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The Effects Of Quitting Coffee For (Almost) A Year

by Derek Johanson

in Nutrition

quit coffeeOn November 1st, 2010, I woke up from a Halloween hangover, thinking of coffee. The thought being, “I want some.”

Problem is, I hate coffee when I’m hungover. It makes me feel worse.

This desire troubled me.

“Man, I know I’m addicted, yes. But that addicted?”

I simultaneously realized something incongruous (it’s vocab Monday here at it had been 3 days since I’d had a cup of coffee.

That was the longest coffee-less stretch I’d had in probably 2 years.

In that moment I decided I’d be taking a full week off coffee. “Only 4 more days left,” I told myself. “I need a mini-detox.”

I then went over to trusty Twitter and tweeted asking some people what they’d experienced by qutting coffee. I remembered that my friend Corbett Barr had quit awhile back.

He @ replied, Tweeted back, hollered at me basically saying life was better without coffee and he was drinking just tea for caffeine.

So then I made another hurried ‘Derek decision’ and proclaimed, to myself, that I’d quit coffee for one whole year and only drink tea!

And that’s what happened.

Well, kinda.

I went 10 months without.

On my birthday in early September, I had a delicious cup of La Colombe coffee in Philadlephia and I’ve been back on the wagon ever since.

I wasn’t mad at myself for not making it a full year. I’d gotten what I needed out of the experiment and wanted to return back to drinking my black cups of heaven.

Before I Quit:

I was drinking around 6 cups a day, minimum.

It’s funny, even at this amount I never really considered myself an addict. Self-denial is fun.

One of the main reasons for quitting were jitters and having a hard time falling asleep. But I’d drink coffee at all hours of the day, even after dinner a lot of times.

I started to feel like my day was centered around finding the next cup of coffee and I no longer got that ‘boost’ and mental focus feeling in the morning. Which is why I originally started drinking coffee.

The Effects Of Not Drinking Coffee

(I’m talking about taking time off of coffee, not caffeine. I haven’t experimented with quitting caffeine completely)

  • I drank 6-8 cups of tea. Mostly green and white teas, but I did have black tea occasionally.
  • No jittery feelings what-so-ever unless I drank heavily concentrated black teas.
  • The ups and downs that usually occurred during my days were much less pronounced.
  • I didn’t experience any headaches or grogginess that many people report. However, I was still drinking caffeine through tea.
  • I felt much less attached to getting a drink… less addicted. I love my warm drinks, but I wasn’t constantly thinking about my next cup of tea.

Was it worth it?

For me, I’m not sure it was necessary to quit completely.

Control was the main benefit. It’s nice to know that I can quit (coffee) if I want to. An experiment without caffeine is definitely in order. (See my notes below on how I’m using coffee now.)

My energy levels are fairly consistent as it is, but I think that has more to do with my diet. I mainly eat a low carb, high fat and protein diet which works very well for me. I don’t have violent swings in energy throughout the day based on food consumption.

If you get the jitters and have a rough time sleeping I’d say getting rid of coffee might be something you try. But, I think looking at your diet first might be a better idea.

How I’m Using Coffee Now:

I’ve made a distinct transition in the way I think about coffee use. It is no longer just to enjoy (although that’s an added benefit). I’ll ‘enjoy’ my cups on the weekend, but during the week, coffee is used strategically for boosted productivity.

I’ve also added a RULE to my coffee consumption: No coffee after 3 pm.

This has helped tremendously with restlessness before bed.

Based partially on this Bullet Proof Coffee article, I’ve begun experimenting with adding coconut oil into my coffee. Thus far, (about 2 weeks of experimenting) I’d say that my coffee high lasts longer and there’s less of a ‘come down’.

Picture by Tait Campbell.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Shawna January 9, 2012 at 3:06 pm

I quit caffeine almost 8 years ago when I was seriously motivated to do so.

Why haven’t I gone back to it? Because once I had already formed the habit of drinking decaf, any caffeine made me jittery when I was no longer used to it. If I had a regular coffee mid-morning, by mid-afternoon I was bottoming-out hypoglycemic feeling.

These days, if only regular coffee is available I’ll drink it, but I don’t seek it out. It’s very freeing.


Brian Danesse January 9, 2012 at 5:24 pm

I gave up diet cola last year as my only caffeine source and had a horrible time of it. Two weeks of tiredness and nausea, far worse than giving up smoking. And that was from a single 500ml bottle a day at work.


Dave McNarious January 10, 2012 at 11:03 am

Coffee has always messed me up – left me with insane jitters and a HUGE crash within 30 minutes of drinking it (putting me to sleep rather than keeping me awake) – but I was fine with green tea. Not enough caffeine to cause an issue.

Then I started experimenting with my diet. The biggest experiment, which happened organically, was reducing my food intake overall, and focusing on a more vegetarian-style diet. I’m eating significantly less calories, but a somewhat higher volume of food (due to the amount of leafy green veggies, squash, etc).

Now, I have trouble drinking even green tea. Jitters, discomfort, and even a bit of a crash shortly after, like I had with coffee.

I’m almost wondering if quality of food, and level of food intake, drives how caffeine affects your body. The better and “more pure” I eat, the worse caffeine affects me – and I just need to stay away from it in any amounts.


Eric January 26, 2012 at 9:33 am

sup beans?

for less jitters try drinking americanos instead of coffee. has something to do with the longer roasting/shorter brewing time of the beans. basically, espressos have less caffeine per unit than coffee does. but if u like the flavor of coffee and the drinking of hot shit, then its a good substitute.


Derek January 27, 2012 at 10:20 am

Eric – interesting. I’ve never heard that. I’ll definitely look into that.


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