I’ve had a love/hate relationship for coffee for many years. i started drinking it when I was around 16-years-old to get me through long days that started with a 5-mile run and ended with a 5-hour shift at a cafe after school. In college, I was prescribed Adderall—a powerful medicine for ADHD that contains methylamphetamine. While I didn’t drink coffee every day since the medication provided so much nervous system stimulation, I’d use it when I still needed the drug an extra boost or when pulling all-nighters in the library.
After college, when I was detoxing from Adderall, bulletproof coffee was a godsend. The caffeine and healthy fats made my brain feel like it was on fire again but without the horrible side effects of ADHD meds. it was also a great tool for transitioning to a high-fat diet. I noticed that I was more sensitive to coffee than others—one cup would energize me for about 12 hours. But I considered myself lucky to have found a natural stimulant that made me feel so amazing.
After about a year of drinking bulletproof coffee almost daily, I could tell my nervous system needed a break from the stuff. I was underweight and anxious. So I slowly transitioned to green tea, which had a much more gentle effect on my nervous system. With green tea, I also noticed that I didn’t experience any withdrawal when I didn’t have any for the day. Plus the bright green of matcha powder or deep green of my beloved yerba mate evoked feelings of abundance and vibrancy each morning.
Even though I knew the green tea was my best bet, I’d still gravitate toward coffee, especially in times of stress. My partner was a barista, so we always had loads of aromatic speciality beans around the apartment. Also, I loved the culture and rituals surrounding coffee. I just wanted to be a normal 20-something who could check out a few local coffee shops on the weekends without turning into a full-blown nutcase.
However, time and time again, my body kept telling me that coffee was no good for me. It had an effect similar to Adderall for me, and I’d sometimes find myself feeling dizzy and unable to sleep (even after only one cup in the morning). Maybe it’s because my adrenals need some more rest or because I’m a slow caffeine metabolizer (confirmed by my 23andme results). Whatever the case, I’ve decided to make my lifestyle one that doesn’t include coffee—and one that limits caffeine in general.
If your intuition is telling you to lower your caffeine intake, listen. Here are some benefits of doing so:
Relief from anxiety & depression: I’ve known many people who think they’re destined to a restless mind until they give up caffeine, when virtually all anxiety is diminished. Caffeine injection can actually trigger the same symptoms associated with psychiatric disorders. When I work with women with anxiety/depression/insomnia, giving up coffee is the first step we work through.
No dependence or withdrawal: This is perhaps the most empowering benefit because, when you don’t have to worry about getting your caffeine fix, you have more mind space to be present. You might also save some time and money that was spent at coffee shops. Plus, no caffeine headaches or sluggish mornings when you go without!
Better sleep: Studies show that those who consume less caffeine sleep longer and their sleep is of better quality than high-caffeine users. While genetics plays a role in caffeine metabolism, the stuff can stay in our system longer than we think (around 12 hours). If you have any trouble with sleep, stick to one cup of green tea before 10 a.m. Take it from someone who’s been through this, it can change your life, and you’ll never look back.
Balanced hormones for women: Coffee consumption has shown to alter estrogen levels in women, which can put us at an increased risk for related conditions endometriosis and certain cancers.
Better skin: Because caffeine can prevent collagen synthesis, quitting the juice can mean softer skin (and less wrinkles for long-term abstainers).
I recommend giving up coffee for one month to see how you feel. Your sleep and energy might improve so much that you don’t even feel the need for daily caffeine after this 30-day experiment. If you’re not ready to give up caffeine completely, I’ve found limiting caffeine to 50 grams or less (in forms of green tea before 10 a.m. and dark chocolate before 3 p.m.) can have very similar effects as eliminating it completely.
Since committing to a low-caffeine lifestyle, I sleep better, feel more hydrated, and my mind doesn’t race. After about a month, my energy has improved as well. I no longer feel afternoon slumps, and I’m more tuned into the foods and exercises that are serving me (since I no longer try to fight low energy with more caffeine). However, I love tea and chocolate, and I have learned that I need to be intentional about the consumption of these in order to maintain the benefits of a low-caffeine lifestyle. This way, I still get to enjoy my beloved green teas and chocolate without them affecting my mood or sleep negatively.
In order to help staying around the 50 milligram '“sweet spot,” here’s a list of some healthy caffeinated sources:
TEA (consume before 10 a.m.)
Green Tea Super Antioxidant
1 tea bag, steeped 3 minutes = 10 milligrams
8 fluid ounces = 22 milligrams
Tazo Organic Chai
1 tea bag, steeped 5 minutes = 31-45 milligrams
1/2 teaspoon or 1 gram = 35 milligrams
1.5 teaspoon, brewed for 5 minutes = 40 milligrams
DARK CHOCOLATE (consume before 3 p.m.)
Dark Chocolate (60-85% cacao solids)
1 ounce = 23 milligrams
1 ounce = 12 milligrams
1 tablespoon = 12 milligrams
I really enjoy purchasing loose leaf teas and making my own chocolate drinks and treats, which makes measurements easy. However, if you’re serious about cutting back and prefer to buy tea bags, I recommend the two above because they measure their caffeine and don’t contain natural flavors or toxic tea bags. As you can see from the above chart, one cup of intentional (i.e. measured) tea leaves room for a small chocolate treat in the afternoon. However, if I drink more tea in the morning (such as a full kombucha or a strong Chai), I might skip the chocolate.
If this information seems more overwhelming than helpful, don’t worry. If you cut back from coffee to about one cup of green tea per day, then you’ll reap the benefits of a low-caffeine lifestyle.
Who else feels better on less caffeine? Tell me your thoughts and stories below!