Here's a stat that will leave you feeling jittery: According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, 90 percent of American adults consume caffeine every day. Shocking? Not really. For many, caffeine is one of few things that makes surviving their 9 to 5 possible. And many of us feel like we can't even wake up without the stuff—whether it's a workday or not. Finally, there are those whose routines no longer involve coffee runs and trips to the soda machine—people will iron-clad willpower who claim that ditching their caffeine habit completely changed their life. It seems we all know someone like this, and often, their story is inspiring enough to make the rest of us consider giving up the quick fix, too.
Before tossing out your Keurig and all of your favorite teas, read on to find out what happens to your body when you cut out caffeine; some of the effects are positive while others are less of a good time. If after weighing the pros and cons you decide to cut the stuff out of your diet, we've got tips for how to go about doing that, too!
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You'll Get a Bad Headache—and Then You'll Have Fewer Headaches
You're head is pounding and you feel like you want to crawl back into bed with a bottle of Advil. No, you're not hungover, you've just given up caffeine. When you regularly consume the stimulant, it leads to a physical dependence, which means withdrawal symptoms are non-negotiable—and a throbbing headache is one of the most common. While the reason for this is not yet fully understood, some medical experts say that caffeine relaxes blood vessels—so when you ditch the stuff, the vessels constrict and cause pain. The good news? After the first 7-10 days, the pain should subside. And after that, you'll no longer suffer from head-pounding pain when you've gone too long between your daily cups.
You'll Be Grumpy for a Bit
Even if you're not the kind of person who's grumpy before your first caffeine fix of the day, you might experience some pretty crazy mood swings and bouts of fatigue when you first ditch java and cola. To ensure your friends and co-workers don't think you've gone totally insane, you might want to give them a heads up so they know why you're being so short-fused. And to take the edge off, try noshing on some of these 11 Foods That End Bad Moods.
You'll Have More Energy
We won't deny it. During the first few days that you go caffeine-free, you'll probably feel totally run-down. But after you make it through the withdrawal period, you can expect to see your energy levels soar! The reason: People who consume caffeine on the reg (especially those who sip in the afternoon and evening), often sleep less soundly than those who don't sip stimulant-laced drinks. Then they wake up tired and in need of more caffeine. Once you break the cycle, however, you'll sleep better and have more energy to tackle your day. And to get even more out of your nightly slumber, check out these 30 Things to Do 30 Minutes Before Bed to Lose Weight!
You'll Be Less Stressed
When you consume something packed with caffeine, your adrenal glands start pumping out adrenaline, needlessly putting you into "fight or flight" mode. When you lay off the stuff, however, you'll feel less stressed and anxious. Plus, since a coffee and cola habit can easily cost you over $1,000 a year, you'll likely be less stressed about money, too.
Your Workouts May Feel Tougher
Having some coffee or tea before you hit the gym has been shown to decrease exercisers' perception of effort. And according to The American College of Sports Medicine, the upper improves exercise performance and intensity, too. So, it shouldn't come as a surprise that once you kick your caffeine habit to the curb, your workouts may feel a bit tougher than they did it the past. To add more oomph to your workout sans caffeine, nosh on some of these 7 Foods That Make Your Workout More Effective instead.
Your Weight May Fluctuate
If your caffeinated beverages of choice are laden with calories, sugar, or artificial sweeteners (think: diet soda, fancy lattes, or sweet tea) you may lose a few pounds after you kick the habit. On the flip side, however, if you typically turn to fresh green tea or black coffee, ditching your daily buzz may actually cause you to gain a few pounds. The reason: caffeine has been shown to temporarily suppress appetite and increase metabolic rate. To keep the damage to a minimum, increase your water intake and keep low-cal snacks like raw fruit and veggies at hand to quiet your rumbling belly.
