If you’ve ever tried to reduce your caffeine intake, you know it can be really difficult. In my own experience, quitting it cold turkey can cause withdrawal effects like headaches that go on for several days. It has also made me feel fatigued or like I can’t wake up, because my body was so used to relying on caffeine for stimulation.
But if you’ve decided (or been advised by a doctor – this article is not medical advice!*) to reduce or cut out your caffeine habit, here are some simple tips to help make it as painless as possible:
- Cut down gradually. If you drink 6 cups of coffee/tea a day, cut back to 5 for a few days, then 4, then 3 and so on. Once you’re down to one cup a day, then try one cup every other day, then every three days, and so on until you feel like you can leave it behind. (Or, if you’re just reducing your intake, quit this process at whatever number of cups you’re comfortable drinking.)
- If you choose to go cold-turkey, do it during a time when your life isn’t very demanding. Expect withdrawal headaches and fatigue. I found that drinking lots and lots of water seemed to flush the withdrawal toxins out of my system faster.
- I used ginseng or Vitamin B-12 supplements to boost my energy back up to the level I’d been used to while on caffeine. After about a week, my normal energy levels returned and I didn’t need the supplements anymore. I found I actually had more energy than I’d had with caffeine.
- Another method is to dilute your coffee more and more over the course of a few days with milk, water or decaf. This has worked for friends I’ve talked to.
- Switch from coffee to black tea, then to green tea, then to decaf herbal. This brings your caffeine intake down in stages, and has also worked for some friends of mine.
- Remember sodas. Sodas, with or without sugar, typically have caffeine, though much less than coffee. You can use them to replace coffee temporarily while you adjust to less caffeine. If you want to cut out all caffeine, remember to switch to caffeine-free sodas as well as cutting out coffee and tea – there are plenty to choose from, and I can’t tell any taste difference from the caffeinated versions.
- Chocolate can be a crutch during withdrawal. If you have terrible cravings for coffee while you’re trying to cut down, have a small bite-size piece of chocolate instead. It has some caffeine – enough to satisfy the craving without undoing as much of your hard work as a cup of coffee would.
If you love the flavor of coffee, then the thing to do is switch to decaf. Don’t listen to people who say it tastes bad – there are plenty of blends that taste really good. My favorite is Dunkin’ Donuts Decaf. It actually tastes better than a lot of caffeinated blends you can buy.