Giving up caffeine long term?
June 29, 2020 7:57 PM   Subscribe

Has anyone here given up caffeine? I am about a month into not consuming any, and while I initially – once I cleared withdrawal – felt some benefit, I'm now second guessing this decision. I feel like, especially during the middle of the day, I'm lacking energy, something I would normally address with a cup of coffee. I'm sleeping/eating/exercising a decent amount, so there's nothing else obvious I feel I could change. I work an office job. Is this as good as it gets? Any advice? Stick with it?

All information I could find online deals within initial withdrawal and how to phase out, but there's nothing on what happens after you break the dependency. I'm wary of resuming drinking caffeine because arguably daily mild withdrawal symptoms are worse than what I'm feeling now, but they also have an obvious treatment...
posted by usr2047 to Health & Fitness (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I gave it up about 15 years ago. It's entirely possible I'd be wildly more alert with it but as far as I can tell everything's fine. I do think I handle lack of sleep better than most people, actually.

When our son was born a few years ago so many people told me I'd need caffeine to survive the long nights but I feel like I got through it just as good as anyone else.

I don't miss caffeine and I'd encourage you to stick it out longer. Might be worth checking your meal times and diet too, both of those can contribute to mid-day tiredness.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:12 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

I've been reading a lot about sleep. I think it's biologically normal to have a dip in energy in the afternoon, due to our circadian rhythm. The afternoon/after lunch nap is the last nap that kids give up.

A couple of options would be to schedule your day to have some downtime during the post-lunch lull (a good time to organize or answer emails or daydream if that's part of your job description), or go the opposite way and try to get some bright sunshine and move your body, maybe by taking a late lunch.
posted by muddgirl at 8:25 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

I stopped caffeine about 15 years ago too, but for me it was because I figured out that it was a kind of master migraine trigger responsible for 90-95% of my headaches. I can compensate pretty well with pretty intense exercise (5-6 days a week, 20-40 minutes a session, switching off between cardio and weights), but honestly, even that isn't quite the same. If it weren't for the headaches, I would start drinking caffeinated coffee again. I guess it depends on how big the cons of starting again are for you.
posted by umbú at 8:32 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

Forgot to add, I gave up coffee off and on for 3 years or so. It definitely would get better for me. Maybe give it another month and see if it starts to normalize. I would sometimes drank black tea in the afternoon which had a lot less caffeine then a cup of drip coffee, but enough to get you over the hump.
posted by muddgirl at 8:39 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

It took me several months to feel "normal", so I would give it more time. I drink a glass of water and take a quick walk to counteract the afternoon slump. Sometimes a breath of fresh air helps, but not in the middle of summer.
posted by rakaidan at 8:43 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

I gave it up for many years after drinking a cat of Diet Coke every day since high school. Eventually I didn’t miss it at all. Then, I started a mind-numbingly dull job and needed something to keep me awake behind my desk...
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:08 PM on June 29 [2 favorites]

I gave it up for several years. I started taking naps in the afternoon but eventually realized that I get much less tired if I get up and move my body for 30 to 60 minutes when I feel like that.

These days I usually have a cup of black tea in the morning, but when I skip it I dont feel like I need it to be awake.
posted by ananci at 9:26 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

I quit all caffeine (except for a cup of tea once or twice a month) about eight years ago, and it really does get better. It was kind of a “thing” for me for a few years that I didn’t drink caffeine, but now that is completely gone. After about a year, if I did drink caffeine, I got super uncomfortably heart-pounding wired, and that really put an end to that.
posted by whitewall at 9:48 PM on June 29 [1 favorite]

I gave it up for a couple of years (suspected migraine trigger) but eventually found it too inconvenient. I started drinking it again early this year when I stayed with friends for a few weeks who didn't have any decaf or tea in the house, and followed that with a conference where everyone was guzzling caffeinated coffee all day. When my migraines didn't return, I kept drinking the stuff, so I guess I drink it again now.

I didn't notice any long term differences over the past couple of years except maybe that I get a bit hungrier in the mornings if I don't have caffeine at breakfast time.
posted by lollusc at 10:31 PM on June 29

I quit caffeine cold turkey because I was consuming a truly ridiculous amount of it (the equivalent of a six-pack of Mountain Dew daily), which turned out to be self-defeating self-medication for migraines. I was on enough that for the first couple of weeks I felt shaky and depressed, and then I had a sudden surge of energy and well-being that lasted several days, the like of which I have never felt before or since, as though everything had turned up to eleven.

After about six to eight months, my sleep habits settled as much as they were going to, and I had mostly worked out ways to hydrate without caffeine in them. It turned out that I needed to eat more protein than I had been or energy from my meals did not last as long as I expected, and that my 'normal' sleep pattern is a totally separate problem of its own. It really did take at least six months for me to be sure things had settled. Try upping your protein intake, especially at lunch?

