisol for your day, just because of the day to day of the job, the nature of your job. Even sometimes going back to the office and you’ve got admin stress. Maybe going home, you have home stress. It doesn’t matter. Mental, physical stress, doesn’t matter if the call is cleared or it’s a hot priority call your body doesn’t know the difference. So it’s sending out this cortisol all the time and every time that you also drink caffeine, it’s sending out more cortisol. And as it’s sending out more and more cortisol, But your body doesn’t need it because a lot of these are mental stressors. You’re getting to a call that’s cleared the caffeine doesn’t need you to be fighting a fight physically. So you don’t need all this cortisol floating around. So the cortisol, your brain sits there and says, what the heck? We have way too much cortisol floating around in here. We keep cleaning it up. We need to turn down this dial of how much cortisol we’re sending out.
So over time, you start getting to the point where you’re tanked in the morning, you’re waking up exhausted, you’re disoriented, feeling almost hung over and you didn’t even drink. You don’t have any get up and go. You’re exhausted. That is because you’re not even waking up with any more cortisol, which is your energy and your stress hormone. You’re not able to manage stressors anymore. You have such a low tolerance to any stress that everything starts pissing you off, frustrating you and. You’ve got this cortisol that is turned down lower and lower and lower. You have that inability to handle stressors and you have that coffee, your body kicks out more cortisol, but your brain sits there and goes “What the heck’s going on? I thought I’ve turned down this cortisol. Maybe I should turn it down more.” So over time, drinking so much caffeine during your shift and releasing so much cortisol they start adding up so much and your brain keeps shutting it down more and more that the coffee doesn’t even give you a hit anymore.
So to recap on both of these, we have this caffeine that’s bullying the adenosine, so your body doesn’t know when to sleep. Once the caffeine is out, your body totally starts crashing again. So it gives you the energy and crashes, but that starts messing up your cortisol and which is your stress, energy hormone, and your brain starts turning that down. So coffee starts affecting you less. So even though that coffee is coming in and taking out the adenosine, you’re still getting the crashes after, but it’s also not giving you that cortisol hit while the caffeine is in there tearing down those receptors.
So this then starts affecting your sleep. So we can start wondering how long does caffeine actually stay in your body and block that adenosine. So that kind of tells you how long in between the crashes. So we talk about five to six hours is usually the half life of coffee. So half of that coffee is out. So half of those receptor sites are now empty and adenosine can attach that’s about five to six hours. 10 to 12 hours later, you still have a quarter of that coffee that caffeine left in your body. So if you are working a 12 hour shift or even later in your shift, by the time that you are ready to sleep, it’s really hard to you most likely still have some of that caffeine attaching to those receptor sites. And when you have some caffeine, even if it’s the quarter life or an eighth of a life like minimal amounts of caffeine, you may fall asleep and you may stay asleep, but your deep sleep drops by 30%.
Now, deep sleep is where your body is healing in repairing. So you might start getting more injuries. You might not be able to help with like cognitive memory and moods and healing. It really can affect. How your body heals and repairs and grow. And it can also start making you start waking up exhausted, cuz you didn’t get into a good restorative sleep and you need the coffee again during your shift, which gets you into this vicious cycle where you struggle to get into a good, solid, deep sleep that night before. And if there’s still more caffeine sitting in your system, then you struggle to fall asleep as well which is one of the causes. One, there are other causes, other struggles for being tired and worried and not being able to fall asleep at night, but caffeine is definitely a big contributor to that.
So it becomes of this big vicious cycle where you need to start finding a sleep aid. So you’ve got this caffeine, that’s giving you the energy. And then you need some sort of a sleep aid. And the majority of first responders that I speak with turn to alcohol, which we will do another full podcast episode on sleep aids on sleep on alcohol and all of this. Those will be a few different episodes coming up. But a lot of you do tend to go to alcohol sometimes with a shot of NyQuil over the counter cold medications or what some may take as well or over the counter sleep aids. Some also go towards prescriptions. So it’s basically like a drug addict where we’re taking an upper in the morning, an upper during your day in a downer to balance a day at night, which kind of begs the question if two to six coffee or energy drinks which is the norm for most of you guys, two to six is total the norm on a shift. I mean, everybody’s doing it, but if we break it down, that’s actually two to six times the daily suggested amount of caffeine each and every shift.
