Sunday, July 19, 2009

How to Give Up Caffeine

How, in today's society, do we give up something that has become a staple in so many of our lives? Caffeine keeps us going in a busy, stressful world, and is not even an afterthought for many. At the beginning of this year, I fully committed to eliminating all caffeine from my diet, and have done so very successfully. I was just tired of being dependent on something that ultimately was detrimental to my health. There are many resources out there that tell how to give up caffeinated beverages such as coffee and soft drinks, but my objective is to give a more personal approach with specific focuses on the mental approach and actual process of quitting.

Caffeine is a stimulant, plain and simple. It causes short term increases in alertness and energy. It is for these reasons it is consumed on a daily basis. People get the pick up they need, and go about their day. The four most common drinks consumed are coffee, soft drinks, tea, and energy drinks. Yours truly heavily relied on soft drinks. I had at least one a day, and as many as four. My dependency was so bad, I even switched to an energy drink in the mornings to keep my energy up. It was too much, too often, and I needed to draw the line and simply stop.

Many people today have an addiction to caffeine. It is fairly cheap, and easily accessible. Drinking these beverages is just far too easy a solution to making it through the day. This is where my problem lies. Too many people are taking the easy road of caffeine instead of improving their daily habits to cut out such an addicting substance.

Despite the temporary energy boost, caffeine has many negative side effects, especially for those that have become dependent on it on a daily basis. Here is a list of a few of the side effects:

  • Anxiety
  • Nervousness
  • Loss of sleep
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Headaches
  • Tooth Decay

The main side effect I noticed was the inability to concentrate. At work, I was having an extremely hard time focusing, which was made worse by the fact that I always felt so tired.

At work, I would find myself drinking an energy drink early in the morning. An hour or so later, I was rock and roll, ready to go! But by lunch, I was dragging and in desperate need of a pick-me-up. Enter the wonderful, sweet beverage of choice, soft drinks. So after one full energy drink early, lunch ensued with a 20 oz cola. By my afternoon break, I was just about ready to crash, so I headed to the vending machines for one final soft drink before I headed home. One energy drink and two soft drinks later, I was just a mess. And that doesn't even count the potential fourth soft drink I would have if I went out for dinner. I was out of control.

Mental Approach

In order to give up caffeine, one has to be motivated enough to follow through with several weeks of adapting to life without such a wonderfully delicious stimulant. If there is not determination, there will be no success. I realized how unhealthy I was, and what these drinks were doing to my body. Not only was I suffering side effects at work, but I was gaining weight as well. Yes, soft drinks are a prime culprit for weight gain in people that heavily consume them. I was tired of feeling like crap and eventually told myself that was enough.

I thought about my baby daughter, and realized she was going to be my motivation. I am going to kick this habit, and be healthier for her. I do not want anything to keep me from caring from my daughter. So that was it, and the rest is history.

How to Give Up Caffeine

After one and a half months of being completely caffeine free, I am a firm believer that this is something you can quit cold turkey. I realize there will be many, many naysayers to that, but here is how I did it:

  1. Find your motivation.
  2. Get rid of all caffeine temptations in your home.
  3. Avoid all coffee shops, vending machines, and grocery isles devoted to caffeine related beverages.
  4. Start setting a sleep schedule that allows for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
  5. Eat a healthy breakfast.
  6. Eat healthy snacks between breakfast and lunch, then lunch and dinner.
  7. Stay focused on your motivation.

That's it. That is all I did.

Find your motivation

As I said before, my motivation was my daughter. Finding yours could be as simple is improving health, or quality of life. Maybe it's even as simple as having your teeth whitened, and not wanting them stained brown. Imagine not having to rely on coffee every morning of every day. Whatever it is, if you set your heart to a desire, you can almost always follow through.

Get rid of all caffeine temptations

Get into your pantry and refrigerator, and throw everything out that will tempt you. By not having caffeine in the house, there's no way you can cheat, and give in to temptation. If you do not have your favorite wake-up drink readily accessible in your home, you are more likely to grab something better for you, which boosts your energy level in a much healthier way.

Avoid areas of temptation

This is probably the trickiest, because here is where willpower, grit, and determination set in. This is where you just have to say no. Don't stop at the coffee shop, don't stop at the gas station to pick up an energy drink, avoid the soft drink and coffee isles, and definitely stay away from vending machines. At first, this is going to be very difficult, but will get easier as repetition sets in. Remember your motivation. Focus on the reasons you are trying to quit. Soon enough, you won't even realize you're passing these items up.

