Going bananas? How to cope with over-caffeination
What to do when you’ve had too much coffee (and is eating a bunch of bananas really the answer?)
Caffeine is the most popular drug in the world and coffee its most popular delivery method. The right amount of caffeine can make you feel awake, alert, and refreshed. And there’s mounting evidence that drinking coffee has myriad health benefits. But for most people, ingesting too much caffeine is profoundly unpleasant. It sucks.
For us, it’s an occupational hazard. Sampling, blending, tasting innumerable coffees—I can easily to fall overboard into overcaffeination. Sometimes it’s accidental, absentmindedly having one-too-many cups. The delicious danger of having really good coffee in the house!
Individuals vary widely in their response to caffeine. Some might have a narrower dose response curve where the tipping point between fine and freaking out is just a few too many sips. Different folks can experience very different half-lives for caffeine—the amount of time it takes for your body to move half the drug from your system. This can happen in as quickly as a couple hours to as long as most of the day. As with many coffee topics, James Hoffmann has a thorough walk through on YouTube of what caffeine does in the body.
I asked my Twitter followers what remedies they’ve found to counter the effects of too much caffeine and saw many similar responses… here are some highlights:
In my own experience, chugging a bunch of cold sparkling water and popping an ibuprofen is the most effective thing I’ve found. Caffeine moves very quickly into all the cells of your body, and presumably with enough fluids it can exit fast too. The old Burning Man festival advice for desert conditions applies well here: If your pee is yellow, keep drinking till you piss clear.
What about those bananas?
Bananas come up a lot as a remedy among coffee professionals—so much so that they’re cited in numerous articles on the topic. NPR did a piece debunking it, saying there’s no evidence bananas are effective. An urban legend spread by hipster baristas. As it happens, I might know where this myth originated and Yes Plz’s own Devin Pedde is partially responsible. He shares:
“The lore of how the banana trick spread is fuzzy, but to my recollection it started for me in 2008 when I did my first barista competition and was surprised that my hands were shaking the whole time. I then remembered Kyle Glanville eating a banana backstage at the USBC [U.S. Barista Championships] in 2007 with the goal being to steady the hands—almost like a beta blocker.”
Glanville tells me he might’ve picked it up from another barista but can’t recall who (maybe Billy Wilson or Gabe Boscana), “but I was definitely a banana person from there on out.” Bananas became a thing among the Intelligentsia baristas of that era and there was always a fruit bowl full of them backstage when they competed.
Devin continues “Placebo or not, it worked. I swore by potassium intake as preparation for every competition I was in from that moment onward. It became a bit of an inside joke/meme at the time. ‘Oh those Intelligentsia guys and their bananas.’ We even had a t-shirt made depicting a portafilter emerging from a banana peel. It was never my intent to combat the effects of being over-caffeinated, so it’s funny to me that it became lost in translation.”
Back in 2009 I tried to get Devin to go on record about the ubiquitous backstage bananas:
In conclusion, maybe don’t take medical advice from baristas? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
Experts suggest staying hydrated and perhaps keeping your electrolytes up. If you find yourself frequently going too far with your coffee, there’s always the decaf option. Now it’s time for me to make that unwise fourth cup of the day…