“I Gave Up Coffee For 3 Months: Here’s What Happened”
Coffee and I are on a break. Will we get back together? Probably not, and here’s why.
Over three months ago I woke up and decided my normal routine of brewing a cup of joe first thing in the morning was a thing of the past, replacing this ritual with early exercise. I had no plans to give up coffee for three months, it was more about that I woke up with a motivation to run instead, so coffee got pushed to the side. When I got home from my jog, I had to immediately hop on my morning work Zoom call, since it was already 8:59 am and my call starts at 9 am. I remember this day so clearly because it ended up being one of the worst, draining feelings I’ve experienced in a while.
After my call, I got right to work and probably didn’t pick my head up for hours, something kept me away from coffee, maybe it was a good article. I was so invested in my computer and never worried about my coffee until I had a pounding headache that came out of nowhere. I thought, Could it be from starting at the screen for long hours? Then I thought, but wait, did I have coffee yet?
It occurred to me I had not made time to brew my multiple cups of black coffee and I was getting withdrawals. I felt addicted. Another thought occurred to me that same moment: Should I cure the pain of my headaches with the thing that started it? I never wanted to have the excruciating headaches caused by caffeine withdrawal ever again and hoped it would only last a few hours. I was so desperate to make myself a cup to cure the headache, but I decided to kick it to the curb. I went the entire day avoiding caffeine. I actually had to remove myself from working in the kitchen, and anyone in the house who made coffee that day had to keep it away from me. For the rest of the day and into the night, I felt groggy, defeated, and a pounding headache, which lasted two more days.
I decided to see what would happen if I just toughed it out and quit coffee.
I know that coffee boosts metabolism, helps you burn fat, and has been shown to increase endurance for athletes. Still, it felt like a drug and I wanted to cleanse myself of needing it. Studies have shown that quitting coffee helps you lower anxiety (which can cause stress eating) and even help lower cortisol in the body (which tells your body to store belly fat) and other studies show it can help lower blood pressure several points. Still more research into the benefits of giving up coffee indicates it helps boost vitamin and mineral consumption.
It took every inch of me not to give in and pour myself a cup of coffee for two more days when my headaches were still so extreme. I distracted myself with yoga and other mindful activities like a slow jog or a walk on the beach. I did and still do yoga first thing in the morning and added another practice after work to give my lower back a deep stretch after sitting all day. A friend of mine recommended I try drinking tea as an alternative, and that reminded me about my first roommate in college who was one of the most relaxed people I've ever met and all she ever did was drink tea every day.
So, I tried drinking tea to get my mind off coffee but it turned out it only lasted about a week because truthfully I don't really like tea, it's not rich or strong enough to me so finding an alternative wasn't the move. The solution was to stay committed because I set a goal, I always reminded myself why I started, which was helpful in the first few weeks but now I don't even crave or think about coffee because I feel so much better without it.
What I Learned the First Week of Giving Up Coffee
During the first week without coffee, I realized a few things. My sleep was instantly better. When I was drinking coffee, sometimes my last cup would be around 4 or 5 pm, when I needed an extra boost of energy to meet a friend for dinner or whatever my plans were. After four days of being coffee-free, I slept through the night perfectly and had deeper sleep. This was really important for me because I'm one of those people that needs a full 8 hours of sleep to function properly the next day. And because of my better sleep, I was more productive all day. I started my days earlier (I still do) and I can stay up at least three hours later than I could before. My friends used to call me the grandmother of the group when my first yawn happened at 8 pm and I would wrap up the night before 9 pm. Now, I feel great whether I go to bed at ten, eleven, or even midnight which used to be a rarity.
The same week I gave up coffee, I saved some money. I'm also not part of the coffee culture anymore so anytime a friend asks to meet at the local coffee shop in town, I say, "Let's go for a walk on the beach instead," or "Come over and let's sit outside," which in my opinion is a lot more personal than surface coffeeshop conversations. I realized I saved about $25/week by not drinking overpriced coffee. Now this will be different for everyone depending on the price of coffee near you. When I lived in NYC, I used to get mine from the street cart for $1.50!
I felt more hydrated within the first week of giving up coffee which may have also improved my sleep. Instead of starting my day with a dehydrating drink, I poured myself a glass of water I would infuse with all sorts of fresh fruit and herbs. Because I feel more hydrated, I'm more awake, alert, and sleep better because there's nothing worse than interrupting sleep in the middle of the night to grab the glass of water on the bedside table.
Here's What Happened the Second Week
The second week was the best. I no longer had cravings for coffee and I could sit around a group of people drinking lattes and not even think about drinking it. The smell no longer bothered me. It's similar to when you go plant-based for the first time and you or at least I never craved meat or cheese ever again. It actually is a turnoff. But, coffee isn't necessarily a turn-off, I just love the way I feel without it.
In the second week, I felt calmer, and I still do. This might be because I'm doing more yoga but without giving up coffee I wouldn't probably start my day and end work with a class. I think more clearly and this is a huge benefit for someone who has a bad memory like me. Also but still, maybe because I'm calmer I take time to be more aware, present, and engaged which helps my memory.
This is My Favorite Thing About Giving Up Coffee
The most important thing about giving up coffee for me was that I finally don't have any caffeine jitters. I used to get them all the time, whether it happened for five seconds or at least an hour. They would stress me out, sometimes I'd even get anxious when my heart rate increased from the caffeine. To me, there's nothing more freeing than not having the jitters that you can't control.
When I drank coffee I wouldn't pay any mind to them. I felt the jitters in my fingers and was fine with it since I knew it was caused by caffeine and there was this weird acceptance about it since I knew the coffee was doing its job. I needed caffeine to have more energy so when I felt caffeinated, everything was fine. But actually, not experiencing any type of jitters, small or large, is my favorite thing about giving up coffee.
Lastly, my diet is overall healthier now than when I drank coffee. This might sound odd because most people feel a sense of fullness or a "suppressed" appetite. Yes, there were some days when coffee could hold me over until lunchtime but then I would feel starving and eat more than I needed. I didn't have an unhealthy diet before I gave up coffee but there would be times when I wanted to eat pastries, muffins, or chocolate with the comforting drink. Now that I feel more calm and relaxed, I don't stress or binge eat.
It's Been Three Months Since I Gave Up Coffee
I had no intentions to give up coffee for this long, but I love it. All of the things I mentioned like better sleep, more energy, increased productivity, and feeling calmer have all remained the same or got better which changed my daily routine. I start my day earlier with yoga first thing in the morning, go for a light stress-free jog, work more productively, and I don't experience any type of 3 pm crash. I stay out later with my friends which I'm not sure is a benefit but I do have more energy to go out.
Bottom Line: I am fully aware that coffee has its perks like stimulating the metabolism and boosting energy because I used to drink it for all those reasons. But right now, without it, I have no plans to drink it anytime soon.