The Caffeine Advantage

The Caffeine Advantage: How to Sharpen Your Mind, Improve Your Physical Performance, and Achieve Your Goals--the Healthy Way Last night I finished reading The Caffeine Advantage, a book claims that caffeine is actually good for you: “The Caffeine Advantage offers step-by-step programs that show you how caffeine can improve your IQ, memory, mood, athletic ability, physical condition, and performance at work.”

One of the most bold claims is that caffeine can make you smarter. In chapter 4 the authors state that taking a small to medium dosage of caffeine (i.e. 50 – 150 mg) before taking an IQ test will likely improve your score. Since IQ is the generally accepted measure of how smart one is, caffeine makes one smarter. I’d like to get my hands on a copy of the book that mentions that study (Caffeine and Behavior). Looks like the UCLA Biomed library has a copy, so perhaps I’ll ask Ariella to check it out for me.

The book also states that if you consuming too much caffeine can actually have an inverse affect on performance. For many people, having more than 600 mg of caffeine a day can make the drug less effective.

I’m a big fan of espresso (especially Illy, which is almost never bitter) but I occasionally drink drip coffee as well. I learned several years ago from the Caffeine FAQ that a shot of espresso has less caffeine than a cup of coffee (~100 mg vs. ~150 mg), so I figure that my morning double-shot is about equivalent to a 12 oz. cup of regular coffee. What I didn’t realize how little the average 6 oz. cup of green tea has: only 15 mg! Given the rough guideline of consuming < 600 mg a day, I guess I can drink as much green tea as I’d like.

This book is a refreshing perspective compared to the anti-caffeine rhetoric prevalent in the health community. It’s unfortunate that the authors don’t have more impressive credentials. I’d love to believe everything in the book, but I know full well that it’s written by a couple of quacks.

LA Restaurant Watch

sushi.jpg I got email from the owner of asking me to link to his website. I took a look, and it definitely got some good content.

I was surprised to discover that 98% of restaurants get a rating of A or B from the Health Department. Either Los Angeles retaurants are really very healthy or grade inflation extends beyond high school and college.

It turns out that you can get much of the same information directly from the LA DHS, but provides a better UI.

Cipro to the rescue

cipro.jpg I’m feeling much better after a dose of some broad-spectrum antibiotics. I took 750 mg of Cipro on Friday and kissed Montezuma goodbye.

In related news, the nurse from Kaiser Permanente (“Good people, Good medicine”) said she had no record of my lab results, so perhaps we’ll never know what the cause of the illness was.

Montezuma’s Revenge

Imodium A-D from Ariella and I had a great time in Puerto Vallarta last week. Swimming, strolling along the beach, scuba diving, horesback riding, chips & guacamole, margaritas. The good life.

That is, until we got back home. On Friday morning I had the runs. Saturday brought a 101 degree fever. I’ve been shivering/sweating for the past 6 days, inbetween sleeping on the couch and making a few-too-many trips to the bathroom.

A few interesting things I’ve learned from this experience:

  1. Immobilizer A-D may be available over the counter, but it is not the best product on the market. Lomotil does a better job when you really need the strong stuff.

  2. A 128 oz bottle of Gatorade lasts about a day and a half when it’s the only sustenance you’re consuming.
  3. The medical definition of a fever is 100.4°. Anything between 98.6° and 100.3° is considered a “temperature”, but not a fever.

I’m still waiting for lab results to find out if the cause is viral, bacterial, or parasites. Bleh.

The Caffeine Disadvantage?

My favorite drug: 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine JR Conlin: “Caffeine has become the new nicotine.”

Over the past 10 years I’ve kicked my caffeine habit twice but fell off the wagon both times. A few years ago we got an espresso maker as a wedding present, and I’ve been drinking a shot or two every morning. It turns out that a shot of espresso has about as much caffeine as a 6-oz cup of coffee, so it’s not like I’m a complete junkie. Some folks drink 6-8 cups of regular (drip) coffee a day!

Of course, I’ve been known to have a Diet Coke or two during the day as well, so my total daily intake is probably close to half a gram.

I’ve always loved the way caffeine has made me feel. I’m so alert and awake, and it lifts me out of the occasional blues. We stumbled across Weinberg & Bealer’s book in a bookstore last year and I’d love to find the time to sit down and read it.

No-Boil Baked Ziti

We did some good work getting rid of chametz this past Shabbos. Here’s a recipe we made which turned out to be very yummy.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Bake Time: 60 minutes

Serves: 8

1 26 oz jar pasta sauce

1 1/2 cups water

15 oz ricotta

1/4 cup grated parmesan

2 cups shredded mozzerella

8 oz uncooked ziti

Preheat oven to 400 F.

