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Naughty or Nice?: A Tale of Caffeine and Dehydration

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA

Skeleton from Rancho la Puerta

Dehydration Takes a Heavy Toll

Have liquids ever been your downfall? Specifically, NON-alcoholic ones. The other day I was ultra-cranky, especially at my daughter and husband. Of course it was all their fault. Or the stress of the holidays. Except the holiday season doesn’t really stress me out. The bad error my husband had made was bringing in wood to build a fire for Christmas Eve. My daughter had the nerve to ask me to stay up late to scratch her back (she just graduated from college and had flown home a few nights prior).

photo 3

My husband after I bit his head off. And torso. Yes, I was that cranky.

Feeling Irritable?

Snip, snap, I bit their heads off! Someone just earned a spot on the Naughty list and it wasn’t either of them. Normally I am cheerful and fairly even tempered (hush up Alexandra!) and consider it a Christmas gift to send my daughter to sleep by scratching her back and petting her hair. And I appreciate my husband tackling chores to make us more comfy in our new house.

So what was going on that sent me over the edge? Blaming menopause seemed like a convenient idea, but I knew it was not accurate. Fortunately I had enough self-awareness to realize something was unusual beyond fatigue. Have you ever been uncharacteristically moody without knowing quite why?

Caffeine Messes with Your Mind and Mood

Turns out I had entered a liquidy perfect storm. Caffeine was largely to blame. However I don’t drink coffee or sodas, so the caffeine answer was not obvious at first. But many of you might be coffee drinkers. Or soft drink imbibers. In fact, if you drink more than 3-4 cups a day or are particularly sensitive to caffeine then you may also turn into a Grinch.

Here’s the gig: Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system, with one of its effects being to increase irritability. Other effects (courtesy of the Mayo Clinic) include:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Stomach upset
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors

Who Loves Thai Iced Tea? Look Out!

Me in attack mode
The Thai Tea Effect on Me

Did you know all that? I had not really paid attention to caffeine’s downsides as I rarely intake any. But I had developed a new habit, now broken. Since visiting Thailand in March with my mom and sister, I had come home with a new appreciation for Thai Iced Teas. (Read about our leech hike escapades in Thailand, how we sweat a lot in Thailand, and tips on what to pack when it’s 100 degrees out). At $3.50 to $4.00 per drink at the local Thai Donut and Bagel store (doesn’t everyone have a place like this nearby?), I had limited my indulgence to once a week. Until……. I discovered last week that the local Japanese specialty item shop sold Thai tea mix bags, ready to brew! Whoo hoo! Guess what? A $5.00 bag with the artificial yellowy-orange coloring already in it yields cup after delicious cup. For pennies per swig! Just boil water, add sugar and milk, and string me up like Christmas lights!

You see where this warning about caffeine is going. I went from one expensive cup per week of black tea cleverly disguised at Thai Iced Tea to three frugal and full cups in one day. The day I gave the gift of instant snapback to my family. But like George Clooney in Perfect Storm, I was headed into more troubled waters. Or lack of, as it turns out. Because now this liquid tale gets updated news relevant to all of us, whether we exercise or not; whether we take in caffeine or not.

Wat-er The Heck is Going On?

ALERT! Dehydration makes people IRRITABLE! CRANKY! WITCH ON WATERWHEELS! (women more than men, wouldn’t you know it).

Even mild dehydration can change your mood, ability to think straight, and energy level, according to two studies just conducted at the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory. Sure, we all know that too little water can cause headaches, fatigue, and yellow pee. But the bad mood angle is kinda new. Or at least it was to me.

water bottle and sky

Water Up!

Normally I have one water bottle in my car, one in my gym bag, another in the refrigerator, and one in the freezer. But the past few days, my schedule has been almost as out of whack as my mood, what with my daughter coming home, my husband on teaching break, and my sister out of town. I was running late wherever I went so kept neglecting to grab water.

Drink this: Get on the Nice List

Drink this: Be on the Nice List

We lose about a liter per day of water just through normal respiration. Add in walking dogs, teaching step class, sweating a lot, and installing flooring (just as a random example), and the need to replenish water becomes more critical. Yes, I had just ordered a double expressed dose of “frothy a lotte” at the mouth — too much caffeine and too little water.

You can avoid taking my journey and stay on the “Nice” list. If you find the holiday season challenges your normally calm, loving, low-stress mood, then keep caffeine down and water up! Say good-bye to unusually high levels of cranky-puss and drink a lot this season. Watery, decaf drinks. Take it from me, Or else!