So at what point does this drug or does this caffeine become a drug versus an energy aid? How many coffees does it take before that caffeine becomes a drug? And is no longer an energy aid or just an enjoyment when you’re having that community time with those in your service. I want you to really sit with that one for a minute, because there is definitely that difference between, as we mentioned before, coffee controlling you and it being an enjoyment where you are on a day off, kids are at school, you’re sitting and reading a paper. The sun is on you. You’re having a coffee on the deck and you’re just enjoying the moment. There’s a difference between that or nobody being able to come up and around you, you are not human until you’ve had a cup of coffee or you can’t even get up and go until you’ve had a cup of coffee. You can’t function. You can’t get yourself moving that you need that IV drip.
There’s the big difference between each and where is that line? Where is that line between where the coffee becomes a drug and a stimulant versus an energy aid? And as far as stimulants go with what you now know about adenosine, is it really the best stimulant? When you know that it is blocking that sleep and you are eventually going to crash after from it. So let’s just do a bit of a recap on what we dove in. Before we start diving into the solutions on what we should be doing about this. How do you get coffee to not be something that is controlling you and get that energy on shift? So to recap on this,. What we talked about is when your energy is low, you drink the coffee and you gain energy because the adenosine is blocked. And then you feel that crash coming on. When that coffee gets that half life, more receptors, pop in and more adenosine can go back to where it needed to go. And so you get that crash happening, you drink another coffee, you have another energy drink, crash harder. And this just keeps repeating through shift.
And you get home, and then you’re often not able to fall asleep. You end up becoming tired and wired. You’re waking mid sleep. You may stay asleep as well. But regardless, you’re getting a less quality sleep. So you are waking up absolutely exhausted. And it just becomes this vicious cycle, every single shift where it starts controlling you instead of being that energy helping your energy in a positive way.
So let’s get to the solution, probably like how the heck do we do that then? Like, coffee’s the only thing I’ve known to do that other than harder drugs of uppers. So the thing is, is it’s not as simple as just stopping coffee, because as I just said, you still need something to get your energy back up. There’s a reason why you needed to have so many coffees or caffeine energy drinks in the first place is because your energy was tanked. And so we don’t wanna keep putting that bandaid anymore on the solution. We need to start really diving in to the root cause and we also don’t want you to just have that withdrawal, that caffeine withdrawal as well, and no support to help you with that.
So we need to really dive into this. We need to look into your stress system and really understand why your energy tanked in the first place and what we see with first responders that we work with in our 911 Elite Performance Program is that they haven’t adjusted or adapted any of their ways. There’s a lot of different things, the way that they’re sleeping, things that they’re doing when they’re awake things they’re doing on their days off, the way that they’re training, the way that they’re eating all kinds of different things in order to help to support their circadian rhythms for shift work and for the extra demands of your job.
Like I said earlier, you’re pushing cortisol all the time that even without the coffee, even without the hit from the coffee, your brain will eventually say, Hey, you’re sending out a too much caffeine. We need to lower this energy. So you may even be somebody who doesn’t drink coffee, but is waking up tanked and pretty much is exhausted every single moment of the day. So we need to start really diving into that. So we have three pillars that we do work with in our program. We have the main one for this, although it does still touch on the other two would be getting into being 911 shift ready. And that is really understanding how to sleep on any shift schedule. How do you fall asleep after nights? How do you let your body know that it is time to go to sleep after a night shift? How do you tell your body when it is time to wake up? Because it’s not like you have a nine to five job and your body is just okay. Every single morning between seven and nine o’clock is when I’m supposed to get my highest energy. And around 10, 10 o’clock at night is when I’m supposed to be ready for sleep.
Your body has no frigging clue, which end is up when you’re on call as well. Your body has no idea when you should be sleeping when you need to be awake. So we need to start getting you into understanding that, and there’s multiple steps to this. So diving in and understanding how to give your body the signals for sleep, how to start waking with energy. We need to start diving into what to be doing on your days off, what you should be doing during your workouts, during your training, all kinds of things. Like there’s so many different steps in this in order to be making sure that you are giving your body the support that it needs for 911 shifts and not living like a civilian where you’re on regular natural circadian rhythms that go along with the sun. So we really need to start diving into that first and the steps are different for each of you as well.
