Zeus is Dubious About the Return of the Coke Zero

“I… I thought we were rid of this stuff,” he seems to be saying. Guess again, cat! It’s back! In carbonated form!

People asked me how difficult it was to give up Coke Zero for the Lenten season, and the answer is: Not as hard as I expected. The first couple of days I did have caffeine withdrawal headaches, but they weren’t the complete throbbing bastards I was expecting, and a single pill of Excedrin banished them pretty well. After that it was pretty simple to keep the caffeinated soda out of the picture. Occasionally I would get a sort of formless want which I figure was my body having its Coke Zero twitch, but in those cases I would hit myself in the head with a ball peen hammer and it all worked itself out. Alternately, I just dealt with it. You decide which story is better.

Coke Zero is back on the menu, but it doesn’t mean I’m in a rush to get back to the same level of consumption of it that I was at before my lenten break from the stuff. I had been downing five or six cans of the stuff per day; I’d be happy to keep it down to two a day moving forward. I suspect it’ll be ever-so-slightly healthier for me in the long run. And it’ll be better not to be so damn caffeinated all the time.

52 thoughts on “Zeus is Dubious About the Return of the Coke Zero

  1. I worry that an un-caffeinated John is a less productive, less wonderfully manic John. Please say it ain’t so! Seriously, do you think you think/work/write differently sans-Zero? Is it a good or bad change?

  2. Tom #2 beat me to the question. I assume if we notice an apparent decline in productivity as measured by ScalziWords we get to read in either blog or book form we are permitted to blame it on the Lenten practice. Naturally, any increase will be credited to you.

  3. I cut way, way back on my caffeine intake several years ago, after an incident where I was deferred as a blood donor (!) — my heart was racing a little more than the nurses were comfortable with, possibly due to the industrial amounts of Pepsi I’d consumed to keep me awake through college.

    I’ll say this, though: If you drink no caffeine at all for a year or so, you’ll reach a point where a can of soda does for you what a can of spinach does for Popeye.

  4. I’ve pushed down my soda intake a lot over the last few years,. I was at 3-4 bottles (20oz) a day for awhile. I pushed that down and have switched to iced tea as much as I can, with the occasional relapse.

  5. Jeez. Aside from the major thought “COKE ZERO? WHY?” I’m shuddering at the idea of reduced caffeine intake. I know you don’t need reliance on stimulants to be a REAL WRITER (where the hell are all these caps coming from?) but when my Chiropractor told me I was drinking too much coffee, I killed him. Was that wrong?

  6. I gave up Dr. Pepper, my caffeine of choice, for a year or so and then decided that I could start up lightly, keeping it to one or two a day. I noticed six months later that I had ever so gradually increased back up close to my former consumption level, which was similar to your former level. So a few months ago I decided I’d best cut it off entirely once again. Hopefully your ability to moderate your intake over time is better than mine. I wish you luck!

  7. @10 – only if they find the body.

    I thnk it’s easier to let soda consumption sneak back up than coffee which you usually either need to make or go out for. Soda… it’s always there. Lurking in the fridge.

  8. I gave up sweets; now Easter has come and gone, and I’m still off them. It’s kind of amazing. Sweets addiction has always been part of my identity, familial and otherwise. Having the Lenten rule allowed me to really get under the (psychological) skin of the addiction.

    I still have dreams about gorging on Cadbury eggs, though.

  9. I restricted my coke intake for New Years. Resolved that I would drink more water than coke, So I had to drink 20 oz. of water before I could open that first bottle of the day. The hard stuff. Atlanta Champagne real sugar, real caffeine. It was working well. Had really cut down on the amount of nectar of the gods I was consuming. Some days, I didn’t drink any. Most days only one bottle. Then fate took a hand and our well went dry. Obviously it was a message from ceiling cat that this whole water thing was wrong…

  10. So does it still taste good to you? I gave up caffeine as well as anything containing aspartame a couple years ago now. Occasionally I still crave a soda, but if I try to drink a diet one it tastes *nasty*. I know Coke Zero isn’t the same as Diet Coke, though.

  11. Cannot give up caffeine totally. After all, the 4 major for food groups for a human contentment are:
    Fat
    Sugar
    Caffeine
    Chocolate

    And, since Chocolate contains all of the above, that makes it the most perfect food.
    Unless you’re Garfield.

  12. Excedrin has 65mg of caffeine per tablet, 8 oz of Coke Zero has 23 mg. But at some point in the Lenten season you should have had some caffeine withdrawal symptoms, unless you took Excedrin every day…

    I have gone without any form of carbonated beverage for a time, that first draught when returning is sooooo wonderful.

