Coffee Free Benefits?
May 26, 2010 8:37 AM   Subscribe

Former Coffee Drinkers: What Benefits Did You Experience After Quitting Coffee?

For the past 6 years or so, I have drank 8-10 cups of coffee a day.

Recently I realized that my work was being actually hampered by my coffee habit. My day was a roller-coaster of high and low energy as the coffee went through my system. Long story short, yesterday I quit.

What Benefits Might I See In The Long Term?
posted by Spurious to Health & Fitness (49 answers total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
If you're like me you're going to get some truly epic headaches in the near future, so I'm going to look forward to reading the other answers in this thread to see if I should attempt to wean myself off the stuff again.
posted by knapah at 8:44 AM on May 26, 2010

I quit soda not coffee, but the caffeine withdrawal was definitely worth it. The biggest difference is that I can wake up without feeling groggy until I drink some caffeine. Also, I find it slightly easier to get to sleep at night, though this is not a big diffference. One nice bonus: if I really need a boost of energy, I can have a cup of coffee or soda. A jolt of caffeine once every couple of weeks really has an amazing effect, you might have forgotten what a caffeine buzz is actually like if you've been drinking non-stop just to maintain a normal level of alertness.
posted by bluejayk at 8:45 AM on May 26, 2010

As a slight derail, can I say that quitting cold turkey just like that is likely to have some physical effects. I'm a coffee drinker (3-4 cups a day) and have no plan to give it up, but in the past when I've had enforced breaks from it, I've had the most excruciating headaches that have gone away almost immediately I've had a strong coffee. Can I suggest that you wean yourself off it instead by substituting decaff cup-by-cup over the next few days to ease the physical withdrawal from caffeine?
posted by essexjan at 8:46 AM on May 26, 2010

I quit coffee for a few weeks and the biggest benefit I found was the stabilization of energy throughout the day. No more spikes and dips. After a while, my morning energy recovered to about 3/4 the level of morning coffee energy and hung around there all day. It was pretty pleasant but eh. Here's a good thread for you. I link to this LifeHacker tag which has some good coffee-quitting tips and info (although it's the general caffeine tag so it also has Coffee Is Awesome stuff.)
posted by griphus at 8:47 AM on May 26, 2010

For me, one "long term" benefit is that caffeine actually has an effect on me again! So if I need to stay awake driving or something, one cup'll do me for quite a while, instead of a cup every hour or two.

And yes, you're going to suffer some big headaches (most likely). I never quit cold turkey. I usually swing between decaf and regular every 3 months or so. I drink 3 or 4 eight ounce cups a day, and when I decide I'm getting too much, I'll switch to one or two of those being decaf, then to all decaf after a week or so, to help avoid the massive headaches.
posted by Grither at 8:47 AM on May 26, 2010

I lost weight immediately after quitting. As I understand it, caffeine stimulates your pancreas and causes it to increase insulin production. Which makes you hungry. (And which, after many years, can lead to diabetes because of a worn out pancreas.)

I also am just a lot more clear-headed, which may be because I sleep better now. My skin looks better, too.

I never drank anywhere near as much coffee as you did, btw, so YMMV.
posted by MexicanYenta at 8:48 AM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Earlier this year I had some health problems that forced me off of coffee and on to some serious painkillers for a few weeks. The first day I was off the painkillers, I realized what an awful, awful headache I had. I knew what I had to to do.

That first cup of coffee was epic. I felt like I could shape the very fabric of reality with my mind.

So, yes, the best part of quitting coffee is the first cup you have going back on.
posted by Oktober at 8:51 AM on May 26, 2010 [31 favorites]

Oh my. Nthing that you might want to consider tapering instead of quitting cold turkey. The headaches are fucking horrible. I mean really, really, really fucking horrible. It takes a few days for the horrible to kick in.

I quit drinking coffee in similar quantities to your habit. I had found that the highs and lows were starting to contribute to stress and anxiety.

The best benefit for me was that it allowed me to "reset" my tolerance for caffeine so that I could enjoy it more normally. I have one very strong cup of coffee a day now, and very, very rarely want more.
posted by desuetude at 8:53 AM on May 26, 2010

Healthier kidneys.

Caffeine is a diuretic, which makes you pee a lot, which puts extra wear on your kidneys which have a finite number of years on them. Caffeine also lowers your blood pressure by the same mechanism, removing water from your blood. You may expect higher blood pressure as well.

Caffeine also increases stomach acid production, so you'll be lowering your risks of ulcers, and stomach cancers.

You may also experience an increase in your long term memory retention.

