So You Want to Stop…Drinking Caffeine

by John Fawkes
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So You Want to Stop…Drinking Caffeine

I used to be a caffeine addict, and I know how tough it can be to kick that habit. As a kid, I would drink 2 liters of soda a day; post-college, it was a gallon of green tea. Last year I was finally able to kick my caffeine habit once and for all, and now I sleep better, eat better, and have more energy without the pains and crashes that come from caffeine abuse. If you’ve tried to quit caffeine before, you know it’s not as simple as “just stop drinking coffee.” You can wean yourself off of caffeine in a way that not only helps you avoid the worst of withdrawal symptoms, but also feels easy.

1. Record Your Caffeine Consumption

As the old saying goes, “What gets measured gets managed.” Simply being conscious of your caffeine consumption will usually be enough to make you start cutting back. Track every caffeinated beverage you consume and make note of roughly how much caffeine was in it.

2. Drink Water—Lots of Water

Most people go through life in a state of mild dehydration. Dehydration causes your energy to drop and, when that happens, you’re likely to turn to caffeine in a misguided attempt to restore your energy level. Aim to drink at least a gallon of (preferably cold) water a day. This will also help prevent overeating.

3. Find a New Favorite Beverage

Many people find it difficult to adjust to drinking water all day, and that’s fine. What’s not fine is switching from coffee to non-caffeinated soda. Replace your bad habit with a good one by finding a new beverage of choice, such as decaffeinated coffee or tea, or flavor water with lemon or cucumber.

4. Avoid Insulin Spikes

Binging on starches and sugars will spike your blood sugar and, in turn, your insulin. An insulin crash will make you feel tired, much like dehydration. Avoiding insulin crashes will keep your energy levels high without caffeine. Eat foods that have a low glycemic index and insulin index, and avoid added sugars and excess liquid calories.

5. Leverage Public and Private Accountability

People behave better when they know others are watching. Find an accountability partner to check up on you periodically. You can ask a friend to fill this role, or find one through the MyFitnessPal community. It’s also helpful to make a public commitment to your goal. The prospect of public embarrassment can be an additional motivator—Facebook and online fitness communities are both good venues for this.

6. Cut Back Slowly

One of the biggest mistakes you can make on your journey to better health: Commit to something overly ambitious and unsustainable. If you try to go cold turkey, you’ll suffer from devastating withdrawal symptoms, including headaches, mood swings and fatigue. Instead, cut back over the course of two or three weeks. Better yet, set a schedule with specific caffeine consumption milestones.

7. If All Else Fails: Aversion Therapy

OK, so I didn’t want to have to add this part. Hopefully the first six techniques work for you but, a few weeks from now, if you’ve failed to make progress, it’s time for plan B. Instead of making quitting enjoyable, you need to make drinking caffeine miserable. And that means listening to Friday by Rebecca Black (link safe for work, but not your sanity) on repeat. I won’t mince words: This song is a crime against humanity. So just remember what plan B is, and do everything you can to make plan A work!

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  • Joshua Smerdel

    I had to listen to the song. Call me a sadist. You weren’t kidding.

    • Masochist, actually. A sadist would play it at full volume in his cubicle while everyone else is trying to work. Which you can still do. Just saying.

  • George

    Why on earth would anyone want to stop drinking caffeinated drinks? **twitches**

    • stillnot2late

      Somebody out there does, but it sure isn’t me

    • Roxie Rachel

      Because caffeine makes u gain weight like crazy. I lost 15.8 lbs in a week when I got rid of soda. Just to be 40 lbs heavier in a year. Starting over again tomorrow already have a bottle of Tylenol in my purse ready for work in the morning. Because when you quit u get such a bad head ache for days. Well at least I do.

      • RikDaRula722

        Caffeine doesn’t make you gain weight…. it actually boost metabolism. You didn’t lose weight because you stopped your intake of caffeine… you lost weight because you cut back your SUGAR intake from drinking soda. I hate when people give the wrong information.

      • Natalie

        Caffeine doesnt make you gain weight. That sugar laden soda that you gave was the culprit.

