When most people hear that I don’t drink caffeine I typically get one of two automatic responses: (1) Is this a religious thing? or (2) Why would you do something like that? To answer the first question, no, it is not a religious reason; I decided to lay off caffeine for my own personal reasons. Here’s why:
- I used to work at a coffee shop. Working the opening shift would require me to wake up at 4am and work until 2pm. I found myself drinking coffee, tea, and espresso all day long…and I am talking about making myself drinks with seven shots of espresso in a 16oz. cup. Not healthy.
- I had already given up soda (for the most part) as part of my new diet. And when I did have soda, it usually Sprite or Seven-Up neither of which have caffeine, or I found myself drinking Mt. Dew, which is nothing but caffeine and sugar.
- With all of my coffee drinking, I wasn’t drinking enough water.
- And most noticeable…I stopped sleeping. I mean, nearly completely stopped sleeping. I was lucky if I slept a few hours each night.
It was that last reason that really got me thinking because I generally like sleeping and getting a good nights rest. So I decided to reevaluate my caffeine needs. Since I wasn’t drinking much soda anymore, I made the decision to give up Mt. Dew, and it was an easy one to start with. Besides, in general, I feel for a healthy living lifestyle, you shouldn’t be drinking soda every day anyways. So if I gave up my favorite soda, switching to a caffeine free lifestyle early one would make the whole process easier.
Giving up coffee and tea however confronted me with a problem. I was drinking coffee and tea every single day; there was no way I was going to be able to give it up cold turkey, so I came up with a game plan with the following building blocks: (1) For every cup of coffee or tea, I had to drink two cups of water and (2) I had to give something up first: coffee or tea. I went with coffee.
Over the course of about two weeks, I switched myself from espresso to coffee (I prefer bold blends of coffee which happen to have less caffeine than light blends, but to each their own). This switch was relatively easy. Then I started blending my coffees, making drinks with half regular, half decaf, otherwise known as half-caf. I honestly believe this slow decline to decaf coffee is what kept me from going crazy. That, and the fact that I was still drinking fully caffeinated tea. At the end of the two weeks, I was drinking only decaf espresso (limiting myself to three shots a day as it still has some caffeine in it) and decaf coffee (we served only light decaf coffee, so I wasn’t drinking much of that anyways).
Next came the hard part. I worked at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf. And if you know anything about the coffee chain, it is that we are known for our wide and delicious tea chain (I say this even after having not worked there for over a year and a half). I always have been an avid tea drinker. So I had to think a lot about how I was going to change my tea drinking habits.
In general, there are four types of teas: Black, Green, Herbals, and Decaf. I gave up black tea first because it looks the most like coffee. Look-a-likes are not always a good thing in my book. I then switched to green tea. And since I was already drinking only decaf coffee, I decided to only have green tea every other day I worked and only if I opened. There was no reason to drink caffeine during a night shift if I was already have trouble sleeping.
After one week, I cut myself off of green tea. This left me with herbal and decaf, both of which are actually decaf teas. Herbal teas (in case you didn’t know) are not true teas as they are not made from tea leaves. Instead, they are the leaves and bark from bushes and flowers. They can resemble black and green teas, but have their own unique tastes. As a substitute for my green teas, I would drink lemon chamomile or ginseng peppermint (or mix both, fancy I know). For black teas, I generally substituted red teas, specifically African red rooibos teas as they aromatic, sweet, with a tinge of spice.
Looking back, I cut caffeine out in about three weeks and writing about it makes it seem easy. And while I had adjusted mentally to being caffeine free quite easily, the physical effects weren’t as easy to adjust to. Being completely honest, I had massive headaches for about a month. I felt shaky and jittery. And at first, I had even more trouble sleeping. But after a few weeks, the headaches went away, as did the jitters and shakes. I started sleeping more, falling asleep faster and sleeping more soundly. I realized that caffeine was nothing more than something I was addicted to and as with any addiction, I had to go through a withdrawal when I quit.
Do I ever want to drink caffeine now? Yes. And sometimes I do, but I make sure it very special occasions when I do. Like when I am on vacation; I will have a jack and coke or iced tea when I am out to dinner (very rarely do restaurants offer decaf iced tea that tastes good).
Do I think you should quite caffeine. No, I think it is a personal decision that you have to make for yourself, but I do recommend looking at your caffeine intake and researching the effects of caffeine on your body. You would be surprised to see what you find.