But holy cow, 8-10 cups a day for 6 years. I would be pretty concerned about withdrawal symptoms, your brain is going to be pretty unhappy as it's gotten really used to caffeine in high levels. You may want to consider cutting down gradually. Also if you start treating your headaches with Excedrin, note that they also have caffeine. (Caffeine withdrawal being one of the most common causes of headaches)
posted by fontophilic at 8:58 AM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also nthing don't quit cold turkey. I never developed a truly regular coffee habit, but there were times here and there when I drank cups and cups throughout the day for a week straight to meet deadlines - and I always had a killer headache the day after I handed the stuff in and stopped chugging coffee.

Taper it off... if you go from a 1-a-day coffee habit to none, the headache is minimal.
posted by Xany at 9:01 AM on May 26, 2010

Quitting coffee improved my ability to regulate my stress level and relax when I need to. It enables me to better practice mindfulness/medition.
posted by okokok at 9:02 AM on May 26, 2010

When I quit, I was more relaxed, slept better, and had less anxiety. I did start eating more. There may be other physiological effects (like MexicanYenta said) but caffeine is a natural appetite suppressant. Eliminating that and you will likely eat more.

I went cold turkey, but I was drinking about half the amount you are. In the beginning I had headaches was and sleepy all the time, but once I evened out, it was wonderful.

Now and then I have the occasional cup of coffee, and like others have said, I can more enjoy the real effects of a cup rather than be in a constant caffeine-saturated state.
posted by Tooty McTootsalot at 9:05 AM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I haven't quit, but consider that many of these answers will be the reason that people quit. For example, coffee really upsets my stomach, so if I go off of it, hopefully a benefit would be that that goes away. More of the absence of a consequence rather than an added-on benefit. People who aren't experiencing consequences (less spending money, upset stomach, sleeplessness) probably wouldn't quit in the first place. So your sample will be a little biased.
posted by emilyd22222 at 9:06 AM on May 26, 2010

What's the point of quitting caffeine completely anyway? I had terrible headaches for a week when I quit, and by the time the withdrawal was over, all I'd accomplished was to debar myself from partaking even in moderation in one of life's most harmless, sociable and readily available pleasures.

But I had been drinking way too much coffee and could no longer handle how harsh it was on my body. So I cut back to a moderate caffeine hit -- two cups daily, mornings only -- and switched to tea. The good stuff: fragrant, robust FTGFOP single-estate Assam (which is way more affordable than a daily latte, by the way).

My frequent stomachaches disappeared. The dehydration headaches disappeared. The lingering coffee mouth disappeared. The peak and crash disappeared. The jangling nerves disappeared. The reliance solely on caffeine and sugar to modulate my mood/energy level disappeared (slowly). My ability to taste subtle flavors returned.

So I recommend tea, the nicest you can afford, in strict moderation, as a way to get the best out of the gift of caffeine.
posted by stuck on an island at 9:06 AM on May 26, 2010 [7 favorites]

I have on occasion given up coffee for short periods of time (two months-ish). Once you get over the epic headaches (which in my case lasted about four days), the main benefit I found was that I drank more water. I've discovered that, once I've had my wake-up coffee in the morning, further coffees are as much about getting some liquids into me as it is about artificial liquid energy. Really cold water with ice cubes in it can be as much of an energy booster later on in the day, and it's better for you in the long run.

Mind you, as Oktober mentions above, that first cup of coffee after weeks of deprivation is bordering on the sublime.
posted by LN at 9:09 AM on May 26, 2010

I love not feeling groggy in the morning and not feeling like it's an emergency if I can't get caffeine first thing for whatever reason.

I've also noticed that one Excedrin is incredibly effective at killing headaches now. When I drank caffeine, it never helped at all. I get headaches pretty frequently so this is a huge plus for me.
posted by something something at 9:10 AM on May 26, 2010

[coffee] can lead to diabetes because of a worn out pancreas

Coffee can also have the exact opposite effect that you're describing and actually reduce your risk of Type-II diabetes.
posted by talkingmuffin at 9:14 AM on May 26, 2010

For me:

I sleep better. Rarely do I wake up in the middle of the night, unable to fall back asleep.

My jaw doesn't ache from clenching it during the day and at night.

My heartburn/acid reflux is mostly gone.

Not having to go through withdrawal symptoms (headaches) if I don't want to drink it for a day or two.

Plus, as everyone has noted, no longer being used to a near-constant flow of the stuff means the occasional Coke or coffee really does give a nice boost of alertness and productivity. The challenge is not letting that develop back into a daily habit.

