Get caffeinated without coffee

    Energy drinks can pep you up! Photo by Ricky Pai / North by Northwestern.

    Uh-oh. It’s happening again. Oh sure, it starts out innocently enough: Your eyelids get that droopy, content feeling and your blinking becomes lazy and slow like that old guy who is always in your way on Sheridan Road. Next, you stop blinking altogether and do that awkward yo-yo-head thing where you slowly slump your head forward or sideways, perfecting the double-chin look, only to jerk it back up in a brief and fleeting moment of vigilance. Now you repeat for the entire lecture period, hoping not to completely pass out on that slightly smelly kid sitting next to you and drool all over his shoulder. Save that for really long plane rides.

    It’s common knowledge that no one sleeps enough in college. Instead, we fall asleep in class, in strangers’ beds, during dinner, into your plate of soggy spaghetti… you get the gist. The obvious solution is consuming ridiculous amounts of everyone’s favorite legal drug: caffeine.

    What? You don’t love coffee more than life? You don’t adore sketchy, bitter hot water and having perpetually bad breath? You don’t have a shrine to third-world country coffee pickers in your closet?

    Don’t despair! You, too, can be as jittery, addicted and headache-ridden as your coffee-guzzling friends. Why settle for java when there are so many options out there?

    Tea: This classic coffee alternative comes in more varieties than Heinz Ketchup. Black, green, and oolong teas contain caffeine (herbal teas do not) but only have 30 percent to 50 percent as much caffeine as coffee. Some people swear that caffeine from tea is “better” than caffeine from coffee. This is undetermined, but tea is easier to make than coffee.

    Chai Tea Lattes: Delicious spicy drinks that taste like a blustery fall day with scarves and pumpkin pie. And they actually pack a decent amount of caffeine, pretty comparable to a small cup of coffee or a regular latte. You can try one at any of the zillion coffee shops lining the streets of Evanston or at the Plaza Cafe, Crowe Cafe or Lisa’s. You can even combine this and the next suggestion in a yummy Chocolate Chai from Cafe Ambrosia.

    Chocolate: This treasure of South America naturally contains caffeine without any of the bitter-yuckiness of coffee. Be sure to choose a darker chocolate — a Hershey’s bar won’t quite cut it. But keep in mind that to get the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee, you would have to eat between two and three bars of chocolate, or about 120 Hershey’s Kisses, to get the equivalent caffeine from a cup of coffee… so don’t kid yourself.

    Coffee Ice Cream: If you’re the kind who prefers a shot of coffee with your glass of milk and not the other way around, this is the thing for you! Hitting up Ben & Jerry’s for some Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz will give you a jolt of about as much caffeine as a cup of black tea (between 60 mg and 80 mg).

    Caffeine pills: For the pill poppers and over-medicated, over-the-counter caffeine is available in forms like No-Doz (200 mg of caffeine) and Excedrin (130 mg of caffeine). Doctors recommend that you don’t drink alcohol while taking pills like Excedrin and that you be aware of other acetaminophens in your system. You don’t want to overload. One at a time, ladies and gents.

    Cocaine: No, not the illegal-substance kind. Cocaine is the name of an energy drink that packs a modest 280 mg of caffeine. Yeah, there’s a reason it’s named after a drug. If you want to avoid worsening your drug-addict appearance (under-nourished, over-worked, dark circles under the eyes) stick to less potent energy drinks like Red Bull (80 mg of caffeine) or Monster (160 mg of caffeine).

    Chewing gum: Many people swear that the act of chewing something is more effective than a cup of coffee in staying awake through those sleepy afternoon classes. Some research studies have attributed this apparent phenomena to increased blood flow to the brain while moving your jaw. If this is true, a pack a day (of Orbit, not cigarettes!) could improve your memory and maybe even your test scores.

    Caffeine gum: Caffeine gums like Jolt can give you a kick if you’re just way too good for regular gum. At only 33 mg caffeine per stick, though, you better get that jaw working.

    Chocolate-coated espresso beans: If you’re into chewing your caffeine, this option is probably far, far tastier than sketch caffeine gum. The catch? There’s really no way to know exactly how much caffeine you are ingesting, so you could either be doing awkward-jerky-head thing all day, or alternately running up and down the halls of your Psychology lecture making a jittery fool of yourself.

    Actually sleeping: Wait — this isn’t an option. Who has time to sleep at night? Naps, however, can be useful. Taking an afternoon doze can actually put you in a better mood and improve memory and decision-making skills — those totally useful things that we entirely lack in college. Sometimes I forget what they are. So ideally, snooze for anywhere between 15 minutes to two hours, enough time to enter into a restful state of sleep, without wasting the day and ruining your chances of getting any sleep that night. It’s always better to sleep in a real bed, though, and not in a desk.

    Keep in mind, however, that too much caffeine can cause nervousness, irritability, sleeplessness and a rapid heartbeat. But really — when has that ever stopped you? Just don’t say I didn’t warn you when your heart starts racing in Orgo. It’s not love. It’s just the side-effects of the Cocaine.


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