Combine sauce and water.

Stir in ricotta, parmesan, and 1 cup mozzerella.

Add uncooked ziti.

Spoon ziti mixture into 13×9″ baking dish.

Cover with foil and bake 55 minutes.

Remove foil and sprinkle with remaining mozzerella.

Bake uncovered for 5 minutes.

(recipe courtesy MIT’s Deutsche Haus)

Veggie Chili for dinner tonight

Shabbos dinner tonight is going to be simple: Vegetarian Chili.

Valentine’s Day dinner was actually last night for the Radwins. We have a tradition of celebrating on the 13th. It was a fancy four-course vegetarian Italian dinner. The owner of the restaurant greeted us at the door with a handshake and a kiss (for me and Ariella, respectively).

Shabbat Shalom!

Orna’s Sesame-Lemon Salad Dressing

I’m making Orna’s famous Sesame-Lemon Salad Dressing for tonight’s green salad. Here’s the recipe:

  • 3 Tbsp. toasted sesame seeds
  • 3/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground pepper
  • a couple of dashes of Tabasco
  • 1 tsp. sugar (optional)

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Shabbos Dinner at Flexie’s

It was over 24 hours ago, and I’m still kvelling about the meal.

Ariella and I were blessed with an invitation to Friday night dinner at Flexie’s, and as expected, it was a feast worth writing home about. I guess the Big Guy Upstairs wants me to be happy after all.

After kiddush and motzi, we began with the appetizer course. First came around the challah and some eggplant-red pepper tapenade, and some chumus. Next followed three kinds of sushi (salmon and avocado, cucumber, and plain avocado) with wasabe and pickled ginger. We had not one, but two green salads. The first had slices of strawberries and mangoes; I didn’t even have a chance to try the second. Next came fried tofu, bean sprouts, and cucumbers with peanut sauce. Delicious. And just writing about the warm curried salmon with garbanzo beans is making my mouth water again.

The next course was a spicy tofu-noodle soup. Flexie said she thought it was too spicy, but it was just right for me.

Then came the meat course. I’m trying to recall just how many different kinds there were:

  • roast chicken
  • spiced Singapore brisket
  • potato puffs with something non-vegetarian inside
  • curried chicken and potatoes
  • beef ribs (my favorite)
  • chicken egg rolls

When you eat a meal at Flexie’s, you think you’ve died and gone to heaven. No, Toto, this isn’t Kansas. It’s Los Angeles!

All throughout dinner we spoke about Israel, Los Angeles, and Singapore. Who’s the guy that’s running against Sharon that’s going to lose the election? Have you seen the ugly houses they’ve been building in Beverly Hills? Will Ari and Akiva get a great job working security for some Hollywod celebrity or executive?

durian, the king of fruits Eliass and Stuart had us clutching our sides with laughter as they spoke about the durian fruit, a delicacy in Asia. The fruit itself is creamy and delicious, but it’s got some nasty attributes. First of all, the fruit is apparently the size of a soccer ball with spikes all over it, so it’s extremely difficult to open. In addition, although it tastes out of this world, it’s got a rather unplesant odor. Stuart was telling us how they’ve got signs on the subway in Singapore that say “No durian allowed” because it’s so fetid. We wondered if there were durian and non-durian hotel rooms or rental cars.

We didn’t actually get a chance to try any durian at the meal, but Eliass said he’d try to get some in Chinatown and invite us back. I can hardly wait!

With our bellies full, Dr. Herzberg passed out some text for us to study and led us in a shiur about Miriyam the Prophetess. The week’s Torah portion was Beshalach, when the Israelites are leaving Egypt and crossing the Red Sea. The discussion focused on the phrase “Miriyam the prophetess, Aaron’s sister, took the drum in her hand, and all the women followed her with drums and dancing.” (Exodus 15:20) As usual, the shiur was superb. Dr. Herzberg has a way of making the text come alive.

He was about to lead us in a zemer or two and bentching when Flexie reminded him that he had forgotten something important: dessert. New plates were passed around, and we were treated to fruit salad, a large selection of fresh fruit (yes, there were two kinds of fruit), cake and cookies.

Finally, we finished up with some bentching and some zemirot. Everything was right in the universe. These are the things that make Shabbos so much more special than just Friday night and Saturday. It’s a time for sharing wonderful meals, participating in great conversation, and some learning with your family and friends. Nourishment for the body and soul.

Exactly what I needed.