How did you find becoming an occasional caffeine drinker?
November 23, 2011 2:33 PM   Subscribe

What was your experience transitioning from being a regular caffeine drinker to an occasional caffeine drinker? Did it work for you? Do you have any tips on success, any surprises I should watch out for?

Recently work has been quite stressful and I guessed that caffeine wasn't helping my stressed out feelings so I knocked it on the head cold turkey. I wasn't a major coffee drinker, 2 coffees, 2 teas a day. But I think I am a bit sensitive to the effects.
Anyway, it's been a fortnight now and I've been loving the experience. Less grouchy, better moods, no tunnel vision and no feelings of exasperation and much less anxiety.
I never intended to quit caffeine, just take a bit of a break.
But now I'd like to just drink caffeine occasionally, say two or three times a week, probably less.
I'm looking for any pointers to what I can expect. Will I still keep my new overall chilled out vibe if I do this? Will I have a caffeine hangover in the morning (and be the grump I used to be)? Will a double espresso knock me off my feet and have me blowing in a paper bag as my heart leaps out of my chest?

PS. I am drinking a little decaff tea and coffee (water treated only thank you) and understand these may have small amounts of caffeine in, but the threshold seems low enough not to be affecting my new vibe!
posted by razzman to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
be sure to keep an eye on, ahem, constipation...
posted by sexyrobot at 2:40 PM on November 23, 2011

In order to cut down on Anxiety, I went from one black coffee and one or two Red Bulls a day to nothing. And holy crap do I feel a lot better, more regularly. Exactly what you describe: no more shakes or tunnel vision or anything like that.

I had a Diet Coke a few weeks ago (at night!) and it made me a bit antsy but I didn't fly off the walls. No hangover either and nothing changed about my mood.
posted by griphus at 2:40 PM on November 23, 2011

Yeah, gotta second sexyrobot's comment here.
posted by biochemist at 2:48 PM on November 23, 2011

I personally can't do caffeine in moderation - I can have none (or at least, none in any noticeable quantity - chocolate doesn't seem to do anything to me) or I will have ALL THE CAFFEINE. So I go in regular cycles. A few things I have learned:

- If you have been more or less cold turkey, a double espresso will make you vastly more hyper/stressed than it did before you quit.

- Even if you didn't notice a sleep disruption before, you may when you start up again, so be extra careful about timing

- I don't get a headache or anything after my first Red Bull of the cycle, but I do start to chase the "high," which is why I can't do moderation at all. YMMV on that.
posted by restless_nomad at 3:02 PM on November 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

I did this. I went down to one cup of black tea (much less caffeine than coffee) and, if I needed more oomph, a cup of coffee that was mostly decaf with a splash of caffeinated. If that's not feasible, you might try just decaf--I found that the flavor alone seemed to give me a boost, and decaf does have a tiny bit of caffeine in it.
posted by elizeh at 3:57 PM on November 23, 2011

It's such a slippery slope, if you want to stay on The Right Side I recommend just sticking to decaf. If you're missing the coffeshop experience, just order a decaf double espresso.
posted by ErikaB at 4:07 PM on November 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

My experience has been the same as above. Plus, that occasional coffee for enjoyment REALLY whacks me out! The key is to not make a routine out of it. Don't use it to get through a bad afternoon. Just have the occasional cup when you are looking for the taste of coffee.

(I know this probably antithetical to many, but I found that just switching from two giant brewed coffees a day to Coke Zero made a huge difference. Way less caffeine, and coffee has other stimulants in it that really add to the anxiety and jitteriness. I don't think they are removed from decaf, either.)
posted by gjc at 4:52 PM on November 23, 2011

I was a heavy coffee drinker for over ten years. I weaned down and finally went cold turkey - that month was truly awful, but of course that's not the topic at hand (sounds like your quitting stage went much better than mine, although sexyrobot and biochemist may have been closer).

Anyway, I try to limit myself to about a cup of black tea per week, or maybe a half cup of coffee. Going for a full mug of coffee or worse is far enough to trigger negative effects (including next-day cravings). One time I fell off the wagon on a week-long business trip and there were a couple of rough days getting back to normal. Tea on a few consecutive days is enough to have unwanted effects.

I drink decaf coffee more often, and probably 3-5 cups of hot herbal tea every day - I have not tried to reduce my "hot beverage" habit, since I don't think it hurts me, and it keeps me hydrated.

So my advice, in the form of "it works for me", is a tea a week or so. Skip coffee altogether, unless you can conveniently obtain a 125ml portion (I sometimes can). A single espresso might be OK, too (or a one-shot espresso drink, but good luck finding one of those).