Your withdrawal is going to be painful. I get splitting headaches breaking myself from just a one cup a day habit, although I am more sensitive than others to caffeine. Tea is a good way to taper down - I've heard that the tannins in tea regulate the absorption of caffeine so it doesn't have the jolting effect, and that certainly has been my experience. Once you're wholly off caffeine, rooibos tea is a great full bodied caffeine-free option.
posted by misskaz at 9:15 AM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

I also have to chime in and say that tapering off is essential. I was also a java junkie, drinking 8-10 cups of coffee a day. I quit cold turkey last year and I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. The headaches were ungodly and I felt like I had the flu for about 4-5 days. I couldn't take it anymore and finally had some coffee, which made me feel better.

Fast forward to about a month ago: I realized I was drinking way too much coffee (again) and decided to taper off. I allowed myself to drink as much as I wanted before noon and that would be it for the day (I switched to decaf tea in the afternoon to feed my "hot beverage" ritual). It's working out great! I'm sleeping better, I have more energy and I'm much less anxious. I think you'll enjoy the benefits, just do taper off gradually and you'll be fine!
posted by Nutritionista at 9:15 AM on May 26, 2010

I drink other forms of caffeine instead of coffee. (I drink coffee occasionally as needed.) My biggest change is that I don't have to wipe as much.
posted by notsnot at 9:19 AM on May 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

You may want to consider dialing down your coffee intake to 1-2 cups a day, as there are some noted health benefits. Also, just so you know, caffeine is NOT a diuretic.
posted by kookaburra at 9:20 AM on May 26, 2010

I stopped getting urinary tract infections after I switched from coffee (two cups, strong) to tea (one cup, weak).
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:22 AM on May 26, 2010

I can't tell if you are a female, but when I cut way way way back on coffee my monthly cramps (which were really bad) got much better. Same for cutting back on soda so it was reducing caffeine intake that did the trick for me. Now I have it as a treat once a week and avoid it altogether the week before my period.
posted by like_neon at 9:25 AM on May 26, 2010

I gave up coffee for a month or so, in part just to see what my response might be. I found the withdrawl to be not that bad, although I drank a lot less than you did. One thing that compensated was that instead of filling my travel mug with coffee, I filled it with water and wound up drinking about 3-4 large mugs per day. Water has never tasted so good!

I did miss the ritual of going for coffee with friends, the first sip and so on. I wound up tagging along when people did go for an afternoon break and found myself eating a lot of muffins/cookies, just so I would have something to do with them.
posted by beepbeepboopboop at 9:33 AM on May 26, 2010

An obvious one: more money. Even brewing your own would get costly at your daily dosage. If you were drinking company-provided coffee, this wouldn't really apply, though.
posted by filthy light thief at 9:35 AM on May 26, 2010

I stopped biting my nails, and found my general level of anxiety was much lower. (I still drink tea.)
posted by jokeefe at 9:44 AM on May 26, 2010

The benefit that I found is that you're no longer a slave to coffee and coffee becomes a tool you can use when you need it - those times when you have to make a long drive, or wake up really early, and during those times, it's much more enjoyable than it was. I don't use it for staying up late anymore though, because being up on caffeine when I'm really tired and want to go to sleep for the night makes my mind really uncomfortable.

I guess those of us who are saying "Coffee gets better once you quit" sound like terrible addicts who never really were able to quit after all. But I don't think it's one of those things that needs to be eliminated immediately and entirely. Do scale back to one cup a day at the most, but once you do that you'll find that coffee is now something that YOU control instead of coffee controlling you.
posted by amethysts at 9:52 AM on May 26, 2010

I gave up coffee and soda 14 years ago and haven't gone back to them. I do drink tea and hot chocolate though. As stated above the two weeks after giving the up, I had killer headaches. They eased up though. Since then, I've experienced more stable moods in addition to the stabilized energy and other benefits already mentioned. I have since lost the taste for coffee or soda and don't miss them. Good luck. For me, it was the right decision.
posted by onhazier at 10:02 AM on May 26, 2010

in college i was an epic coffee drinker. to combat the headaches and withdrawal symptoms, i weaned myself off by going first on black tea, and then green tea. that said this year i started drinking coffee again occasionally as a treat (it's too damn delicious!!), but instead of 12 cups a day i only need 1.

anyway, since then, my energy levels have stabled out more- i don't feel like i need another cup to keep going. also a bunch of digestive issues i'd had totally went away.
posted by raw sugar at 10:08 AM on May 26, 2010

First, to answer the question: The benefit I gained by giving up caffeine was control. I don't "have to" have coffee anymore, and I don't get headaches if I miss a day or two.