  13. Bill: Excedrin has 65mg of caffeine per tablet,

    Holy Crap. I didn’t know that. Why the heck would they put caffeine in a pain reliever? Wouldn’t the only pain it releive be caffiene withdrawal headaches??? Mountain Dew doesn’t seem to help the aches and pains that I’ve noticed.

  14. They say the fake sugar is as much of an appetite stimulant as the real deal. Did you notice any difference in that area, John?

  15. Off topic, but I think it ironic that Zeus is positioned just above the current Wired issue with the reference to LOL cats on the cover.

  16. Diane’s right…and it seems like Andy Samberg is looking at Zeus from the cover in much the same way Zeus is regarding the Coke Zero.

  17. I don’t think that any animal on Earth can do the “What is that and why is it in my space?” look quite as well as a cat.

  18. @#21 “It helps dilate blood vessels, which makes it easier for the medicine to get where it’s going.”

    Weeeell, not quite. Caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor. It’s added to headache medicines because many headaches are caused by vasodialation in the head. Said vasodialation is often brought about by, funnily enough, caffeine withdrawl. One of caffeine’s metabolites, theobromine, is a vasodialator, but not strong enough in the quantities produced to overcome the vasodialation effect of caffeine. That caffeine is a vasoconstrictor is the reason it raises blood pressure – make the tubes smaller and the pressure goes up.

  19. Had to check. My usual pain releif for aliergies, Tylenol and Aleve, don’t use caffeine. Man, for a moment there, I felt like I just found out someone spiked my punch bowl. Will keep in mind to look for it on teh packaging when buying otc drugs.

  20. Maybe we should look into taking capsaicin instead because capsaicin not only increase metabolic activity for twenty minutes after ingested, but the majority of trials that point toward its use in weight loss/fat burning have used it as a tool in combination with exercise and diet to be taken regularly over a long run. Any thought on that?

  21. @Kenneth B

    “Weeeell, not quite. Caffeine acts as a vasoconstrictor. It’s added to headache medicines because many headaches are caused by vasodialation in the head”

    Someone told me a long time ago that caffeine helped headaches, and I discovered that a Coke definitely took the edge off – which is handy anytime I’m hit by a headache and don’t have medicine on hand. Coke is EVERYWHERE. But now this discussion prompted me to look up the numbers, and apparently a 12 oz coke only has 34mg of caffeine. So at almost half the dose of excedrin, I guess it could just be a placebo effect I’m experiencing… I am susceptible to suggestion like whoa. ;)

    If this trick no longer works for me, I’m going to need someone to suggest another remedy to take its place.

  22. The best reason to give up caffeine is the for the first caffeinated drink you take when you fall of the wagon. We build up a tolerance and at best all we do once we are addicted is avoid the lethargy and headache.
    But when you go off for a while and then you have your first one – Ah, sweet alertness. Its not merely the avoidance of lethargy – its the real buzz.
    It doesn’t last long. But those first few…oooh baby.

  23. My powerlifting coach used to bring in a 16 oz, cup of STRONG black coffee to his workouts, said it gave him that little extra to push further into the pain threshold. He would completely abstain from any form of caffeine the week before a match then really stoke up about an hour before his first lift, awesome!

  24. I don’t drink pop/soda unless desperate (I’m super tired and have to drive). Between the sugar and the caffeine I get a major buzz that lasts hours and stops me from sleeping. Which is odd – I have a major sweet tooth so there is always chocolate.

  25. Zeus is ACTUALLY SAYING ” Yes metal grasshopper we Do look the same… but we are NOT related”.

    Oh…. and GOOD LUCK on the “trying to ONLY limit yourself to 2 cans per day” …. hehe…hahaha….roflmao with tears running down my face……..

    and have a good day as well.

  26. As a means of conquering his demons, Buster Keaton had 2 (& only 2) beers a night, so you’d sort of be following his tradition.

    I’m not trying to compare a caffiene jones to alcoholism & a career shattering nervious breakdown, but still…

  27. If you’re interested in managing your consumption – or saving money and reducing the environmental impact – you might look into making your own Coke Zero! I used to drink a ton of seltzer, and felt guilty disposing of the bottles (which cost me anywhere from 80c to $1.50 apiece). Until my enablerspouse, recently bought me a Soda Stream, which is a little device that makes your own carbonated beverages. The thing actually works very well, which surprised me – I wouldn’t have guessed it would have, but I’ve had it since December and have been really satisfied. The company provides flavorants, and you can, in fact, purchase the Coke Zero equivalent (which I believe is called Zero Cola, and tastes pretty close). The refillable carbonators on the Soda Stream are $70 per, and they pick up the old cartridges when they deliver the new – so far, mine have lasted 3 months and counting. Plus, I kind of like making my own seltzer – scuttlebutt at the social sciences water cooler over at MIT says we enjoy things more when we feel like we’ve contributed to creating them, so that may be at work. Anyway, I thought you might be interested!