YMMV since you were not as heavy a user as I was, but I'm not sure which direction it would vary in. My experience comes from just over a year since my cold turkey month, which was in August 2010.
posted by pinespree at 6:03 PM on November 23, 2011

If you get decaf or split shot drinks at the coffee shop, make sure that the barista heard that they're decaf or split shot. Sometimes, the cashier doesn't communicate that well enough, and next thing you know, you're bouncing off the walls.
posted by spinifex23 at 8:46 PM on November 23, 2011

I went from 3 large cups of black coffee per day and two cans of DC to zero. I quit for six years. I felt better at first, but ultimately I do not recall it being a long term positive other than the money saved.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 9:18 PM on November 23, 2011

Huge coffee drinker here and had to cut down. Found Folgers and Maxwell House 1/2 decaf. Store brands are cheaper but I like my Folgers. I'm also known as half and half man at my local Dunkin.
posted by jara1953 at 8:05 AM on November 24, 2011

I agree with those saying they've found themselves unable to cut back halfway. I was a dedicated half a pot-a-day-first-thing coffee drinker all my life up 'til a few years ago, and I had to stop drinking caffeinated soda and tea at home too to make it work. The constipation in the morning thing is initially an issue, but I've found if you have some other physical ritual first thing upon waking it'll do the trick the same after you get used to it--I drink milk and it works just as well, I think it's more a sort of ritual training thing for the body, but that's just me. If it's a problem for you you could always try taking psyllium capsules right before bed too.

Now, as also mentioned above, when I DO have coffee--once every few months at, say, a fancy meal out after dessert--it is just nuts how wired it makes me. It's kind of fun actually, how sensitive I am now. The trick is not to keep it around the house to try to prolong that the next day and start the vicious cycle over.

So I say in short: the aspects of coffee you like--maybe the ritual of it, the warm comfort of the hot mug in your hands, a good aroma, whatever--replace with something without caffeine. I drink really good non-caffeine tea every day during the winter, I always have something comforting to drink first thing in the morning and last thing before bed, etc., but I don't keep caffeinated soda, tea, or coffee in my house and I never go places like Starbucks to socialize so it's a nonissue. And easier said than done but--regularly get enough sleep, energizing food, and mental and physical stimulation that you don't feel the need for a caffeine boost in the first place. Indulging in too many sugar crashes/pastries mid-morning tend to make coffee seem inevitable.
posted by ifjuly at 9:59 AM on November 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

When I was only drinking (homebrewed) coffee occasionally, even a small Starbucks coffee required peeling me off the ceiling afterward. And not in a good way.
posted by kamikazegopher at 11:51 AM on November 24, 2011

Just wanted to back up other commenters: You're likely to find yourself wayyyyyyy more sensitive to caffeine than you were before. Be careful not to overdo it unless you're really looking for the shakes and your heart pounding all night: one cup only, and not the 20-oz. "cup", either. And don't do your dabbling after lunchtime or you'll be up all night.
posted by Andrhia at 6:46 AM on November 25, 2011

I never drank coffee but I did drink pop. It's easier to stay awake now when I'm tired than it was before. Technically it's doctor's orders that I avoid caffeine but she said a little when I have a migraine or otherwise nasty headache is okay. When I do have it, I pour it into a 6-ounce juice cup and it will take me a few hours to finish it, if I do finish it. More than that and I'm a jittery mess.

(I also never have been able to take a medicine with caffeine in it, like Midol or Excedrin, because it makes me a jittery mess as well.)

Several weeks ago I made the mistake of having a full glass (probably 12 ounces) of pop and I was up all night. Bad idea.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:02 AM on November 25, 2011

I quit coffee for now, and I find I can have up to one cup (small coffee cup, homebrewed) a week without it messing things up. If I have coffee in the morning I'll need it in the afternoon. Also, I feel the effects of eating a lot of chocolate (caffeine, especially in the dark varieties) when I didn't previously.
posted by ejaned8 at 3:04 PM on November 25, 2011

Response by poster: Just as a follow up I have done this pretty much successfully now though I am having a cup of tea at least every other day and a cup of coffee about twice a week. The highs are incredible, I never knew caffeine could affect you like that!
Coffee seems to sometimes have a crazy effect on my digestive system in a bad way and can make me feel really wide-eyed and a but crazy. Tea is far smoother and gives a kind of relaxed alertness and chattiness.
I still drink a cup of decaff coffee in the morning. Very much recommend this as a thing to do.
posted by razzman at 1:29 PM on May 14, 2012

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