Food

Nutrition

Breaking the Caffeine Habit

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Caffeine is the world’s most popular, legal drug. Whether you drink coffee, soda, or ingest any other form of caffeine, you’re in the majority. An estimated 85% of the U.S. population consumes at least one caffeinated beverage every day, and most people think of it as a harmless pick-me-up that gets them through long work hours or mental fatigue or both.

Still, the FDA recommends we limit our caffeine consumption to 400 milligrams a day, roughly equivalent to four to five cups of regular-strength coffee, which seems like plenty of leeway. And it is for an old school coffee drinker, who makes one pot a day. But if you’re into energy drinks or coffees with multiple shots of espresso, you’re probably drinking those 400 milligrams much faster.

The bottom line is if you’re having trouble sleeping, feeling jittery and anxious, getting an upset stomach, or your heart’s pounding, you may be overdoing it. And if you’re trying to get pregnant or breast feeding, you may need to cut back significantly.

So if your caffeine consumption crosses the line from a tasty cup of morning joe to an all-day addiction, you might want to start thinking about how to break the habit. When you do, you could be rewarded by all sorts of great health benefits—better sleep and mood, lower blood pressure and anxiety and maybe even weight loss. Here are a few tips.

Cold Turkey

Abruptly stopping the java jive usually isn’t fun. Cold turkey caffeine withdrawal can lead to headaches, brain fogginess, and a generally bummed-out feeling of irritation. In extreme cases, you may think you’ve come down with the flu. The buzz kill starts half a day to a day after you stop ingesting caffeine, hits its worst around the one-to-two-day mark, and may hang around week or so. After that, though, pat your caffeine-free self on the back!

Not Cold Turkey

But, unfortunately, if you’ve decided to quit caffeine, the side effects of withdrawal—or the fear of them—are enough to stop a lot of people from going through with it. So maybe try an easy-does-it approach. Rather than slam on the brakes, reduce your intake gradually instead.

A few tricks to put you in the right mindset:

  • Fill the cups or glasses you’re used to holding all day with water drinks, low-caffeine tea, or decaf soda. You can also fill up with a blended decaf and caffeinated coffee from a do-it-yourself brew or a half and half soda.
  • Order a small coffee drink at a coffee shop, rather than the large.
  • Drink plenty of water to minimize dehydration and make you feel a bit better when you’re weaning yourself off big doses of caffeine.

The bottom line is if you’re convinced you can’t survive without caffeine, that’s a good reason to reassess your consumption. With a little determination and the tips above, you have a good chance of getting your caffeine intake to a healthier level. And if you have more questions about the role of caffeine, or anything else addictive, in your life, contact us. We can help!

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