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Faux Fuel

June 5, 2013

090113203901-largeThe Food and Drug Administration is doing something right for a change – the agency announced that it has decided to investigate the growing, alarming trend toward adding caffeine to all sorts of common foods.

The FDA announced this just as Wrigley, the chewing gum giant, was rolling out its newest product – a gum with added caffeine, the equivalent of 1/2 cup of coffee per stick. The agency has never set a safe level of caffeine for children, and products like gum appeal to kids – hence, the alarms and whistles. (Never mind the enormous amount of caffeinated sodas that children drink every day.)

Are products like gum, and waffles and syrup with added caffeine dangerous? We don’t know, and that’s the whole point. We do know that excessive caffeine gets you wired, hence the name of one of these new products, “Wired Waffles.” And that’s the point. The manufacturers have found that people like truck drivers and students – a curious combo, to be sure – will pay for more and more products that keep them awake and “faux-energized.”

And so will a lot of other folks, too. Statistic Brain estimates there are 100 million daily coffee drinkers in the United States, each consuming an average 3.1 cups a day. My clients often admit to reaching for coffee in the mid-afternoon when their energy levels start to slump and they need a push to make it through the workday. It’s the same reason some people turn to sugary, vending machine snacks.

You don’t need sugar or caffeine, though, to help you power through your job. They really just give you a temporary rush. In general, eating small amounts of protein and fiber throughout the day is what will keep your energy levels humming. When I hit a 4 p.m. gotta-have-something moment, for example, I have a glass of water and maybe a stalk of celery with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter to tide me over until dinner. Or an ounce of nuts mixed with raisins or dried cranberries, or a small dish of plain yogurt with some berries.

Try one of those, and see if you still need that cup o’ joe – or Coke or stick of gum – to get you through.

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