So I’m hesitant to give you some steps right now because if I give you one step, it’s not gonna work and you’re gonna think I’m a fraud. So we really do need to dive in and really start looking at where all your sleep is and really getting you into. I feel bad saying that that’s so bad. I feel bad because I wanna give this to you now. And I know that you want it now. But I know just from past experience that if I give this to you now, I’ll be doing you a disservice. I’ll give you one tip, you’ll go and try it. And you’ll be like, whoop, that didn’t work because there’s multilayers to this. So don’t get pissed at me right now for not being able to tell you, I’m not trying to do some sales play or anything. This is just my experience since 2018 of working with you guys, I used to give, sometimes you will see me give some tips, but I can’t on this one because there are so many layers to it.
But I do wanna ask you though, that isn’t important to get your natural energy up in the day, instead of needing those stimulants to get you by? What would life be like if you didn’t need to rely on coffee to get through your shift? What if it was where you were able to wake up with that energy? And get through your shift, wake up and have that energy to be with your family and get through your shift in whatever it needed and be able to get into sleeps, whatever amount of sleep that your shift is allowing you. If it is four hours in between shifts, or if you are actually able to get a solid eight hours, that you’re actually able to get really good restorative sleep.
So we need to make sure that all of those things are happening and that you understand how to do it based on what your shift is throwing at you. If you’re on a 24, if you’re on twelves, if you’re on tens days, nights for second, third shift, whatever shift you’re on, on call, you need to know how to adapt to all of those situations. So when you are what we call in our program, we call them rundown first responders. That’s when coffee rules you. So if coffee is ruling you. You’re absolutely tanked. You are that rundown first responder, and you may be needing coffee to get that energy kick. And I get that because until we start giving you that support, you’re not able to get off of coffee because your energy is so tanked.
But over time that you’re able to get out of it, you start to get that extra energy and you’re able to start kicking butt in your workouts again and have that brain power where you can have that coffee when you’re, you know, with your service and you guys are having, you know, post call debriefs, all of that stuff. It really is important for that to enjoy your coffee, then if that’s what you choose to do, but not because it controls you. And it will tell you. Those that we work with are so surprised as to how much better that they feel when they are using the right tools and coffee. Isn’t controlling them anymore.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you’ll never wake up exhausted. We have to be realistic with your job. My husband worked 37 days straight. It was an average of 18 hours, but there was like a 36 in there and it was all over the tilt. But the thing is, is that he was tired during that time, but he had the tools in order to be able to support him that he didn’t need to live off of coffee so that he recovered quicker after. And was able to get the sleeps that he needed to sleep.
So your job there’s so much that happens on the job. There’s so many twists and turns and things thrown at you on every single shift that you need to understand how to work with all of those in order to get off coffee together. So having those tools is definitely. Definitely going to make or break that difference.
So if you do wanna start taking action now then you can go onto our website 911ShiftReady.com and you can click on the work with us page to learn what is needed in order to be 911 shift ready. We have a whole bit written out between the three phases that I did speak of 911 shift ready, strong resting system and post shift recovery. We have that written out on our work with us page. So go in there, dive in there. And that will give you a little bit more information on that.
We are in the process of updating and moving our 911 Elite Performance Program to a better home that will have audio, video, written lessons. It will also allow you to create an alias name. So if your job requires for you to be incognito use an alias in our program in order to keep you safe and to be able to still participate then we can do that with this new platform that we are on now.
We’re moving all of our content that we’ve had since 2018 over so it’s taking time. So we actually have discounted the program right now. We do have enough already in this new membership site that you can get started right away and we’ll be adding it to you at a pace that works for you, but we have reduced the price. So that is also on our work with us page in the 911ShiftReady.com website.
Thanks for listening. I hope that this has helped you understand the difference between being controlled by caffeine and having it become something that you can enjoy when the moment is there and not a need in order to help your energy to get through shift. And you now understand that caffeine is not the best way to get through shift as a first responder and get you to be what we call a resilient tactical athlete, just like I would say Jocko Willink just like David Goggins.
So in order to be like them, you need to start training like them. And that is where we are gonna help you through this podcast and through our 911 Elite Performance Program. Take care and I will see you in the next episode.