      • Ryan

        Caffeine doesn’t make you gain weight. It’s all the sugar and calories in your soda you are drinking. Caffeine is a nervous system stimulant that has tons of benefits but American is not educated enough to learn. They would rather have someone or something to blame for being over weight. Stop being lazy. Problem solved people.

        • Stacy

          Amen! Thank you. I wish I could post this response to the majority of my Facebook feed

      • Hey Roxie- the headache when you quit is probably from amino acid depletion cause by the caffeine. I wrote an article about that on my blog- you might try supplementing with Tyrosine or Phenylalanine as you quit caffeine. Drinking water sometimes helps too.

        Also, be careful with Tylenol. I stopped using it (switched to aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen sodium) years ago because of the studies showing it can cause liver damage even at low doses.

  • Angel

    I’ve always been a coffee addict but kicked it since I started Plexus Slim. Not totally sure how it makes the cravings/needs go away, but I’m glad I joined. Saves me a lot of money too not buying coffee everytime I’m out! Now I’m an ambassador for Plexus because of how quick it changed my coffee addiction!

  • lwright311

    I don’t have very many bad habits so I’m keeping my coffee. Besides a little coffee and green tea is good for you. I don’t drink any caffeine after 2 pm so it doesn’t disrupt my sleep.

    • Yeah, sounds like you’re doing alright. I have a history of insomnia and was actually a full-on junkie when I was younger, so I needed to quit. I actually do consume green tea in the mornings now- it’s good for you as long as you cut it out early enough and develop and good evening routine.

  • Surovski

    For over 15 years I have been drinking a cuppa joe every morning as soon as I wake up. I thought this was an addiction and decided to see if I could kick the habit. February 1 onwards I stopped having my morning coffee and I started tracking how many coffees I actually had for the month. I ended up having 5 last month. I no longer crave coffee as soon as I wake up and I don’t need coffee to wake me up every morning or keep me awake through the day. I thought it would be really hard but it wasn’t – I have had absolutely no withdrawals either.

  • Keira Chanel Russon

    I used to drink 8-10 cups of coffee a day. Now it’s been about 6 days and I’ve actually used a lot of the techniques this blog talks about such as recording my caffeine intake on @my fitness pal, drinking more water, changing my food habits and eating more healthy, increased exercise, I have my partner I am accountable too. It’s definetely working for me.

  • Sledge

    If you drink a lot of caffeine (i.e. abuse it) then cutting back is good. Most people when actually done in a clinical sense become very tolerant and do not show adverse affects for moderate consumption.
    Having said that drinking a gallon of water a day is me than necessary for most people. Saying that people are “mildly dehydrated” implies more than “a but thirsty”. Please don’t use the word dehydrated in that context.

  • jess

    Caffine does make you gain weight. It releases a chemical in your body that directs fat stores to your abdomen. 🙁 i stopped for 2 weeks and just drank herbal tea with lemon juice and i really debloated and slimmed. Unfortunately it didnt last for long and now find myself trying to loose weight with an uphill struggle as coffee is about the only thing i enjoy. I dont smoke i dont drink ir do drugs, and i love food, so coffee is my only treat. But that stubborn belly fat is going nowhere fast!!!! Google it. You will see all the writeups about caffine and belly fat. But its true, soda doesnt count. It has so much sugar and neuro toxins that fizzy drinks are a massive no no!!

  • pop obsessed

    Ok, I need to stop drinking pop. I can drink 4-6 cans of Coke a day, easily. I have stopped in the past but always end up caving at some point in time.
    I suffer from the terrible caffeine withdrawal migraines and I promise myself that I will never do that to myself again. And then I break my promise.
    I want to/have to stop all the sugar intake. I’m not setting good habits and I don’t like what the sugar/empty calories are doing to my body.
    So this time I am reaching out to this community for your positive/healthy support. There no better day then today to make a change. I’m willing to change today.
    I need advice on what to eat to keep my energy up, sugar level stable & calorie counts controlled. That being said, I don’t like cooking, I don’t enjoy it. I have a family I also need to cook for that again I don’t like to do bc I don’t like cooking. I don’t know how to. I have no interest in food preparation. Since I don’t know what to make, that’s what leads me to eating candy and drinking pop.
    Please help.