For the first few years, the tiniest amount of caffeine in anything would leave me an anxious ball of twitching, unable to sleep at all that night. The effects on me were far stronger than when I was using it regularly, and I had to be very careful. I suspect that my tolerance fell back to what it had been before the addiction.

Now, seven-plus years later, I no longer avoid even trace quantities of caffeine. I can have it if I want it, though I keep it a sometimes food-- less than once every two months-- and plan out carefully when I have it, because it will still fuck with my sleep. But accidental caffeine is no longer a guaranteed adrenaline surge. A (very) small amount carefully timed can stave off a migraine, though too much brings one on.

I also went from being a person who needed to pee literally all the time to a person who needs to pee a human-standard amount. I did not expect this and it has been lovely. The effects of caffeine on your digestive system can creep up on you slowly over time, which is why I didn't notice it as it happened, and I'd say that also took six to eight months to really settle.

So yeah, if I were you I'd stick with being off caffeine, because you're almost certainly not clear of the long-term effects yet. Drink a lot of water, eat more protein, try to maintain good sleep hygiene, and maybe take a fiber supplement. See where you are, like, next February and go from there.
posted by Rush-That-Speaks at 11:10 PM on June 29 [4 favorites]

I haven’t quit caffeine, but my normal amount now is one cup a day in the morning instead of mumblety strong espressos all day, mostly because I left the job with free espresso machine pods and my weekend headaches went away.

The afternoon slump I used to fight with caffeine I now fight by three major methods: first treating my allergies much more aggressively (hay fever can make me tired, and stuffiness doesn’t help my mild sleep apnea). Second by mild exercise— if I feel tiredness coming on I get up and move. And third by diet (full-fat yogurt for breakfast, a lunch that involves protein, limit sugary snacks or empty carbs).

I’m definitely still addicted, but I find the withdrawal symptoms from 1 cup a day are much better than from many. If you find after several more months that zero isn’t working, a low limit could still give you a benefit.
posted by nat at 11:50 PM on June 29 [3 favorites]

Thank you everyone for your advice, will definitely take on board, and stick with it! Really appreciate the help.
posted by usr2047 at 11:51 PM on June 29

Recently quit caffine probably about the same time as you. I did ween, and the amount of caffine I was drinking wasn't that much to begin with (3 cans of coke zero, or about a cup of coffee) but I was having panic attacks, and I also have tachycardia. My cardiologist didn't think that caffine was a problem, and I don't think it changed my heart rate in any real way.

It did take going without caffine for about two weeks before the sheer sluggishness /headaches/hating my life to disasspate once I stopped, and that was after a month of intentional weening down my intake.

I'm not at 100 percent yet. I am still getting gains in concentration. I am able to push through the fatigue. I'm feeling a bit calmer and centered. I did start drinking a little bit of juice for the sugar. That kind of helps and it's in small amounts so I don't stress about it. I do think it might take up to six months to really see a baseline without caffine.
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:27 AM on June 30 [1 favorite]

I had to quit it ten weeks ago for medical reasons; I didn't have headaches as I'd been tapering off, but it hasn't gotten better for me. Even if I'm not physically tired, I'm mentally exhausted all the time, I can't focus on things, and my mentally-repetitive job is much less tolerable. Sorry to be a party pooper.
posted by Hypatia at 7:11 AM on June 30

Oh yeah, Rush-That-Speaks is so right about major effects of caffeine after you've quit.

I literally cannot drink coffee (even weak coffee or bullet coffee) anymore. I get super jittery and wired for about an hour, then I crash so hard I will literally fall asleep for at least an hour. If I drink any caffeine, even tea, past 10am, I will have a hard time with sleep that night.

It's been more than 7 years and I have accepted this as my new normal. Its annoying, but its better than how I felt when I was addicted to coffee by a million miles.
posted by ananci at 7:38 AM on June 30

I don't drink caffeine. Something that helps me is that I have a list of things that aren't a problem. I don't grind my teeth nearly as badly at night. I don't have the constant urge to pee. I don't get nearly as many headaches. I have an easier time waking up in the morning.

If I think I want caffeine, there's probably something else I actually need.
posted by aniola at 8:41 AM on June 30

I quit caffeine completely for 3 months. While I was caffeine-free I always drank a hot chocolate, or kombucha or some other interesting drink in the afternoon to keep me awake. I also drank plenty of water to stay hydrated. But then for about a year I needed something that would help me keep up with my higher workload, so I switched to tea. To keep the caffeine content extremely low, I dunked the tea bag 2-3 times then threw it away. My caffeine tolerance was so much lower by that point that 2-3 dunks of the tea bag was enough. I did work my way up to being able to drink a cup or two of tea most days, but some days I don't need or want caffeine and I have no withdrawal symptoms. I'm much more awake now than I ever was while drinking coffee. If you absolutely can't have any caffeine, drinking a glass of water and taking a 10 minute walk helps a lot.
posted by Penguin48 at 3:19 PM on June 30

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