Give up Caffeine: Can it be Done?

Giving up caffeine can be quite energizing.

Yes, that’s right. The drug that’s supposed to provide a boost of energy is actually drains it, based on what I’ve re-discovered.

So, it’s now been two months since I haven’t had any caffeine. I tried this before, as I shared last year in my post about a caffeine-free month. That trend lasted a few months, before I ended up getting back into caffeine. However, since the New Year, I’ve stopped caffeine consumption altogether.

My drink of choice was Diet Coke, but had also included some coffee as well as tea. No quick energy drinks were consumed, just the aforementioned beverages.  It became a habit once again.

The thing is, I noticed the same “blah” feeling again after getting hooked on caffeine. It’s easy to get into a cycle of feeling that way, but it’s good to stop and reflect what things were like without it.

Compare life with the habit and life without the habit.

With the habit, I would generally get a drink in the morning. Often this was a Diet Coke, but sometimes coffee or tea. In the afternoon, I would skip coffee, but have a Diet Coke or tea. Maybe I’d have one in the evening too. Three drinks in a day is quite a bit, I think. Even when I would have two, it might not be a single serving. For example, if I was at lunch and there were refills, I might get one.

So, I confess: my 2010 caffeine-free move ended up giving way to the old habit again. And the ups and downs in energy level came back.

We can always try again, right?

Yes, we can keep on trying. Thus far this year, I haven’t had any caffeine. It’s been two months, and I’ve consumed nothing. It was a bit of a challenge at first, but the New Year’s resolution was so strong that I was able to get the momentum going and keep it going. There have been a few weak moments where I’ve felt like having a soda, or a cup of hot tea – especially during this cold weather where I live.

However, I’ve made substitutions, which I recommend as alternatives:

  • Instead of Diet Coke – Try sparking water with natural flavors (orange, lemon, etc)
  • Instead of Caffeinated Tea – Try herbal tea
  • Instead of Coffee – Try decaffeinated coffee

These days, I have been having 2 herbal teas a day, and maybe a sparkling water or decaf coffee every other day.

The costs savings have been present, as I’ve cut my beverage costs by over 50%. That said, the substitutions have not been perfect. Water would probably be beverage perfection….healthy and free!

What about health and well-being? I’m telling you, I feel more energy again. When hooked on caffeine, I noticed ups and downs in energy levels. Spikes up, then a mini-crash. When you combine a poor night of sleep with excess caffeine, you’re not operating at anywhere near optimal capacity.

Without the ups and downs of caffeine, I feel more alert and can sleep better. Those spikes in caffeine aren’t a part of a long-term strategy to improve personal productivity.

What’s interesting is that I’m convinced that people that get hooked onto something don’t realize just how good they would feel without the vice.  As I compare now vs. then, there’s a noticeable positive difference.

Is this permanent?

Realistically, a total personal ban on caffeine shouldn’t be necessary, unless there are medical reasons for that. I can’t imagine that an occasional glass of tea or cup of coffee would be so bad for most of us. Sodas…well, we could probably do without those.

Really, I’m thinking a better longer-term strategy is moderation rather than total avoidance when it comes to caffeine.  If one really fights and takes control of our weaknesses, and develops the discipline to do things in moderation, it can go a long way.

The next endeavor: reintroducing the right caffeinated beverages in moderation.  The key will be to have the occasional tea or whatever when I feel like it, without letting that first one get me on the path to overconsumption. That’s the big challenge, now that I know I can give up caffeine for months at a time.

With moderation, balance, and discipline, we can develop healthy habits that save us money too.

Questions for You:

Have you ever thought about reducing your caffeine intake or giving it up altogether?

Also, importantly: how have you successfully managed your dietary habits to successfully conquer such cravings over the long term? It could be caffeine, carbs, meat, etc. Have you generated monetary savings in the process?

Comments

  1. 101 Centavos says

    Since cutting down to 2 or 3 cups in the morning, and only decaf tea during the day, I’ve found that I sleep better. Don’t know if that the whole reason for it, but it surely is a contributing factor.
    The temptation is there though, especially during interminable afternoon meetings.

    • Squirrelers says

      101 Centavos – yes, the temptation is certainly there at times. I’m fortunate to have been able to let myself control caffeine instead of letting it control me, so far this year. I’m taking it to an extreme for now, to prove to myself that I can do it!

    • Squirrelers says

      Moneycone – Tea, depending on what kind, can have some good health benefits. Plus, the caffeine content is generally lower.

  2. retirebyforty says

    I have a cup of coffee in the morning and probably 2-4 cups of green tea throughout the day. I don’t count the green tea as caffeine though. Try mixing sparkling water with orange juice, that’s what the Mrs. like.
    I don’t think I need to cut down on coffee, one cup a day is moderate.

    • Squirrelers says

      retirebyforty – the water and oj is a good, refeshing combo. As for not counting the green tea as caffeine….well, it is caffeinated unless noted as otherwise, so you may want to count it. Especially with up to the 4 cups you’re drinking! Side note though, green tea does have some health benefits.