You'll Consume Fewer Antioxidants
If java is your caffeinated beverage of choice, you'll likely be getting far fewer antioxidants in your diet once you give up the stuff. Believe it or not, coffee is the primary source of antioxidants in the average American's diet, according to University of Scranton researchers. These powerful free radical fighters have been shown to reduce the risk of certain types of breast and liver cancers. Tea is also packed with antioxidants that help protect healthy cells against potentially carcinogenic oxidative damage. To stay safe without caffeine, make a point to regularly consume other antioxidant-rich foods like berries, nuts, artichoke hearts (one of the primary ingredients in our delicious Artichoke Feta Quiche, and ground cloves.
You'll Get More "Brain Farts"
Research shows that caffeine has a positive effect on both short- and long-term memory, so you may find yourself misplacing your keys and forgetting people's names more often if you give up the stuff. Caffeine may also protect against cognitive decline and Alzheimer's, so that's definitely something to consider before phasing out the stuff altogether.
Your Smile Will Become Brighter
If your teeth have been looking a bit dull lately, your caffeine habit might very well be the reason why. Caffeinated drinks like tea and coffee contain acidic polyphenols called tannins that can lead to staining and discoloration. Giving up the stuff may just help keep your pearly whites, well, white. For even more foods that can discolor your smile, be sure to check out these 15 Foods That Stain Your Teeth.
Ready to Ditch the Caffeine?
While it may seem like a daunting task to kick caffeine to the curb, it's totally doable. Start with these simple steps to jumpstart your buzz-free life today!
Eat an Energizing Breakfast
Refined carbs (like white bread), sugary sweets (like Pop-Tarts), and greasy food (like cheesy, meaty breakfast sandwiches) aren't the best sources of lasting energy. And when you're dragging, you're all that more likely to start jonesing for a jolt to get you through the day. To keep cravings at bay, kick off your day with a meal comprised of complex carbohydrates, protein, and a little bit of healthy fat. Oatmeal with berries and a side of scrambled eggs hits the oatmeal nail right on the head.
Decrease Your Portion Size
While this may seem like an obvious suggestion, it's one of the best places to start. Do you typically sip a 20-ounce soda with your lunch? Downsize to 12-ounce and scale down to an 8-ounce serving the next week. By cutting back slowly, you'll lessen the intensity of withdrawal symptoms, such as headaches and fatigue.
Nix Your Afternoon Fix
If you find yourself craving a mid-day cup of joe, it's likely because your energy levels are beginning to dip, which isn't uncommon for people who sit for long stretches of time. Instead of walking to the break room for a drink, beat the afternoon slump by stepping outside for a short, brisk walk. Continue doing this each day, until it becomes a habit. Numerous studies have found that even short exercise bouts can knock out feelings of fatigue, so you won't even miss your caffeine fix.
Choose Less Caffeine-Filled Drinks
Caffeine is a chemically addictive substance, so slowly scaling back on the stimulant can make it easier to give up. If you're a coffee addict, for example, order a "half-caff" brew which is a mix of regular and decaf coffee, and then slowly switch over to decaf before kicking your java habit altogether.
The average craving lasts about 10 minutes. Simply finding something else to think about or do until your soda or energy drink craving passes can help. So, chat up a co-worker, check Facebook—really, anything will do the trick. It may seem silly, but each time you avoid giving into your craving puts you one step closer to your goal of giving up the habit for good.
If you have a coffee machine at home or a giant stock of soda, put it in storage or donate it to a friend. If you keep caffeinated beverages out of the house, you won't be able to give into cravings the moment they strike. If you have to take a trip to the local barista or drug store to get your fix, you'll be less apt to give into temptation. Because let's be honest—we're all a little bit lazy!
Get More Sleep
Most people rely on caffeine because they feel tired and drowsy. You'll be less apt to reach for the coffee pot if you get a better night's rest. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggest adults get between seven and eight hours of sleep each night. Go to sleep around the same time every night—even on weekends—to feel the most refreshed each morning. Another sleep smart tip: Avoid using the computer or watching TV right before bed since the light can hinder your quality of sleep. Get more smart strategies with these 7 Habits of Highly-Rested People.