An Indian pilgrim to Mecca smuggled seven coffee seeds from Yemen and planted them in the Southern Indian hills almost three hundred fifty years ago.
The act of defiance earned the pilgrim sainthood. And bleary-eyed Runners across the country raise their cups to him, whether they know it or not.
Coffee holds a place of particular regard in my culture. My parents even planted a few Coffee shrubs of their own when they moved back to the family home.
Last year, however, I cast off those rose-tinted glasses, and I could see all the red flags.
In this article, I cover:
- 3 Things You Should Know About Caffeine
- 6 Benefits Of Ditching Your Caffeine Habit
- 5 Side Effects Of Quitting Caffeine
Let’s jump in!
3 Things You Should Know About Caffeine
1. Caffeine is an insecticide that functions as a stimulant
It surprised me to learn that the function of caffeine is a naturally occurring insecticide that paralyzes pests and their larvae.
It just so happens that our physiology synthesizes it into the stimulant that we know and crave.
Also, Food and Drug Controllers worldwide classify caffeine as a psychoactive substance — for a good reason.
In large doses, above the recommended 400 mg per day, caffeine can worsen sleep and anxiety.
2. Not All Caffeine is Born(Or Made) Equal
Caffeine has a stimulating effect on the body regardless of its source. However, there are two factors to consider.
First, the companion compounds in your caffeinated drink make can produce widely differing effects. Tea, for example, contains L-Theanine, an amino acid, which provides a much subtler stimulation.
L-Theanine, and the other antioxidants present in tea, prevent the quick absorption of caffeine into the bloodstream, producing a more sustained release over an extended period.
Second, there is a vast difference between home-brewed and commercial coffees.
One Starbucks Venti Coffee contains roughly 400 mg of caffeine, the maximum recommended daily dose. Anything over this puts you at risk of over-caffeination.
Two Starbucks Venti Coffees consumed consistently increases the risk of caffeine toxicity.
A home-brewed cup of drip coffee, on the other hand, contains between 95 to 145 mg of caffeine, roughly a fourth of the maximum daily limit.
3. Caffeine Is Everywhere
Caffeine may be one of the most pervasive substances on earth.
Chocolate Bars, Protein Powders, Ice Cream, Yoghurt, and Over-The-Counter Flu medications; this list is just the tip of the iceberg as far as caffeine-infused substances are concerned.
You may have taken for granted the caffeine in your morning beverage, but who could blame you for missing the doses in your one-a-day multivitamins?
These seemingly innocuous products could be pushing you over the daily recommended limit for caffeine.
6 Benefits of Ditching Your Caffeine Habit
1. Higher Quality of Sleep
The less-than-ideal effects of caffeine are easy enough to ignore when you’re on the job and communicating with colleagues across three time zones.
So you write off the occasional sleepless night.
Ditching caffeine for good puts you on the path to restful sleep.
2. Less Anxiety
I punctuated my day with coffee — a cup before breakfast, a cup after lunch, and one before the evening workout. Nothing crazy but, then I’d cast a cup or two of tea onto that caffeine kindling and turn it into a fire.
The very same mechanism that caffeine uses to boost our energy levels also triggers an increase in our stress levels.
Coffee stimulates an increase in adrenaline and cortisol levels, putting you in fight or flight mode, not to mention increasing your blood pressure.
Now, this may be fine right before a 5k run, but it isn’t doing you any favours during the course of your workday.
Bidding adieu to caffeine drastically reduces the incidence of stimulant-induced anxiety.
3. Increased Athletic Performance
Most of us are familiar with caffeine’s potential to increase athletic performance. Improved respiration, nervous system stimulation, and even greater muscle endurance, to name a few.
To habitual coffee drinkers who exercise, the benefits may seem self-evident but, there is a caveat.
A study published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism observed that administration of caffeinated chewing gum saw diminished effectiveness in Sprinters who habitually consumed three or more cups of coffee a day.
Sprinters with a lower caffeine intake, however, saw a sustained performance in over ten sprint tests.