Start setting a sleep schedule

Hardly anyone gets enough sleep anymore these days. Try and aim for at least 7 to 8 hours. Any less and the body does not have a full opportunity to recover what it needs from the previous day's work. Any more and you will throw off your sleep schedule, setting up a string of inconsistencies that can eventually lead to sleep deprivation. Getting a full night's sleep will insure that the day is started of correctly, and will leave you less likely to go running to those addicting caffeinated wonders.

Eat a healthy breakfast

This is probably the most vital of the steps, because without good, quality foods to start the day, fighting off any caffeine addiction becomes a true battle. My breakfasts are usually one scrambled egg with tomatoes and green pepper, with an apple and a 100-calorie low fat yogurt. Here is a sample list of foods to start the day off right:

  • eggs
  • wheat toast
  • fruits (ex. apples, oranges, bananas, berries)
  • veggies (ex. tomatoes, onions, bell pepper, jalapenos...with eggs)
  • 100% juices
  • ham, chicken (in egg scrambles, burritos, or simply a la carte)
  • yogurt

All of these provide a natural boost of energy that will last consistently through the day. The best choice would be eggs, but be careful, there is such a thing as too many eggs during the week, due to their high cholesterol content. I eat four to five a week (one a day), then do chicken or ham for the other days. You know the commercials, 'the incredible, edible egg'? It's true. Great protein, great nutritional value.

Now, I hear far too often excuses about not having time for breakfast, or not enough time to prepare breakfast. And that's exactly what they are, excuses. Just this morning, my wife and I were driving to go see a movie, and I brought up this topic to her. When I told her about eating a good breakfast, she said she can always find something else to do in the mornings that supersedes breakfast. You have to make time, and it's not even that lengthy of a process.

To cut time on getting yourself a breakfast, here's what I do. I dice up a week's worth of veggies to go in my scrambled eggs at the beginning of the week. Each morning, I use what I need and put the rest back. I scramble one egg on the stove which takes all of 5 minutes...from turning the stove on, getting it hot, and putting the cooked egg on my plate...5 minutes or less. Then I grab an apple and yogurt. This process takes me less than 10 minutes. Make the time to start the day off right, the rewards of kicking an addiction are well worth it.


I eat five meals a day, with my current fitness and diet plan. Five meals, 400 calories each, so I need 'meals' between lunch and dinner that are high in energy and easy to take wherever I go. My first snack is a whey protein shake with orange juice. Then I have some berries or an apple with it. Whey protein is one of the purest forms of protein, and great for building muscle and burning fat. This morning snack alone is a huge energy booster for me. Getting caffeine isn't even crossing my mind. My afternoon snack is usually a combo of veggies or a small salad, and some form of nuts. My favorites are peanuts, walnuts, and almonds. At work, I usually pack up celery and carrots and some peanuts, all of which I eat around 3pm to help me finish out my day.

Stay focused on your motivation

It is common to fall into temptation, but remember the focus. Think about how far you have come along in the process to kick the caffeine addiction, and what it has meant to you thus far. It's hard, as any addiction is, but keep your eye on the goal, and it can be done.

Alternatives to Caffeine

Some people enjoy caffeinated drinks, not just for their effectiveness in increasing in alertness, but for the taste as well. Although I really think that avoiding these drinks all together is best, here are some options to help you cut caffeine from your diet: green tea, decaffeinated coffee, and caffeine free soft drinks. Keep in mind decaf coffee has small amounts of caffeine in it, thus the name is misleading.

Green tea has proven to be quite the healthy drink, but also still contains a minor amount of caffeine. It has become so popular in fact, that it is readily available just about in every grocery store, convenience store, and gas station. If you need to wean yourself off caffeine, give green tea a try. Caffeine free soft drinks don't have caffeine, but I'd still recommend staying away from them as much as possible, as they still pose health concerns in sugar levels and obesity.

Keep your body clean

Again here are the steps to giving up caffeine:

  1. Find your motivation.
  2. Get rid of all caffeine temptations in your home.
  3. Avoid all coffee shops, vending machines, and grocery isles devoted to caffeine related beverages.
  4. Start setting a sleep schedule that allows for 7 to 8 hours of sleep a night.
  5. Eat a healthy breakfast.
  6. Eat healthy snacks between breakfast and lunch, then lunch and dinner.
  7. Stay focused on your motivation.

The removal of caffeine has had such a positive effect on my life. I no longer feel the drowsiness after consumption, and know it has been a huge contributing factor to helping me get back into shape. The first couple days after deciding to quit can be rough, but after that it gets much easier. Then you can look back and wonder at how heavily you relied on caffeine.

You can do it. Find your motivation, keep your body clean and healthy, and kick the caffeine addiction. It's a great sense of accomplishment, and something that can easily be done if you set your mind to it.

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