    (& remember to be nice, if you don’t have anything nice to say, then don’t say anything at all. Thank you)

    • mablaney

      Serk for Coca Cola and I don’t drink very much of it at all maybe 12 cans year. and that would be on the high side you should be drinking lots of water, and even though you may not like to cook you should learn. fast food and candy are definitely not your friend. read the ingredients and google them if you have to it sounds like you are slowly killing yourself with your diet. you do have alternatives but you have to search them out

    • Caffeine-Free Since 2003

      Quitting caffeine is a bitch. No way around it, but I have been without a caffeinated beverage since 2003. My method began by not having any caffeine after work. When that didn’t improve my sleep, I stopped after 2:30. Then none after lunch. I made myself drink water at work instead, milk at home.

      Finally, I cut it out altogether. Longest 2 weeks of my life, but worth it.

      Instead of candy, buy a huge bag of blue diamond almonds and nosh on those when you get the munchies…or the caffeine urges.

      Good luck!

    • Pop, you’re where I was as a kid. I would seriously get up in the middle of the night and sneak Dr. Peppers from the fridge. It’s good to see you’re committing to making a change.

      Most of what you need is in this article. In particular, drink a lot of water and eat food that’s low in carbs and glycemic index. Canned chili, apples, carrots and celery dipped in almond butter or ranch dressing…Tim Ferriss’ slow carb diet worked really well for me.

      You might also have an amino acid deficiency that needs fixing- I wrote an article about that on my blog. Basically, caffeine overuse makes you deficient in Tyrosine and Phenylalanine, and that causes most of the headaches and fatigue after you give it up.

      Ultimately though, you probably should start cooking a bit too. I’ll admit, I also hate to cook, so I recently started taking a cooking class where I learn recipes I can prepare in bulk. Surprisingly, I’m starting to enjoy it somewhat, but I’m still glad I only have to cook twice a week.

  • Blank

    You should be more science oriented before posting old information
    The latest from Mayo Clinic states that you SHOULD drink at least one cup of coffee a day as it works to detoxify the liver!

  • jodie

    I gave up caffeine 3 month ago due to palpitations, also i had a missed miscarriage before Christmas and your advised to avoid caffeine during pregnancy .. The first few weeks were really hard because i was a coke zero addict, but i stuck too it and i feel great, i have more energie and haven’t had palpitations since. The hardest bit is avoiding chocolate the coke zero doesn’t bother me one bit, i now drink decaf tea and coffee, cordial, half a glass of fresh fruit juice in the morning and lots and lots of water. I don’t have sugar or caffeine crashes so I’m more likely to stick to healthy foods and not cave in to the bad stuff. Hope this helps to anyone thinking of giving up caffeine 🙂 x

  • Alasha

    Ok, I have tried several things on the list and I have found that finding a new drink worked the best. Then after i was off the soda, I realized I could not drink as much of the new drink as soda, so I ended up drinking a lot more water.

    • Alasha, I can’t tell you how happy I am to see somebody actually tried this instead of just saying “Oh cool, I should try that sometime.” I’m glad it helped you.

  • Lisa

    Thankfully I gave up caffeine over 18 months ago, and I now feel better in the mornings when I wake up than I did after my fist cuppa! The first week was bad headaches and the more they persisted the more that drove me to being caffeine free, cause I thought if this is doing this to my head, what else is it doing to my body!

  • Lisa

    Thankfully I gave up caffeine over 18 months ago, and I feel better in the mornings when I wake up than I did after my fist cuppa and I have heaps more energy throughout the day! The first week was bad headaches and the more they persisted the more that drove me to being caffeine free, cause I thought if this is doing this to my head, what else is it doing to my body!

  • gigglgal

    This soda habit is hard to kick. Gotta do it though ….time to be healthy. It’s all in your head and you are in control. Day one tomorrow.

  • Joseph G.

    I’d like to get off caffeine but it’ll have to be very slowly. I’m so hooked that recently I waited too long in the day to have my fix and had headaches so powerful I was actually throwing up; easily one of the worst days of my life. So, although I have my morning cup of coffee my first goal is to eventually eliminate any other caffeinated beverages for the rest of the day.