How I Quit Drinking Caffeine

I was a daily coffee and soda drinker, but giving them up was easier than I ever expected.

Photo by Ohmky on Unsplash

Why I Quit Drinking Caffeine

At the beginning of this year, I made a resolution to give up caffeine. My original motivation was to improve my sleep habits, but I soon discovered an even more important benefit: eliminating caffeine from my diet greatly reduced my anxiety. After nearly half a year without caffeine, I still feel a clear improvement in my mental state.

I originally worried that quitting caffeine would be difficult. Like many people, I felt that I needed caffeine to help me wake up in the morning and keep me alert throughout the day. Instead, I’ve discovered that I was crediting caffeine with far more benefits than it was actually giving me.

In fact, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how easy giving up caffeine has been. I still feel alert all day long without a single soda or cup of coffee. In my experience, the only hard part of quitting caffeine was the first few weeks, and even that went better than expected.

How to Make a Smooth Transition

If you’re planning to quit drinking caffeine, there are a few ways that you can make the transition go smoothly. The first, and most important, is to gradually scale down your caffeine intake.

Scaling Down

Many caffeine drinkers don’t realize this, but caffeine is technically a psychoactive drug, and quitting it can lead to withdrawal symptoms. For me, the worst of these symptoms were headaches.

When I stopped drinking caffeine, I had headaches for days. Tylenol helped a little, but didn’t make them go away entirely.

Fortunately, you can drastically lessen (or even eliminate) caffeine’s withdrawal symptoms simply by slowly weaning yourself off of caffeine. Instead of going from eight cups a day to zero, start by just cutting one cup of coffee out at a time.

I scaled down my caffeine intake over a couple of weeks before finally quitting altogether. In retrospect, I wish I had scaled down even more slowly. I think about two months would have been a good time frame for eliminating withdrawal symptoms completely.

Staying Hydrated

A second way to make quitting caffeine easier is to stay hydrated. When I first quit drinking caffeine, I felt like I had very little energy throughout the day. I blamed this on the reduced caffeine, but it turned out I actually wasn’t hydrating well enough.

As soon as I started drinking more water, many of the symptoms that I blamed on caffeine withdrawal disappeared entirely. I drink a ton more water this year than I ever have before. I go through much more than the standard recommendation of eight cups a day.

I’ve learned that water itself can be incredibly energizing, even without any added chemicals. Before quitting caffeine, I wouldn’t have believed how alert I could feel from simply drinking a glass of plain water.

Avoiding Chocolate

One mistake that I made early on is that I didn’t realize chocolate has caffeine. Depending on the type of chocolate, the caffeine content can range from negligible amounts to nearly as much as a cup of coffee. In general, the darker the chocolate, the more caffeine it will have.

If you’re trying to eliminate caffeine entirely, then the unfortunate truth is that you’ll need to cut out chocolate as well as coffee. Alternatively, if you are simply trying to reduce caffeine consumption, you could transition from dark chocolate to milk chocolate.

Regardless of what your goal is, it’s important to realize that chocolate can be a significant source of caffeine. If you’re only tracking the caffeine that you drink, and not the caffeine that you eat, then you’re missing half the picture.

Give Yourself Extra Time

Finally, when you first quit drinking caffeine, I recommend giving yourself extra time to get things done. During my first few days without caffeine, it took my longer to get up in the morning and I felt sluggish throughout the day.

It can help to plan your schedule with plenty of extra time so that you don’t feel pressured into resorting to a cup of coffee to get things done. I’d budget for about half an hour of extra time to “wake up” in the morning.

Fortunately, this sluggishness does not last long at all. These days, I can wake up just as quickly without coffee as I ever did with it.

Nothing to Fear

I was extremely hesitant about quitting caffeine. Soda and coffee were such a regular part of my daily routine that I wasn’t sure whether I could function without them. It turned out all my worrying was for nothing.

Overall, quitting caffeine really wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it might have been. Scaling down slowly and drinking plenty of water was enough to get me through the withdrawal symptoms without much trouble.

If you’re on the fence about quitting caffeine, I strongly recommend giving it a try. You might be similarly surprised by how easy it can be.

I’m a lawyer and teacher from North Carolina. I write about sobriety, mental health, running, and more. Buy me a “coffee” at ko-fi.com/benyaclark.

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