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How to Quit Caffeine in 5 Steps

An average American drinks almost 2 cups of coffee per day, which makes caffeine the most widely used stimulant in the US. Recent studies have pointed out that coffee has numerous health benefits and can reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes and heart disease. However, health benefits can vary depending on your genetics and how fast your body metabolizes caffeine. For folks who metabolize caffeine slower, drinking too much can lead to higher blood pressure and greater risk for heart disease.

The majority of Americans get their caffeine from coffee, although sodas, energy drinks and tea also contribute to our average intake. Over time, your body can develop tolerance to caffeine and you need to drink more to feel the same effects. If you’d like to cut down on caffeine for good or for the time being, here are five steps to make it happen — and make it stick.

1. Choose Your Method: Cold Turkey or Gradual Weaning

The cold turkey method is the fastest way to quit caffeine. The downside is you may be out of commission for a few days while your body readjusts. Plan to start your first caffeine-free day on a weekend or holiday. This way, you can avoid headaches or hits to your productivity while you’re at work.

Weaning yourself off of caffeine takes longer and requires more effort, but you’ll be less likely to feel symptoms of withdrawal. If you choose this method, you’ll have to track how much caffeine you drink. Start the first day by drinking a quarter-cup less caffeine and continue weaning every day until you’re caffeine free.

2. Get Enough Sleep

Caffeine can interfere with the amount of deep sleep you get and can shorten your average length of sleep time. If you’re a regular caffeine consumer, your body may be accustomed to functioning with less sleep. And you may need to bump up your sleep time while you quit caffeine. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of sleep to avoid feeling sluggish and lethargic.

3. Choose a Replacement Drink

The act of drinking a hot cup of coffee in the morning often gets us in the mood for the day. To induce a placebo effect, reach for a replacement beverage like caffeine-free tea or hot water. If you choose the weaning method, you can also try drinking decaf coffee the first few days, which has about 12 mg of caffeine per cup compared to 95-200 mg in a regular cup.

4. Avoid Alcohol and Simple Sugars

Alcohol depresses the nervous system and dehydrates the body, which is why a night of imbibing is often followed by a sluggish morning. And also why a strong cup of coffee is often needed to counteract alcohol’s effects. Avoid drinking alcohol while you quit caffeine so your energy stays as high as possible.

Simple sugars, especially added sugars, can spike your blood sugar and lead to a crash shortly after that. To avoid feeling tired and lethargic, avoid simple sugars like sugary drinks, white bread or pasta, and desserts.

5. Stay Hydrated

Tiredness and headaches are two signs of dehydration. Get at least six to eight glasses of water per day to keep your energy up and avoid the need for a caffeine pick-me-up.

Have you tried quitting caffeine before? Let us know in the comments.

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6 thoughts on “How to Quit Caffeine in 5 Steps

  1. I’ve gone cold turkey a few times now. I’m really sensitive to caffeine and wanted to stop feeling like crap. I’d say after I quit, I felt really sluggish for the first month and then it slowly got better. Want to try again!

  2. I wish I had seen this 2 weeks ago. I quit cold turkey and had to leave work one day due to a migraine headache. However, now that I’m off it, I feel great. It has been a bit more difficult to focus throughout the workday but that, too, is improving.

  3. Two weeks ago, I substituted the decaf and started a 4 mile walk at 5:00 am every morning…. no coffee and feeling perky all day! Even if I have my wine at night…. I wake up groggy and complete my walk and feel great all day…… start now you won’t regret it!

  4. In the past, I have gone cold-turkey with the help of headache medication for the first day or two. Last year while pregnant, I needed to quit drinking my 1 cup of coffee per day (it was causing heartburn), but knew I couldn’t take painkillers for the withdrawal headache, so I cut back a few sips a day over about two weeks. Even then, I ended up drinking caffeinated soda a couple of days to help with the slow weaning process. Now I drink seltzer water instead of soda.

  5. I had to have a medical procedure done that required fasting, and by the time I got to the hospital, I had the worst migraine!!! After that I went off of caffeine cold turkey and was on pain meds for headaches for about 2 weeks! I stayed off of the caffeine for about 1 year, but I could barely keep my eyes open after 8:30 pm. I started a new job and was literally fighting to keep my eyes open at my desk. I caved in, and began drinking coffee again:( Maybe I will try weaning myself off of it this time slowly, but I love the taste, the smell, and the effects. I just don’t like the fact that if I can’t get a cup of caffeine by 10 am, I will get a killer headache.

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