Just over a month ago I decided to give up coffee. I’d previously tried this twice before. The first time I didn’t get very far. After a day or two I got an horrendous headache randomly one morning. The scary thing was that the only thing that made it go away was a cup of coffee…
I tried again last February. I was doing a standup comedy course and needed something to talk about during my routine for our public performance. So I decided I’d give up tea and coffee as a sort of social experiment. Anyone from Ireland, or who’s ever visited Ireland, will understand that we’re a nation of tea drinkers. As a nation of tea drinkers, I quickly discovered, that people think you’re a bit mental if you don’t drink tea.
Not drinking tea or coffee eventually made me feel like a bit of a pariah so I eventually (after the comedy course had ended) capitulated and went back to drinking coffee. However, I did manage to remain tea ‘clean’, that is to say that I haven’t had a cup of tea since - almost one year on. I was surprised that I had no real withdrawal symptoms when I gave up tea.
The biggest challenge I noticed was dealing with pavlovian responses. At certain points of the day, e.g, after meals and before going to bed, I would think that I wanted tea. I started to drink hot water instead and discovered that sufficed. Maybe it had something to do with having a hot drink? I’m not so sure but eventually I didn’t need that either. Now I have zero interest in drinking tea. That’s a complete 180 on being the biggest fan of tea.
The coffee was a little different. I went back drinking coffee more as a social thing than anything else. Being back on the black stuff definitely had a positive impact over the Autumn / Winter, just gone, when I was doing a lot of cycling for the sake of fitness. However, I began to notice towards the end of November (2017) that I seemed to need more and more coffee during the average day to properly function.
This seemed a bit worrying - the idea of being reliant on any substance never quite struck me as a success strategy. So I decided to do a bit of research into the science behind this. It turns out that a bit of caffeine can be very good for the human body but that this gain diminishes with consumption over time. In simple language the more coffee you drink the more you need to get a similar gain. This tolerance is reversible though - if you deprive the body of caffeine for a while the clock can be reset.
So it seems to be that if you want to make the best use of caffeine in your diet that it’s actually a good idea to give it up from time to time. A little over 5 weeks in and I have had no problems or regrets giving it up. When I decided to quite it I think that I’d already committed to the belief that it was doing nothing for me. If anything I actually felt it could’ve been doing me harm - too much of anything can’t be good for one. On balance if you feel you need something like coffee to survive you’re probably doing something wrong.
So far I’ve had no physical or mental issues relating to giving caffeine a rest. Focusing on improving my diet and sleeping definitely helped to reduce any potential caffeine dependancy side effects this time around. In social settings I’ve ordered hot milk or just had water. I’m not sure if I’ll go back drinking coffee in the future but if I do I’ll definitely document what motivated that move and how it feels to start drinking it again after a break from the stuff.
Have you ever tried to give up tea or coffee or anything else? How did that work out for you? Do let me know in the comments if you have an interesting experience to share!