I didn't have two days in a row coffee a few years ago, and on day three I had a wicked headache. I got really angry that a chemical could have that kind of effect on my life, so I switched to half decaf/half regular before switching to entirely decaf. I still love coffee, but I don't need it anymore.

Rather than stopping completely, I'd recommend a slow slowdown. Put it in your calendar. SERIOUSLY. Start on June 1st.

June 3/4 caff, 1/4 decaf.
July: half caff.
August 3/4 decaf, 1/4 caff.
September: decaf.

Do it slowly and you won't even realize you're doing it.
posted by 2oh1 at 10:12 AM on May 26, 2010

I gave up caffeine because it was prompting an irregular heart beat. I tried cold turkey, but almost immediately got headaches. So, I replaced a cup with decaf each day for a week or so until I was drinking nothing but decaf.

Benefits: More and better sleep; feeling rested when I wake up rather than sub-human until I have that first mug of coffee; less expense -- I still buy and grind decaf beans but I've stopped running into coffee shops and spending five bucks just to kill time; eat much less of the sweets and other junk foods that often accompany coffee; don't fall victim to needing a cafeine fix every few hours to keep going.
posted by justcorbly at 10:21 AM on May 26, 2010

As I understand it, caffeine stimulates your pancreas and causes it to increase insulin production. Which makes you hungry. (And which, after many years, can lead to diabetes because of a worn out pancreas.)

This is seriously confused.

Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease resulting when the body's immune system attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. It is not caused by "many years" of stimulating the pancreas with caffeine, especially considering that the disease mostly manifests in babies and children.

Type 2 diabetes is a disease where generally the pancreas continues to produce insulin, but for various reasons it becomes more difficult for the insulin to transport glucose into the body's cells leading to high levels of glucose in the blood, which is not good. It is associated with being overweight, which I guess could be the result of overeating due to hunger, but I have seen studies linked above finding a protective correlation between coffee-drinking and avoiding type 2.

In any event, I agree that the nice thing about avoiding or reducing coffee consumption is control over your morning.
posted by chinston at 10:33 AM on May 26, 2010 [2 favorites]

For me, also around 8 cups a day. I quit cold turkey.

Saved money, happier stomach, less staining of the teeth, stopped the withdrawal headache on the weekends.

Downfalls: not as alert/sharp, withdrawal wasn't fun, got hyper-sensitive to caffeine after-wards that brought on anxiety attacks even even half a cup, missed the ritual morning coffee to trigger my brain that it was time to work.

Since I missed it, I went to decaf, and very slowly worked my way back to being able to have a regular coffee without feeling like I was going to die.

So consider a good decaf (they do exist), and alternate for a while. The caffeine for when you need a kick, and the decaf for when you just want something to sip.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 10:34 AM on May 26, 2010

I agree strongly that you should look to tea as a substitute for at least some of your caffeine intake. Teas come in amazing forms and flavors, you can keep your ritual of enjoying a hot mug of something while you work or read or commute, and it carries less caffeine than coffee, so it can help you reduce your intake without going cold turkey.
posted by Philemon at 10:41 AM on May 26, 2010

I haven't quit coffee, but I've reduced my intake while pregnant. Benefits for me have been:

Less acid reflux
More emotional equilibrium / less keyed-up-ness
Whiter teeth
Less irritation of the bladder

That said, I adore coffee and will gladly accept the reversal of the above benefits and be back up to 4-5 cups a day when this is all over.
posted by kitcat at 10:52 AM on May 26, 2010

When I don't drink coffee after 11am or so, I sleep better.

Not drinking coffee in the morning has no benefit at all that I notice, and I LOVE coffee - the taste, the ritual - so I'm never going to quit that. (famous last words?)
posted by insectosaurus at 11:32 AM on May 26, 2010

No coffee = Better smelling breath and sweat.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 11:33 AM on May 26, 2010

Sleep. When I quit coffee two years ago I immediately starting regularly sleeping through the night.
posted by COD at 11:41 AM on May 26, 2010

The method that I followed was: For the first week write down all of the caffeine you consume, generating a daily baseline. The second week, you have half the daily amount of caffeine as your baseline. The third week, you half that.. I kept doing that until I got to a place where I didn't need to have a cup of coffee or not. It is nice as occasional brain tonic, as you really do notice it when you aren't used to it. I also notice how anxious it makes me.

