Quitting caffeine - the benefits and how I did it SUCCESSFULLY!

You wake up, stumble stiffly into the kitchen, flick on a full blast of light with the intensity of a thousand suns, add filtered water to the electric kettle, flick the second switch of the day to INITIATE BOILING PHASE, grind the beans medium coarse, put the grounds in the press, grab the favorite mug while the water transforms. Grab the coconut oil and heavy cream, the kettle starts to purr! Like a blacksmith you add the scorching liquid to the grounds, let it brew. 3 minutes. It’s 5:13 am. Patience. Prepare your mind for the day. Get dressed, make lunch, anything to kill the anxiety of waiting. IT’S ONLY 5:15am! One more freaking minute still?!? Patience. Breath. Watch the clock intently for that EXACT moment the 5 turns into a 6. In your peripheral - the kitchen is kind of a mess. In the back of your mind - fix your posture you slouch! 5:16am! BINGO! Time to forge the GREATEST elixir in existence. Separate the grounds from the brew, add it to the cup, add the condiments, a couple cubes of ice because I want it NOW. A quick stir with a random chopstick found in the silverware drawer to neutralize the battle between lava and tundra. A long inhale through tightly puckered lips as they rest on the cup’s rim. Delicious coffee greets the palate… Ahhhh… Excellence.

Much like many folks, I started my day like that for years, maybe decades, nearly every day. I took it black, sometimes with a splash of heavy cream or a spoon full of coconut oil. No sugar or sweetener (other substances we can live without), expensive organic fair-trade single-source coffee. Now, unlike other coffee drinkers, I was fine with one strong cup of coffee in the morning. Despite the one cup, overtime I discovered that I would get crippling headaches if I skipped my cup of coffee. The headaches were so intense, I couldn’t do anything else besides role around in agony. Sometimes the pain was so intense, I would even throw up. I would also get frequent milder headaches, from which I now deduce was probably from varying doses of caffeine. All in all - NOT GOOD.

Part of my Functional Medicine Coaching Alliance training was to experiment with the Elimination Diet, an eating protocol that takes away potentially harmful foods from your body in order to allow your body to rest, reset, and recuperate. After 3 weeks of doing this diet you reintroduce these potentially harmful foods (I say potentially harmful because everyone has different tolerances to different foods) and see how your body reacts to them. One of the potentially harmful foods, in this case a stimulant, was caffeinated products.

Oh no. Give up caffeine?!? I was worried, anxious, nervous, scared, terrified, you name it. I didn’t want to go through caffeine withdrawal and experience those massive headaches again. What does one do? One could keep drinking coffee out of fear of withdrawal/love of coffee (former me.) OR you could conquer that fear, get rid of the caffeine dependency, and live a healthier life without headaches! I finally chose the latter.

I went the handy dandy internets to research how to quit caffeine. There were many options:

  • wean yourself off caffeine (the method I use)

  • switch to tea

  • switch to decaffeinated coffee/tea

  • quit cold turkey

Here are some of the pro’s and con’s of those options.

WEANING YOURSELF OFF CAFFEINE - this is a good approach because it slowly allows your body to recuperate and discover how to function without the stimulant. The only downside from this approach would be still experiencing some withdrawal effects. I didn’t, but results will vary.

SWITCHING TO TEA - tea has multiple health benefits, especially green tea. It’s lower in caffeine than a normal cup of coffee typically. Black tea has a higher caffeine content, then green, then white having lower levels of caffeine. The only problem with switching to tea is that it’s still caffeinated, so you’re not eliminating caffeine despite the health benefits of the tea.

SWITCHING TO DECAFFEINATED COFFEE/TEA - these products have considerably less amounts of caffeine than their full-force counterparts. Again, it’s still not a caffeine-free beverage.

QUIT COLD TURKEY - if you can do this without any withdrawal symptoms, this would be the better option because it’s quick and effective. I tried this and had severe headaches for weeks. Again, results may vary.

Like I mentioned above, I weaned myself off my one cup of strong coffee a day by measuring how much coffee grounds I typically used. This came out to be 12 teaspoons. I decided to drink 2 days of coffee using 12 teaspoons each time to establish somewhat of a baseline. From then, I decreased my coffee grounds 2 teaspoons every 2 days, so from 12 tsp to 10 tsp to 8 tsp to 6 tsp to 4 tsp to 2 tsp to no coffee. That did the trick! I was caffeine free without any headaches. Hell yes! But wait…

I MISSED COFFEE. I actually enjoyed the warm, hearty, nutty, earthy, caramel, floral, roasted tastes of coffee. It was the wonderfully warm elixir that stoked an internal fame during the brisk winter days. It perked me up and jump started my brain to battle the day. Brewing that cup of coffee almost immediately after waking up became RITUALISTIC, as if I were a shaman brewing ayahuasca! Let’s revisit the intro:

You wake up, stumble stiffly into the kitchen, flick on a full blast of light with the intensity of a thousand suns, add filtered water to the electric kettle, flick the second switch of the day to INITIATE BOILING PHASE, grind the beans medium coarse, put the grounds in the press, grab the favorite mug while the water transforms. Grab the coconut oil and heavy cream, the kettle starts to purr! Like a blacksmith you add the scorching liquid to the grounds, let it brew. 3 minutes. It’s 5:13 am. Patience. Prepare your mind for the day. Get dressed, make lunch, anything to kill the anxiety of waiting. IT’S ONLY 5:15am! One more freaking minute still?!? Patience. Breath. Watch the clock intently for that EXACT moment the 5 turns into a 6. In your peripheral - the kitchen is kind of a mess. In the back of your mind - fix your posture you slouch! 5:16am! BINGO! Time to forge the GREATEST elixir in existence. Separate the grounds from the brew, add it to the cup, add the condiments, a couple cubes of ice because I want it NOW. A quick stir with a random chopstick found in the silverware drawer to neutralize the battle between lava and tundra. A long inhale through tightly puckered lips as they rest on the cup’s rim. Delicious coffee greets the palate… Ahhhh… Excellence.

HOW DO YOU GET THAT BACK!? Well, you can if you want. No one is making you quit that. But if you want to live without headaches and dependency, try eliminating caffeine for a few weeks. Become free for a bit. Some substitutes could be boiling water and a splash of lemon juice, or caffeinated herbal tea. For that boost in the morning, try exercising first thing in the morning. If I need an extra boost, I do 25 burpees to get the blood flowing and repeat as needed. After you eliminate caffeine for a bit, maybe try going back to coffee or tea for a day, see how you do. Perhaps switch to decaf so you get the taste without the high levels of caffeine. Perform these self-experiments, record the results in your brain, discover and forge the optimal you.

So I quit “heavy” use of caffeine about 6 months ago. No feelings of lagging or brain fog. No problems “starting” my day. My sleep patterns have improved. Most importantly, no reoccurring headaches. Pretty easy yet drastic change to improve my health. Ready to give it a shot?

Let me know if you have questions, need help, or how your elimination goes!

Thanks for reading, stay on the path!

Christopher JoyceComment