I went off of caffeine cold turkey 10 weeks ago. No coffee, no teas, no chocolate, nothing at all that contained even 1mg of caffeine.
My reasons for quitting:
- I felt terrible and tired all the time. I felt tired no matter how long I’d slept.
- I couldn’t function without caffeine.
- I started experiencing extreme anxiety – to the point that it became difficult to have conversations.
- My emotional state deteriorated to the point of depression.
- I was consuming 300-500mg caffeine/day.
With the way I was feeling I knew something needed to change. My productivity was awful(maybe 1-2 productive hours a day). My outlook was very negative. I was slipping into depression further everyday. Caffeine was the main culprit.
Benefits I’ve observed:
- Sleep! Holy gods. No more racing thoughts in the evenings. No more waking up feeling exhausted.
- Anxiety and social anxiety – gone. Back to my normal self.
- Depression – gone.
- Focus – It’s a tie between sleep and focus on what the most dramatic improvement has been. Previously I would find it hard to stay on-task for even 10 minutes. Now I can stay on-task for 60 minute blocks in the mornings(which get shorter as the day goes on).
I quit on a Thursday. The timeline that follows:
- Week 1- Awful. Headaches. Sluggish. Brain fog. Difficult to have conversations. Needed a nap every 2-3 hours. Depression worsened. Anxiety still present.
- Week 2– Headaches are gone. Still very sluggish. Conversations slightly easier. My brain doesn’t feel quite as stupid. Still need naps in the day to function.
- Week 3- I don’t feel like a complete idiot in conversations. Still no motivation to do anything. Getting out of bed is really difficult. Depression is worsening. Anxiety is easing. Less need for naps and I have a few snatches of feeling “normal.” It feels like recovering from a long illness.
- Week 4-6- Feeling close to “myself.” I can make it through the days without a nap. Still very unmotivated. I can wake up in the morning feeling decently rested but the motivation to get out and do anything is not there. This lack of motivation is leading into more depression as I am letting projects slide.
- Week 7-10- Feel mostly normal. Mornings are still the most difficult. Past 4pm I feel energized, awake, and excited for life. Still depressed in the mornings.
- Consistent high dose caffeine masks other underlying contributors to our energy and motivation. Like sleep, nutrition, exercise, and our natural circadian rhythm.
- Movement is vital. 20 minutes of aerobic exercise gives me a nice caffeine-esque boost in energy, sociability, and motivation for a few hours. Pure strength training has a smaller impact on my mood and energy.
- Diet has massive impact on brain fog and motivation. I binged on pizza and ice-cream one weekend(my brain was craving dopamine possibly?) and for the next three days it was impossible to get out of bed or do anything productive.
- I found MCTs from coconut oil in the morning and a low carb diet to be the most effective diet for alleviating brain fog and increasing motivation.
- Natural rhythms play a huge role in how we feel!
- Natural light and bright light is very important to getting rid of brain fog in the mornings.
- Excess caffeine made me very distracted. Before I quit I had difficulty staying focused. New thoughts and ideas would always pop up and I would find myself clicking over to google something irrelevant.
- Caffeine gives a real edge in social interactions. My baseline state is less energetic and less enthusiastic. I feel like caffeine gives a definite edge to social interactions. The most notable is thinking of witty things to say and keeping a conversation flowing. I also have almost zero desire for social interaction without caffeine.
- The best way to maintain productivity and energy over the long-term is to take more rest and more breaks! It’s a pretty obvious statement but something that I haven’t followed very well up to this point in my life. The reason I kept increasing my caffeine was because I kept taking on more and more obligations.
Recommendations after 10 weeks
To anyone who takes caffeine regularly I would recommend a 60 day detox. Spend the first 30 weaning yourself down(cut your intake in half each week) and the next 30 cold-turkey. I’m not advocating that everyone drop caffeine forever. I think there’s very valuable lessons to be learned from getting off of caffeine. After you’ve spent 30 days caffeine free you can make a more educated decision on whether you want to get back on, what dose, and timing.
For me it reinforced a important lessons about exercise, nutrition, sleep, and overall mental health. I think it’s easy to see caffeine as a “fix-all” and rely on it to cover up other areas of our lives that require attention.
Caffeine should be given the same level of consideration that we give “harder” substances like amphetamines, modafinil, and other “drugs”. The ubiquitous nature of caffeine in our culture has given us the false impression that it’s a harmless drug. It is not. It is powerful and potent and can wreck havoc in our lives if it’s not respected and understood.