Overall, I feel like my stomach sits better, and that I sleep better and that I generally feel healthier.
posted by dobie at 11:45 AM on May 26, 2010

Much reduced pms - no boob pain at all.
posted by yarly at 12:11 PM on May 26, 2010

This is seriously confused.

Well, to be honest, I don't remember where I read it, as it was a few years ago, and it was somewhat after reaching the age where I ceased to be able to remember anything important (and can now only remember stupid stuff like Donny Osmond's birthday, and where I was when I heard that Elvis died, and the exact price I paid for the silk fisherman's sweater I got at the Land's End outlet store in 1993.) However, it was definitely a few years after I noticed that drinking coffee always makes me hungry and makes my blood sugar wonky, and it is still true that if I drink coffee regularly I gain weight, and when I stop, I lose it. And I don't eat snacks with it, and I don't add sugar or sweetened creamers.

Now tell me again, which key do I hit to make these words show up on the screen?
posted by MexicanYenta at 12:17 PM on May 26, 2010

I thought I couldn’t beat the coffee addiction until I replaced it with exercise and breakfast. The biggest benefit has been realizing that coffee is not nutritious and replacing it with real food, avoiding mid-day crashes, flickering eyelids and high stress.
posted by thelastenglishmajor at 1:04 PM on May 26, 2010

It's been my experience that men who drink coffee have rather bitter semen, while non-coffee drinkers have mild, even sweet semen. I have no idea if there's a similar effect on the way a woman tastes.
posted by rosebuddy at 2:43 PM on May 26, 2010

To echo everyone here, wean yourself off of it. Going form 8-10 cups a day to zero is suicidal. I tried to quit a couple years ago and I was averaging about 4 cups a day. The headaches drove me back to it. I'm down to two cups a day on weekdays and one on weekends. I find that it does me just fine. I still get a jolt from the caffeine, I don't get headaches, and I still get to drink the sweet sweet coffee.
posted by fso at 4:20 PM on May 26, 2010

I haven't quit, I have 2 a day ... but I find when my job is really stressing me out, coffee makes me unable to focus on anything. I end up in this weird mix of productivity buzz (need to do things, need to finish things) but as I have 20 or 30 things to look at, I try to do them all at once... rather than one by one like I nromally would.

8 - 10 a day? Wow. My brother had a stressful job and was drinking that amount and was always anxious and stressed about work. I convinced him to try 3 a day and he noted that he was less stressed and anxious.

Good luck!
posted by Admira at 4:48 PM on May 26, 2010

I quit caffeine a few months ago, I agree with everyone above who's mentioned those glorious withdrawal headaches - but don't take it as a reason not to quit, your body is messed up so bad it thinks it requires a coffee or soft drink to feel normal, this leads to the groggy feeling in the mornings or when you havent had a fix for a few hours etc.

Since not drinking it, it's become infinitely easier to get out of bed in the morning and I feel good straight away, no warming up or dragging myself around until i get going, no dips or lows through the day either. Also I found the energy I was getting from my coffee was just scattered thinking and buzz, I thought I was working harder but I would either crash or lose concentration to something else. It's been all good for me giving up coffee, you may as well give it a try for a month and see what happens, Go cold turkey and really love those headaches, it's showing you what you've been doing to yourself with that stuff.
posted by parryb at 9:47 PM on May 26, 2010

My skin got better for a while.

Without coffee, I have no excuse to act completely useless, unproductive and generally bitchy in the morning.

I'll be starting up again after junior pick_the_flowers is weaned.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 3:11 AM on May 27, 2010

Sorry, what I meant by that was, when I drank coffee and was useless, unproductive and bitchy in the morning, I could blame it on the fact I hadn't had my morning coffee yet. Now I don't have that excuse.

Also not drinking coffee has reduced my focus and ability to be articulate.
posted by pick_the_flowers at 3:13 AM on May 27, 2010

I used to drink about 24-32oz of coffee per day, which I knew couldn't be good for me. When I got a really bad cold last fall, I didn't feel like drinking coffee for over a week. The withdrawal headaches just blended in with the rest of my sickness. By the time I was feeling better, I was over the withdrawal symptoms, so I decided to stick with the caffeine-free lifestyle. That's also how I quit smoking a few years ago - there's nothing like a kick-ass cold to help kick a bad habit.

Since then I've noticed that I wake up better, I don't get the fluttering heartbeat feeling in my chest, and I don't get as winded when I exercise (which was and still is quite often). Also, it is so nice not to feel like there is something I HAVE TO have in order to feel normal.
posted by jshort at 9:18 AM on May 27, 2010

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