Thursday, December 14, 2006

Mmmmm, caffeine

I was up to 3 or 4 large Tim Horton's double-doubles per day when I flew medevacs. It was the only way to make sure I could keep my eyes open at any time of the day (or night). The downside to that was I spent $15/day on coffee and cookies (it wouldn't be right to get a coffee without one of the caramel/chocolate/pecan cookies that Tim Hortons offers), and I had frequent stomach cramps.

Then one day I tried Red Bull. It was great - it tasted like liquid candy and it went well with vodka. And at 630am the following morning as I sat, tipsy and wired, in my hotel room, I realized that it had lots and lots of caffeine.

At $3 per can we could have no long term future, and I have settled on its cousin, Red Rain as my fav energy drink. They are only $1.25 per can and have as much caffeine as 2 cups of coffee, but without the stomach rot.

They also work really fast - if I wake up from my afternoon nap and feel like a clubbed baby seal, I just chug a Red Rain and by the time the contents are in my gullet, the fog has lifted.

What's your secret for staying alert in the cockpit?

5 comments:

zb said...

Depends on the situation.

GREEN TEA is awesome. My recipe is, in my opinion, delicios, but those who call themselves connaisseurs will think it is insane. Anyway: Use just a few leaves for one liter, otherwise it will get too strong and make you too shaky. Wait a minute or two to let the boiling water cool down and pour it in your tea pot. I prefer a big (1.5l) glass can instead of a pot, actually. If you are working at home or in the office or in the lab (i.e. in a building), don't worry about the tea leaves in your glass can while you drink the tea during the 2 or 3 hours after you made it. Your tea will get a bit bitter, but not much. Remember -- you have used really just a few leaves. If you get thirsty again, don't worry about using your tea leaves twice or adding just very few on top of the old ones. Don't re-use the leaves more than once, though. If you are outside on a mountain hike, bike tour or whatever, maybe even in the cockpit, make the tea just like I said, wait for 15 minutes, and pour it into a big (1l) thermos bottle, without the leaves. I like the stainless steel ones because they are not as heavy and you can't break them. The best part about green tea is that you get a lot of liquid with your caffeine.

BLACK TEA. Like above, but it tends to f#ck with your health. Makes you a lot more shaky than green tea.

ESPRESSO. At morning, with A LOT of milk and NO SUGAR. I even like it when the milk is just at room temperature, but warm milk is very good, too. As I dislike too many electric appliances in the kitchen, I use a plain old eggbeater and it works just fine. During the day, I like my espresso black, with a bit of sugar. I especially like it after a good lunch or dinner. Please, do me a favor: Only buy your espresso in extreme emergencies, except when at a trustworthy italian restaurant. Make it at home, on your stove, with a can similar to this one:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Coffe_percolator_moka.jpg
The smell and sound are awesome, the taste is delicious.

RED BULL and the like? Are you kidding me? Not even when I'm completely drunk! Sorry, dood, but this stuff is, like, so disgusting, that I prefer to leave it to the wannabe-rebel snowboarders over in Austria. I have never been to an apres-ski-party. I have never been to an after-work-party. If I wanna get caffeine, I stay with the classics (see above). If I wanna get drunk, I like beer. Or vodka. But I won't allow any distasteful sugary stuff to spoil it. Sorry, but I strongly disagree. I hope, though, you will still write nice blog entries for me to enjoy.

david said...

Not all of the tricks I use to stay awake in my Cherokee would be of much use in a Citation:

* I always hand-fly, even in IMC (I'm too cheap to install an autopilot);

* I run the cold-air vent on my face even when the heater is full on my feet (that works in an unpressurized plane);

* I try to find AM talk-radio and seniors-hit stations on the ADF (does your Citation even have an ADF?);

* I tune in NDB stations and watch the needle swing by as I pass them;

* I tune in ATIS and ASOS stations as I pass, to listen to the regional accents (well, on ATIS, anyway);

* I keep out the VFR charts, even when I'm IFR, and try to identify towns, lakes, etc. through breaks in the clouds;

* I fold and refold charts while steering using my feet on the rudder pedals (see "no autopilot" and "IMC", above).

I've never been a fan of using caffeine to stay awake, whether it's studying in university, working a night shift, driving, or flying, because you always end up paying for it; then again, I fly only about 120 hours/year, sleep on a regular schedule, and have never flown more than 9 hours in a single day.

arf said...

I don't fly, so do not have any flying-related experience to recount in the caffeine department. However, I used to be a serious coffee drinker--5-6 cups a day. I worked long hours and used the coffee as motivation to get work done (ie in 90 minutes, I can have a coffee, so keep plugging away). About five years ago I developed a serious intolerance of caffeine--my system was really messed up--and now I can't even eat chocolate. I went cold turkey on the caffeine and couldn't believe that I was still able to stay awake as much as before and be as productive as before. Interestingly, while I always slept decently, now when I put my head down I drop almost instantly into a deep sleep.

Red Bull and the like became popular after I stopped drinking caffeine, so I have never tried it. I don't like the idea of mixing sugary things with booze because of the risk of a nasty hangover.

flyer said...

Red bull kept me alive when I was doing long haul on the 340...usually one about half way and another top of drop so I would be ready for the approach worked great.

Swedish Aviatrix said...

I do realise I sound boring, but I try to stay away from caffeine and sugar and the like because one will pay for that quick high with a just as quick and nasty low shortly afterwards. At least I know I do.

Food-wise I try to eat slow carbs, lots of veggies and beans and whole meal -- oats and rice -- and at regular intervals. Of course, get as much sleep as possible (not always easy when you're flying medevac) helps as well.

Otherwise I use non-edible tricks, like the gentleman two posts above me, like the cold air in your face, practicing Morse code while listening to NDB's, listening to HF radio or discussing stuff with the captain.