Get on the Nice List all year when you:

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About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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16 Responses to Naughty or Nice?: A Tale of Caffeine and Dehydration

  1. Debbie @ Live from La Quinta December 23, 2013 at 9:26 pm #

    While hunger is the usual cause of my crankiness, I really need to be more aware of my fluid intake. Every morning I pour myself a glass of water at work, and it is frequently still there on my desk, untouched at the end of the day. Shame. Thanks for the reminder.
    Debbie @ Live from La Quinta recently posted..A Picture of Christmas + the FlipBelt WinnerMy Profile

  2. Pamela Hernandez December 24, 2013 at 4:57 am #

    My husband can always tell how many cups of tea I’ve had by my morning mood. :) Caffeine can sneak up on you.
    Pamela Hernandez recently posted..12 Days of Fitmas WorkoutMy Profile

  3. GiGi Eats Celebrities December 24, 2013 at 6:39 am #

    Caffeine does wonders for me ! However, I definitely just told myself to STOP because I am starting to feel a little JITTERY – but that’s okay because I am going to work out soon, so I will be able to fuel my jitterbug into my hard core work out! LOL!
    GiGi Eats Celebrities recently posted..Gluten-Free: Not You Too Santa!My Profile

  4. Jody - Fit at 56 December 24, 2013 at 6:48 am #

    It all makes sense now says this caffeine lover!!! ;) Well, I drink it all, coffee, water all day long & pee.. :) Seriously – great info as always!!!!! I am not giving up my coffee though! :)
    Jody – Fit at 56 recently posted..To Resolve or NOT to Resolve in 2014: My Blogging ScheduleMy Profile

  5. Tambra December 24, 2013 at 8:05 am #

    I saw the title of your post and am thinking of throwing away my second cup of coffee…nah, I will just chug a gallon of water asap! I love the picture of Bob’s lower legs and the explanation. You are hysterical! T
    Tambra recently posted..5 Tips for Working Out When You Don’t Want ToMy Profile

  6. gene December 24, 2013 at 9:00 am #

    hahahahaha….that picture of your husband is FANTASTIC!!!!
    i do the same thing when dehydrated, and underfed, and tired, and…..somedays just when i am awake.
    during the summer months i drink adequate amounts of water. in the winter, however, i generally don’t. i just don’t think about it as much. this is something that i need to change starting NOW!
    off to get some water from the water machine!
    thanks for the reminder.
    gene recently posted..Quick-ish thank you vlogMy Profile

  7. Sandra Sallin December 24, 2013 at 11:19 am #

    I am sooooooo bad where water is concerned. I know I need to drink more, even some, but I just don’t like it. I’ll try, I’ll try. Thanks for keeping me aware of the things I need to be doing. Fortunately I’m not a big coffee or tea drinker. Water, water everywhere and I’m still not drinking it.
    Sandra Sallin recently posted..WOW! WE’VE BEEN MARRIED 53 YEARS AND IT JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTERMy Profile

  8. Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness December 24, 2013 at 2:10 pm #

    I’m pretty sure what I experienced a few months ago was dehydration. Moods. Check! Energy level. Check! Foggy thinking. Check! I’m not even sure who I put it all together and came up with dehydration but as soon as I upped my water intake I slowly returned to normal. Training for a 50 mile race and as I significantly increased my miles I didn’t increase water intake as much as I thought I was.

    Crankiness gone :)
    Jill @ Fitness, Health and Happiness recently posted..Happy HolidaysMy Profile

  9. Bharat December 25, 2013 at 10:21 pm #

    I usually prefer to take coffee 1-2 times in a day, though I’m not addicted to it. But yes I know the benefits of drinking water throughout the day. That’s why I always focus to drink water continuously, however the water has numerous benefits, but one very crucial benefit is, it cleans your body by cleaning waste material left after your various organ functioning.
    Bharat recently posted..Fortis Foundation women’s and child health NGO’s in IndiaMy Profile

  10. C. Ullmer December 9, 2014 at 7:25 pm #

    Great Article and Funny! Our brains float in a sea of water. When we are dehydrated brain function tends to dissipate. Caffeinated coffee and tea are both diuretics which speeds up the dehydration process. For optimal hydration results, it’s best to drink 1/2 your body weight in ounces of water per day.


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