  3. krantcents says

    This can be a metaphor for any change in life. I gave up carbonated drinks for the most part. I drink water whenever I am out. Occasionally, I will drink iced tea. It takes 22 days to form a new habit. If you make small changes in you financial life, you can achieve more.

    • Squirrelers says

      krantcents – good point about the time it takes before a habit can be formed, and also on the applicability of this concept to finances.

  4. Nicole says

    I don’t drink caffeine because it’s the only thing that makes migraines go away so I don’t want my tolerance to go up and have that magic bullet gone.

    My DH cycles through quitting (getting headaches) and starting up again. He’s currently on a coffee kick. Sheldoncomics has a lot of funny strips on the subject.

    • Squirrelers says

      Nicole – that’s very interesting. I never knew that caffeine could work that way. Hey, a cup of coffee is what can send the migraines packing, that has to be totally worth it. Jitters over migraines anyday.

  5. Lindy Mint says

    I gave up coffee when I was pregnant. It’s amazing how after a few weeks you find that you don’t need it so badly. My husband has a terrible afternoon coffee addiction, which is double terrible because he’s on the road at that time of day and has to stop at Starbucks. He’s been trying to break it, but it’s hard getting over that hurdle, especially if you need to be functional throughout the evening.

    I’m attempting to break my habit of candy after lunch. I’ve found that the best way to avoid the candy jar is by distracting myself with a quick walk around the building instead. The walk makes me feel healthy, so I don’t want to ruin that feeling by eating candy.

    • Squirrelers says

      Lindy Mint – I’ve noticed that going for a brisk walk can burn some energy, calm stress, and reduce the need for a vice like junk food. I know what you mean, I’ve done that too, though not in relation to candy – just other junk food.

  6. Molly On Money says

    I gave up caffine while I was pregnat. For the next 10yrs I would have a glass of black tea or Diet Coke but that was really it. About a year ago my husband bought a coffee maker and now I’m hooked. I don’t even entertain the idea of giving it up (cost wise it would save me). I can’t feel a real difference.
    I do feel better since giving up Diet Coke though. I compared my daily DC to a cigarette. It didn’t taste or smell good but I had to have it!

    • Squirrelers says

      Molly – I have to say with the Diet Coke, I’m glad I’m not hooked anymore. I really like a fountain drink on a warm summer day. Once in a great while can’t be so bad, but I’m trying to prove this to myself now!

  7. Evan says

    Every couple months I get depressed about how much coffee I am drinking and go cold turkey. I think it is just a mental thing about being annoyed that I am addicted to anything (other than the internet lol)

    • Squirrelers says

      Evan – yep, it’s not cool when something controls us, whether a person or coffee. Espcially coffee, as an inanimate object. Crazy that a drink could get us hooked, but it seem to be able to. It’s great to show coffee who’s boss!

  8. Robert @ The College Investor says

    Giving up caffeine is huge! More power to you! In my current state, I couldn’t imagine giving it up! I drink 2 venti’s 5 days a week (work pays for these…cost of doing business), and then about 3 cups every non-workday.

    My problem is that my work schedule has me all over the place – 3pm to midnight one day, then 6am to 4pm the next.

    • Squirrelers says

      Robert – Thanks! With your work schedule, that has to make it tough on your energy levels. It’s situations like that which get people into these types of dependencies on caffeine. There are probably many thousands (millions?) in your position.

  9. Everyday Tips says

    I totally agree that moderation is key. It can be hard to totally eliminate something from your life. On the other hand, you never know if that one diet Coke might just restart a habit. Very difficult balance.

    Great job!

    • Squirrelers says

      Everyday Tips – that’s the key, making sure you can have balance without restarting a habit. Challenging to be sure, for many of us. Getting started by at least being able to cut it out of one’s diet is promising, I hope!

  10. Dr Dean says

    I would do a longer comment, but I need a cup of coffee!

    I can’t have caffeine after 5pm or it will bother my sleep. I haven’t gone without since I was 10, so don’t know if I would feel better or not. May be worth considering, but I don’t really feel bad now!

    • Squirrelers says

      Dr Dean – Ha! Funny. Yes, caffeine can mess with sleep, I believe that it disrupts it in particluar if consumed after 5pm. In many countries, from what I understand, it’s generally consumed early in the day as practice. Here, we engage in a free for all when it comes to coffee!

  11. First Gen American says

    I gave it up out of necessity. It was giving me stomach aches and I miss drinking it. I found that after a while I started to replace caffeine with sugary things like cookies. That’s way worse for you if you ask me. I mean I crave sweets now and my waistline hates me for it.

    I find that I’m more alert in the morning than when I drank coffee but afternoons are still just as tough.

    • Squirrelers says

      First Gen – yeah, the substitution aspect of it is a make or break proposition. If one vice is traded for another, it’s not necessarily a winning situation.

  12. Nail says

    I don’t remember the last time I took coffee or coke or things like that. I guess it has been about 5 years. They are no good to health in my opinion.

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