  28. a) I don’t want something that’s close to Coke Zero, I actually want Coke Zero.

    b) I am deeply uninterested in having to do anything other than buy the soda and drink it. As it happens, a can of soda is excellent portion control; it’s about as much of the stuff as I want at one time.

  29. Kenneth@26: One of caffeine’s metabolites, theobromine, is a vasodialator, but not strong enough in the quantities produced to overcome the vasodialation effect of caffeine.

    (nods thoughtfully)

    hm hmmm….

    (head explodes)

    (picks up pieces and reassembes them in a patchwork quilt of a head)

    Ok, honestly, I have no idea what most of that meant. I got lost around the word “metabolites” and it went rapidly downhill, head explodey, from there. Wikipedia says theobromine is in chocolate, alongside caffeine. I read about metabolites, and thats about when my head exploded.

  30. <caption>
    “Um, Food Provider? You MUST have seen that ALIEN larval form on the side of the can. Whyinhell did you you set it down here, instead of tossing that sucker into the trash compactor and holding the circuit breaker closed?”
    </caption>

  31. The worst caffeine withdrawal I ever had was in college after running out of the case of free energy drinks I poached from a fraternity house. Once they headaches subsided I looked at my actual consumption habits and realized I was downing 2 or 3 drinks a day, often starting with an orange drink (because it’s like juice? Oh the self-delusions…) at breakfast.

    A couple weeks after breaking the habit I had one in a time of crisis and was amazed at how much more potent it had become.

  32. I used to drink way more soda than I should have, like 3-4 cans a day, but I weened myself off of it until I’m only drinking one glass with dinner, and sometimes I skip that. OTOH, I have started drinking either a double espresso or two cups of coffee with breakfast, so probably a bit behind in terms of caffeine intake, though I’m way ahead on the sugar intake.

    I have a strong dislike for artificial sweeteners, some of it is on principle but the taste is just funny. Doesn’t stop me from enjoying sugar free gum, but diet coke or coke zero is unpleasant and I’d prefer water.

  33. You might be amused to learn that in Ireland, where I’m traveling at the moment, Coke Zero uses this description on the bottle: “Sparkling low calorie soft drink with vegetable extracts.” It’s a vegetable! It’s health food!

  34. Steve Hatle @ 41:

    Another popular variation is Salt, Sugar, Grease, Alcohol. Or Caffeine, Sugar, Fat, Alcohol. For the latter, Irish Coffee is the designated Perfect Food.

  35. I think the jury is still out on whether diet soda is harmful to your overall health, but it will probably be a good thing for your teeth and gums not to bathe them in acid every two hours or so. Glad you survived!

  36. btw, you don’t have an open thread, but you know that horrible, horrible pun on the whateverettes? I just clicked it and had to let you know.

    oh. my. god.

  37. I wonder if it works to give up soda once a week. I also have alternating dentists that say to use, or not to use, a straw, which doesn’t help me at all.

  38. @Philbert at #49
    Where I am, they do sell it in 8 packs of little half-size bottles, which I love.

    @Scalzi

    Once I broke my caffeine addiction, I find the trick is to keep from getting habitual, so that your body is expecting this boost of energy. So I never drink soda first thing in the morning. I try to go a day now and then without it. I also try to always drink it with food.

  39. In sympathy. Losing access to ones dietary addiction is always annoying. =/ Wiki’ed and read up on the newer Coke beverages. Interesting stuff. I, on the other hand, have been lacking my choice of Coke for decades now. =(

    Those short Coca Colas in the pale green glass bottles from the olden days were best. LOTS of carbonation; enough to make your eyes water! Gramma Mary would let me pick one for her out of the big red and white CocaCola freezer box on the front stoop of the General Store there at Durham and I’d be allowed an Orange NeHi. While she was inside getting the mail and talking to Lula White I’d sit on the front concrete steps watching for cars driving by. Sometimes there would be an out of state license plate and I’d longingly wonder what their lives were like and if I’d ever get to travel anywhere other than our teeny tiny hamlet exacerbated by Gramma letting me check the bottom of the Coke bottle to see where in some far off distant city it had been cast.

    My choice of sugar and caffeine are Blue Sky colas now. =)

  40. I was no where near brave enough to give up Diet Coke. I Don’t think I’ve gone longer than about a day without it in 10 years. That’s terrible. I am a bad person. My dentist hates me. Whoops.
    Congrats for lasting though, that is some achievement.

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