You can attribute this to the fact caffeine, used habitually, loses its effectiveness. Parting ways with caffeine may just be surest means of removing the ceiling on your performance.
4. More Consistent Mood
Past a tipping point in your relationship with caffeine, you aren’t receiving caffeine’s benefits as much as you are staving off the effects of withdrawal.
Maintaining your mood then becomes dependent on how often you consume caffeine and your caffeine tolerance.
Eliminating caffeine prevents the spikes and crashes from becoming too extreme, helping you establish more consistent moods.
5. Increased Focus
You may have been telling yourself that you needed the coffee to focus, but it was impeding your focus rather than aiding it.
Caffeine has the potential to reduce blood flow to your brain by 27%, reducing clarity and focus.
Shortly after you quit caffeine, you begin to notice that the signals from your body become clearer. It no longer plays a role in interrupting the natural cycles of your body, or your focus.
Also, you spend less time per day wrestling with caffeine withdrawal.
6. A Healthier Gut
Research has shown that a moderate amount of coffee can promote a healthy gut microbiome. But, unfortunately, what a “moderate” amount means tends to differ from person to person.
I ignored my caffeine sensitivity in the interest of preserving productivity. And my stomach paid the price.
Caffeine’s ability to increase gastric acid secretion contributes to conditions like gastritis and acid reflux. For some of you, an upset stomach and the weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter could be risks you encounter.
Once you’re done with caffeine, you mitigate the risks of your digestive systems’ prolonged exposure to it. As a bonus, with the reduction to the irritation to your gut, you make fewer trips to the bathroom.
5 Side Effects Of Quitting Caffeine
I’ve always thought of myself as a morning person — and an early morning person at that. But, over the years, I did notice a dip in my mood if I didn’t caffeinate first thing in the morning.
If I skipped the morning coffee or tea altogether, I would encounter brain fog and irritability. The cause of what I was experiencing was most likely the effects of caffeine withdrawal.
Caffeine withdrawal can begin between twelve to twenty-four hours after your last caffeinated beverage, and it can last up to 10 days.
Here are a few short term effects of quitting Caffeine:
1. Low Energy And Fatigue
Caffeine’s ability to block your Adenosine receptors contributes to feelings of wakefulness and leaves you feeling energized.
Cutting out caffeine has the diametrically opposite effect. If your daily caffeine habit exceeds 4 cups of coffee, you may find your energy levels dipping quite sharply.
Caffeine masks the symptoms of fatigue rather than addressing them, which is why one of the immediate short-term effects is the dip in your energy.
One of the primary side effects of excessive caffeine consumption is the narrowing of blood vessels, restricting the flow of blood to the brain.
After quitting caffeine, the blood vessels expand, which can cause headaches. These headaches tend to vary in severity depending on your caffeine consumption.
Once your brain acclimates to the change in blood flow, the headaches subside.
As even mildly caffeine-sensitive people can attest, one extra cup a day can be the difference between jitters and energy.
Quitting caffeine can have the same effect in the short term, for an entirely different reason.
A sustained daily caffeine habit is not very different than sugar or nicotine dependence. And, just like with those compounds, giving up caffeine can cause an increase in your anxiety because your body has come to crave it.
4. Dips in Mood
Undoubtedly, caffeine can have a positive effect on your mood, when consumed in moderation.
However, once your tolerance to caffeine has increased, you become more reliant on it to prop up your moods.
When you cease your caffeine consumption, your body no longer has its crutch, and you could find that your moods are less even-keeled.
Some amount of brain fog and irritability is to be expected. Like the other effects of quitting, this too shall pass.
5. Scattered Focus
Caffeine’s pervasiveness has a lot to do with its capacity to boost energy and increase focus.
When you first quit caffeine, you will notice that your ability to concentrate is diminished.
Without caffeine to stimulate your adrenal glands or boost neurotransmitter production, your body will take some time to adjust to living without the intervention of the stimulant.
Quitting Caffeine might sound like a tall order, but it could radically improve your quality of life.
Make the change, and don’t look back!