Coffee, Chi, and Me: Coffee Replaces Chi-Gong Exercises

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“Previously, we found that qi-stimulating events exerted similar frequency-specific effects on the blood pressure pulse spectrum. Because coffee and qi induce similar stimulatory psychological responses, we aimed to determine whether they would induce similar pulse effects. Such a relationship would suggest a close linkage between the physiologic mechanisms underlying the psychostimulatory responses and vascular effects of coffee and qi. Therefore, the profound investigations into the mechanisms underlying the effects of coffee on the central nervous system and the vascular system may help to elucidate the underlying physiology mechanisms of qi.”

This is one of the coolest studies I’ve come across in a while.  Some creative biohackers in a biophysics laboratory in Taipei just showed that coffee causes the same changes in pulse rate that come from practicing Chi Kung, Chi Gong, Qi-Gong, Qi-Gung (or one of the other dozen ways to spell it).  They just linked coffee to your life-energy.

In Eastern practices, chi is the life force that is strengthened by a variety of exercises, breathing techniques, visualization, and meditation techniques (collectively called Chi Gong). Chi is measurable as an electrical field, as a magnetic field, and through its effect on your pulse rate.

Some of my biohacking techniques use computer-assisted feedback to help me consciously change my pulse rate, which raises my chi levels and lets me sleep less (among other things).  Chi is not a religion or a fairytale.  It’s as measurable and repeatable as your heartbeat.

Biohacking and coffee are two of my favorite passions and topics for blogging.  It is simply awesome that scientists were able to link the two and show that coffee and chi have very similar effects on the body.

For years, I’ve felt a remarkable similarity between a great cup of coffee and the “buzz” I get from practicing Eastern breathing techniques, or some forms of biohacking-assisted meditation.  This is the first time I’ve seen evidence they are related.

What’s not included in the research I cite here is the fact that caffeine (or perhaps coffee, the research is unclear) reduces alpha waves in the brain.  Alpha is the relaxed, alert state that is an antidote to stress.  Chi meditation improves alpha, but coffee does not.

Nonetheless, I’m going to have to see what happens if I do a cup of Bulletproof® Coffee with butter and MCT, immediately followed by chi exercises.  If you see a tall guy bouncing down the street, that will be me.

Study: J Altern Complement Med. 2008 Nov ;14(9):1145-50. PMID: 19055336

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By Dave Asprey

  • optionzz

    Remarkable! Something as good as a cup of coffee might do good things for you too!? Thanks for sharing; neat article.

  • Marcel


    Green Tea increases the alpha waves in the brain, thus you have a much longer caffeine high and your also in a relaxed state as in meditation. (i think its mostly because of the theanine)

    • Dave Asprey

      Marcel, yes, green tea can be really nice. I take 300mg of theanine at night for the alpha and relaxation effects. Coffee and tea both contain different ratios of xanthines (caffeine, theobromine, and theophylline). Tea is pretty low in theobromine (weaker than caffeine) and theophylline (stronger than caffeine) though.

      Most people have no idea that even one cup of green tea during pregnancy can contribute to neural tube defects by dramatically increasing the body’s need for folic acid, which is also required for neural tube development in babies.

      But when you say green tea, you’re not saying much. Some green teas have a lot of caffeine, depending on where they were grown, what variety, when the leaves were harvested and how the tea was processed. You could try hundreds of different green teas – I have!

      At a private tea ceremony in Beijing, I learned that older tea leaves have more caffeine than younger. Fancier, higher grade tea like Japanese sencha, matcha, and gyokuru, and yellow and white teas are from less mature leaves so have less caffeine..

      Black tea is generally not good for you. High oxalic acid and fermentation byproducts.

      That said, if you want to enter a flow state, most people respond best to Bulletproof Coffee made with a mix of butter and high-capric MCT oil, and on test-taking days, some dextrose. One noted AI researcher out of Stanford told me, “Bulletproof coffee made with MCT feels as strong as Provigil.” Provigil is modafinil, a prescription mind performance drug.

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  • Zingbo

    Dave, when you reference chi excercises are you doing chi gong? if so, any tips on how best to learn this?

    • Jigme Oser

      Some of best systems are Dayan Kunlun Qigong and Zhinneg Qigong and Ba Dua Jin which is easy to learn

      • Michele Sifuentes

        Thank you (3 yrs later!) for your response! I am getting ready to start some sort of qigong program and am researching into which are “best” as well as best for me. If I’m reading your reply correctly the first two you consider to be the best systems while the third is easy to learn, yes? I have a myriad of health issues, and these have taken over my life. I want it back. I recently had my first appointment with a pain management Dr., which one would expect to just throw more pharmaceuticals at you, but she proved to be the perfect match as promised by my PCP! She’s lining me up with acupuncture, massage, biofeedback, craniosacral therapy, and the recommendation of meditation, yoga, tai chi, and/or qigong! And a gradual reduction of the pain meds!!! Anyway, the biggest difficulties I’m working with in trying to get going with a qigong system is that I have to use a walker due to balance issues and my pain level that seems to override my desire to do anything. I have been using meditation for the past 5 years, and it does help. The problem there is the fight within my hyperdrive ADHD brain that never shuts up or slows down! Even after 5 years, I still have to meditate with training wheels by using guided meditation tracks. Even then, my max is maybe 30 minutes on a good day. Anyway, I didn’t intend to get into all of this, and it’s a really good example of how my ADHD brain works! Thanks!

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  • Non

    excessive coffee depletes heart yin and eventually kidney essence. So be careful. Upgraded coffee is probably better for you though on these regards.

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  • Jigme Oser

    Coffee never works as well Qi Gong.
    I have 14 years experience of practicing Qigong and 40 years of drinking coffee. You will never increase your flexibility and mobility all all joints by having cupa (as many other benefits )

    I found morning cupa of quality single origin beans ( medium-light) roast filtered by Hario Woodneck with dose of coconut oil and vanilia essence as awesome start to morning meditation with mantra (AYP style ). It takes you really high 🙂

  • Jenny

    Yes but coffee also stimulates adrenals to help produce those increases, wearing down the adrenals causing fatigue and depletion in the long run. You cannot examine only the physical effects and say they’re equal… The effect might be the same on one level but what’s happening internally, chemically, adrenally and in the liver is probably quite different.

    • Jigme Oser

      Totally agree.

      • Skyler trevino

        so as long as your not drinking coffee excessively your not going to be depleting the the meridians kidneys heart and liver? I drink about an 8 oz cup a day. is that a safe amount?

    • No one special

      Coffee/caffeine is a circulator herb so if you drink a lot, simply supplement w/ tonic herbs such as reishi, cordyceps, schizandra, astragalus, etc.

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  • N/A

    Drink coffee, throw fireballs…. got it…

  • Erzsebet Bogyo

    I enjoyed reading this article, yet have to say that comparing coffee with qigong is a huge mistake – Jigme Oser gave some great points in his comment on it
    With qigong you not only get energized, but your body heals itself, you are balanced and after a while be able to create in your life with the power of your thoughts ( qigong exercises clean your body, feelings and mind of the clutter at the same time)
    I advice everyone starting here:

  • Maximus

    Is coffe bad in general according to qi/chi philosophy? If you want to take care of your chi and healing process should we skip caffe totally?

  • jaytea42 .

    Do both! BPCoffee ~and~ QiGong is the ticket, maybe followed by a mile walk. Gets your day started off just right! Namaste, JT