By Soji James, CPT, CSCS
For many of us, a cup of coffee isn’t just a beverage. It’s a morning ritual, an important part of our professional and social lives, and, of course, a quick pick-me-up. If you find that you can’t go without, then it might be time to ask yourself how to stop drinking coffee. Business flyers often take a redeye to head to an important meeting. Parents frantically get their kids ready to leave for school. The lifestyles are different, but the needs are the same. If you start your day with a serving of java (or two, or three, or four), you’re far from alone.
You might be wondering, “How much caffeine is too much?” Many of us enjoy our “magic bean water,” as some have affectionately nicknamed it. Caffeine is a drug, and there’s such a thing as overdoing it. After all, heavy caffeine use can lead to obvious symptoms like jitters and anxiety. Furthermore, it can lead to less familiar symptoms like nausea, acid reflux, and other digestive problems. Like most things in life, coffee and other caffeinated drinks are best enjoyed in moderation.
If you’re going to cut back on your caffeine intake, we’d recommend you do it slowly, since caffeine withdrawal is less than pleasant (both for you and the people around you). Here, we’ll discuss some alternative ways to boost your energy, as well as recommendations for avoiding common symptoms of caffeine deprivation, like headaches and depression. And don’t worry: we’re not here to lecture you or to give you a long list of reasons to stop drinking coffee. If it’s something you truly enjoy, moderate daily consumption can have some great health benefits!
As a society, we generally don’t keep track of the caffeine in our coffee, tea, and soda. We know how it makes us feel, and we know how much we enjoy its pick-me-up properties. It follows that most of us don’t stop to think about how much we’re consuming. We’d never take aspirin for a headache or cold medicine for an upper respiratory infection without checking the dose. But for some reason, we’re much less vigilant about our caffeine consumption.
If you’re a coffee drinker, you may be pleased to know that most adults who are in good health can enjoy several 8-ounce cups while staying under the recommended daily maximum of 400 mg of caffeine. (Note that pregnant women should restrict their caffeine intake, as should people with certain other medical conditions. Check with your healthcare provider for details.)
Take a look at the caffeine content of coffee, tea, soda, and other popular beverages, and you’ll have a clearer picture of your usual daily caffeine consumption. Note that some of the foods you enjoy (like chocolate), as well as most coffee-flavored treats (like yogurt and ice cream), can also contain caffeine.
|Coffee drinks||Size in oz. (mL)||Caffeine (mg)|
|Brewed, decaf||8 (237)||2-5|
|Espresso, decaf||1 (30)||0|
|Instant, decaf||8 (237)||2|
|Latte or mocha||8 (237)||63-126|
Caffeine Chart – Source: MayoClinic
Drinking a few cups of coffee a day (without exceeding the recommended maximum) is generally considered safe, and it may even be good for your health. Recent studies suggest that moderate coffee consumption may reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and other serious illnesses. By contrast, you’ll negate any possible benefits of your morning cup of Joe if you add several teaspoons of sugar (or sugary syrup), whipped cream, or half-and-half. Keep it lighter with healthy choices like skim or 2% milk and sugar-free syrup or no-calorie sweetener, and save the full-fat whipped cream and chocolate shavings for a special occasion.
Now that we’ve established that it’s perfectly safe for most people to enjoy moderate amounts of caffeine, we’ll explore some strategies you can employ to keep from overdoing it. After all, we lead busy lives, and it’s tempting to reach for one more cup of coffee before tackling a big work project, heading to your kid’s 6 p.m. game, or cramming for tomorrow’s exam, especially if you have a long-established habit.
One great way to boost your energy without grabbing a caffeine fix is to make time for some quick low-impact exercise, even if it’s just a short walk around your neighborhood. (Lacing up your sneakers and heading outdoors has many other benefits, as well.) Of course, committing at least 30 minutes every day to a more serious fitness routine will help your long-term energy level, but if you’re feeling that dreaded mid-afternoon slump, even a brief jaunt around the block can help you feel refreshed and energized.
If you drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages to kick-start your metabolism, you’ll be happy to know that there are alternatives that won’t make you jittery or sweaty. Try selenium supplements to speed up your metabolism and promote thyroid health. You may find in the long term that they’re more effective than relying on a mocha or cappuccino.
If you’re still feeling sluggish, try drinking more water. It sounds simple, but most of us don’t hydrate like we should. If you’re filling up on caffeinated beverages 24-7, you could replace some of them with good old H2O, no sweat. Studies have debunked the myth that the diuretic effect of caffeine causes dehydration, but if you’re exceeding the recommended daily amount of caffeine (or you just want to cut back a little), try reaching for a glass of water instead. If you find it difficult to drink, try adding a slice of citrus fruit or cucumber for a fun twist.
In addition to the strategies we’ve just named, we have a few more suggestions. Avoid the symptoms of caffeine deprivation by trying to cut back on your coffee intake. First of all, don’t try to quit cold turkey; chances are good that you’ll experience severe headaches, nausea and vomiting, and fatigue, among other unpleasant effects. Instead, you can try reducing your caffeine intake by 10% every two weeks, gradually weaning yourself down from the level your body has become used to. For example, there’s a pretty painless way to slowly cut back without noticing. Just replace some of your daily brewed coffee with instant coffee, as it contains significantly fewer mg of caffeine per serving.
While you’re reducing your caffeine intake, be sure to check out some of our favorite mood-boosting foods, which should help to combat any irritability, depression, and mental fatigue. Just a reminder that chocolate, green tea, and yogurt with coffee flavor usually do contain caffeine. It’s okay to enjoy them, of course, but just be sure to count them toward your desired daily caffeine allowance.
Here’s to all the great ways we can feel energetic, productive, and happy—mocha-fueled and otherwise. You’ve now learned how to stop drinking coffee. Consequently, you can decide whether to stop cold-turkey, or continue in moderation. Enjoy your favorite coffee drinks in moderation, and be well!