latte Quitting Coffee

Only you can decide if its for good or evil

Cof­fee is a reg­u­lar part of many person’s diet;  about 1/3 of peo­ple in both Europe and Amer­ica reg­u­larly drink the caf­feinated bev­er­age.  Whether this is a good or bad thing is up for debate.  I have scoured the Inter­net and pro­fes­sional jour­nals for years about a con­clu­sion on cof­fee and caf­feine, and there is none to be had.  The Olympic com­mit­tee has banned the sub­stance because caf­feine has been proven to increase ath­letic per­for­mance in skills such as dis­tance run­ning. But from an over­all health per­spec­tive, it seems cof­fee isn’t too bad, but nor is it a panacea.  There are numer­ous arti­cles out there on quit­ting cof­fee, but if you plan to quit, you will need a good rea­son to do so, for as I have found, reduc­ing caf­feine intake can be a chal­leng­ing task.

I have had an abbre­vi­ated his­tory with caf­feine, as I didn’t drink soda as a child.  I first stared drink­ing cof­fee reg­u­larly in sopho­more year of col­lege, and have been drink­ing it ever since.  Caf­feine has a pro­nounced effect on me, prob­a­bly in part due to my late intro­duc­tion and per­haps just due to my body chem­istry. The Mayo Clinic talks about caf­feine sen­si­tiv­ity, but luck­ily its effects aren’t that severe with me, but a cup at 10:30PM will keep me up until 4am.  So why stop?  When I first started work­ing a stan­dard hours job, I wasn’t get­ting enough sleep, and was con­sum­ing 1 to 3 cups a day.  The expe­ri­ence was a daily emo­tional roller­coaster, a lit­tle too much to reg­u­larly han­dle.  I cut it down to 1–2 cups a day, but I still had a rise and fall in the morn­ing and early after­noon, which would often con­clude with a cup of tea around 2PM.

First You Need a Reason

I am tak­ing the GMAT in a few weeks, which is a 4 hour long stan­dard­ized test.  I have exper­i­mented with study­ing at all hours of the day, with dif­fer­ing lev­els of caf­feine, which lead me to some con­clu­sions:  The caf­feine rush was not help­ing me focus, and I would have with­drawal effects by the end of the test, which would be even less of a help.  The only deductible con­clu­sion was to kick my morn­ing caf­feine habit before test time.  That left we me approx­i­mately a month of wean­ing, which based on other arti­cles I’ve read would be plenty of time.

Many peo­ple try quit­ting cold turkey, but that can cause with­drawal symp­toms, and why deal with those?  I had things I wanted to accom­plish, and if there was a way to quit caf­feine with­out ill effect then I would try that method first.

  • I had about three weeks to achieve my goal
  • I would attempt to drink slightly less cof­fee each day
  • I had to be sure to get enough sleep each night to reduce the phys­i­cal desire for coffee

Week One: Reduce Your Cof­fee Intake Each Day

My first week I went from a full cup of cof­fee per day down to 1/2 cup.  This actu­ally wasn’t that bad, As I reduced my caf­feine intake by about 1/14.  I did notice though, that I was drink­ing more water, and was slightly more tired dur­ing the day.  I ended up tak­ing a nap by 6pm or so, after which (about 2o min­utes) I would wake up feel­ing refreshed.

The first week­end I woke up and played some ten­nis, and had no cof­fee.  Things went really well, but I have done this numer­ous times in the past, and the rush of phys­i­cal activ­ity would always coun­ter­act any lack of caf­feine.  I then tried to study there­after, and ran into an impen­e­tra­ble wall; I HAD to drink some cof­fee before I could do any work.  I care­fully brewed 1/2 cup of cof­fee, and there­after I was able to study.  I think this sort of road­block can feel defeat­ing.  Can I really make it with­out caf­feine?  Rather than com­pletely give in, I showed some restraint, and didn’t devi­ate from my desired path.

Week Two: Switch to Mostly Decaf or Tea

I think with any pur­pose­ful caf­feine change to one’s diet, it is impor­tant to know how much of the drug you are get­ting in any serv­ing. I have found the num­bers for the same bev­er­age vary wildly between dif­fer­ent sources, so let’s just look at the Mayo Clinic figures:

  • Cof­fee: about 150mg per 80z cup
  • Decaf Cof­fee: about 10mg per serving
  • Black Tea: about 75mg per 8oz cup
  • Green Tea: 10mg per serving
  • Soda: about 30–50 mg per 12oz serving
  • Energy drinks: 100+ mg per serving

Cof­fee (and con­tem­po­rary “energy” drinks) has by far the most caf­feine.  When look­ing to reduce your caf­feine intake, you could use a mix­ture of decaf and black cof­fee, or black tea while still get­ting enough caf­feine to pre­vent with­drawal, yet avoid­ing the buzz that cof­fee creates.

By using the caf­feine con­tent information,the  next week went much bet­ter, no naps required, and I switched from cof­fee to either black tea or decaf cof­fee.  I found I like the habit of drink­ing decaf in the morn­ing, but the psy­cho­so­matic effect was not enough to hold me over, and I still ended up drink­ing a cup of black tea in the after­noon.  How­ever, this amount of caf­feine did not cause my mood to rise and fall like a cup of reg­u­lar cof­fee did, which was my goal all along.

By the end of the week, I switched over to only tea in the morn­ing (I found an alter­na­tive to Lady Grey which I love),  and again I needed a nap in the after­noon.  These naps may be the most vis­i­ble effect of stop­ping caf­feine, as with its effects, I now know I need more sleep than I have been get­ting.  I think this is true of any mind-altering chem­i­cal; once you stop using it, it lets you see who you truly are.

Week Three: Green Tea

I think an excel­lent goal for any­one who enjoys hot bev­er­ages is to pri­mar­ily con­sume green tea. Whereas the ben­e­fits of cof­fee are debated, Green Tea has been con­sid­ered ben­e­fi­cial to one’s health for decades.   Black, green and white tea, which comes from  Camel­lia sinen­sis plant is con­sid­ered health­ful, and some anti-cancer books pro­mote drink­ing many cups a day. It also comes in a plethora of vari­eties and fla­vors, so any­one can find a fla­vor they like.

The real ques­tion is will I again drink reg­u­lar cof­fee after my test?  I think I will take at least a month off of reg­u­lar cof­fee to see if there are any other advan­tages I see. So far I have seen a rise in my per­for­mance in sports, but it is too soon to tell if it was truly caused by my absten­tion of caffeine.

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