When Coffee Is the Question, But No Is the Answer

Anna Karanina C. Tan, RN  @AnnaTantrum
July 22, 2017  | Last Updated: July 22, 2017

I don’t know about you, but I personally love it when science backs coffee addicts up on the struggle that is caffeine withdrawal. Why? Because I’ve always had a love-hate (heavier on the love) relationship with coffee. I guess it’s kind of like having an energetic girlfriend/boyfriend to whom you owe being a newfound morning person: You like that it gets you out of bed and ready to take on all the things, but some days will eventually feel more (hot)wired than inspired. Don’t get me wrong; coffee is by no means “bad” for the average person. It’s definitely a mental and physical performance booster, offers a bunch of health benefits, and we can’t help it if it tastes like milk from the gods, right?


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Unfortunately, experts are now looking at caffeine as one of today’s widely used and silently abused drugs. It is addictive, causes side effects such as elevated blood pressure, heart palpitations, hyperacidity, anxiety and insomnia, and, in its absence, leaves you craving, exhausted, moody, scatterbrained, and constipated.

Caffeine tolerance and dependence usually arise when we start using coffee as a crutch instead of a boost, or as a leisurely drink. While experts recommend limiting your daily caffeine intake to no more than 300 mg – that’s roughly three 8-ounce cups of coffee – the average coffee drinker really doesn’t and shouldn’t need more than a cup of brewed coffee (80 mg) or maybe a single shot of espresso (40 mg) to subtly and healthily reap the benefits of coffee. If you really think about it, if day-to-day life was a smooth-sailing fairytale everyone would be logging 8 hours of sleep every night and hardly anyone would need to get caffeinated just to get through their day.

I recently dragged myself through 10-day caffeine detox because I noticed feeling more anxious, more frequently, over more and more trivial things. Falling asleep and staying asleep had gotten so difficult, I would actually get anxious as I got ready for bed. So, for the sake of my mental health and beauty rest, I told my morning coffee we needed a break.

Here are some of my tips that should help you get through that caffeine withdrawal without losing productivity, and everyone you hold dear in life:

  1. Avoid going cold turkey. It’s caffeine, not crack. If your daily dose usually comes in a Venti (3 to 4 shots of espresso = 120 to 160 mg of caffeine), take a few days to work your way down to a Tall – which is Starbucks talk for ‘small.’
  2. Switch to decaf. Most coffee shops these days offer just-as-tasty decaf brews and beans. A single shot of decaf espresso has at most 16 mg of caffeine in it, so go ahead and drink your coffee! We’re trying to quit caffeine here, not coffee. *wink*
  3. Stretch or exercise first thing in the morning. It’s not an easy habit to build, but there’s no reasonable amount of grogginess some gentle movement and a little blinding sunlight can’t fix. Try doing a series of dynamic stretches, or sun salutations after you literally roll out of bed and onto your yoga mat to help improve circulation throughout your body and mind. Additionally, getting your endorphins flowing at the start of the day will also curb your need for a caffeine boost.
  4. Drink more water. A dehydrated body and mind will feel sluggish and only worsen your caffeine craving.
  5. Think of the glorious savings. Seriously, think about it! I used to spend at least $4 a day on iced coffee. Now I’m saving about $25 every week. I’m not just talking about saving money. You save on calories, too, because avoiding coffee ultimately means avoiding adding dairy and sugar in your daily intake.
  6. Get hooked on some other drink. Now that it’s summer time in Phoenix, I’ve been drinking more iced fruit juices, unsweetened iced teas, and smoothies. There are so many options out there for us recovering caffeine addicts!

Have you gone through your own caffeine detox before? On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being walking through the inner cloisters of hell, how did you find it? Let me know how you got yourself through it – most especially if quitting caffeine drastically improved your days and nights.


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