In a world full of "go-go-go" and the endless need for getting more work done in less time, caffeine fuels our blood day in and day out. Waking up? Start the day with some coffee. About to go hit the gym? Chug some pre-workout. Tired on the road? Stop and buy an energy drink or extra-strong coffee. In a world ran by caffeine and the need to move, what if we took away the caffeine? What if we didn't need caffeine to function better? What lead my to quitting caffeine for a whole year? In this article I will discuss all of the above.
The original purpose behind my caffeine-free experiment was to lower my anxiety, help me sleep better, and have more consistent work out days (instead of having a "hit and miss" feeling each day). For someone with anxiety, insomnia, and quite a few pretty crappy work outs in a row...it felt like the perfect experiment, and in result, my one year caffeine free experiment was born!
Hitting The Wall
First comes first, what should you expect in the beginning? Much like anything addictive that effects dopamine levels, quitting your caffeine intake can cause caffeine withdrawal. During the first two weeks without caffeine you will feel these withdrawals. Headaches, fatigue, and having a hard time waking up are all common and almost inevitable during the first two weeks unless you did not consume much caffeine to begin with. The first thing I noticed was fatigue. It took me so much more focus just to get ready to work out. Sometimes I would sit there between sets and wish I could go back to sleep. Caffeine withdrawals are no joke! But, when weighing out the benefit to drawback ratio, I knew I should persevere and see how my body reacts. Sure enough, around the two week mark I felt better than I ever have!
Greener On The Other Side
After passing the wall, there is a much greener view. After your first two weeks of torture (and face it, you debated countless times on quitting the experiment by then), the benefits of being caffeine free start to shine. I noticed a few key aspects to the experiment that really made those two weeks worth it.
One thing I used to have a problem with was not being able to get much sleep. I would pretty often find myself going to sleep at 2,3, sometimes even 5 am. I would down all the niquil I could and eventually not even that was enough. After stopping my caffeine consumption and getting past the withdrawal symptoms, I started sleeping early...and even sleeping better! I wouldn't wake up as many times in the night as before. I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to go. Of course, it wasn't like a light switch. It still took a short period of time for me to fully wake up, but when I was fully awake I felt better than ever! Consistent energy throughout the day.
Though reducing caffeine consumption (and even quitting all together) does not get rid of anxiety in itself, reducing my caffeine intake did reduce my nervousness and anxiety. My blood pressure started lowering (though I quite dairy and meat consumption during that time as well). The nervous system fatigue I got from high intensity work-outs was not as taxing. How I felt from day to day was more consistent and following more consistency was better progress in multiple aspects of my life (work outs, job, relationship, etc).
Did I Stay Caffeine-Free?
If the benefits of not consuming caffeine are so amazing, why did I start drinking coffee again? In a perfect world, I would have just stayed caffeine-free. Unfortunately, this is not a perfect world. During times of a full-time job, full-time college schooling, content writing, working out, and much more....I did not have the amount of time that I wanted. I needed to cut hours of sleep from both ends (wake up early and stay up later). I had to have enough to work out for more than an hour, work for 8 hours, then use what energy I have left to do homework in the evening (all while dealing with copious amounts of stress). With that high demand of work, I just couldn't keep up. I started consuming a few cups of coffee each morning and my work capacity improved, but the benefits I listed above have diminished. I will soon be back to being caffeine-free, but it's a matter of reward to cost ratio (right now needing more work to be done, regardless of how I feel).
My caffeine-free experiment taught me a lot about myself, self improvement, and the high demand of "everyday life". Eliminating caffeine consumption will not cure anxiety and depression...or other mental disorders, conditions, or whatever you would like to claim them to be (trust me, I've tried). As far as reducing symptoms and improve your quality of life? Eliminating caffeine will do just that! Only drawback? Survive the first two weeks! If you are looking for a way to improve your quality of life try your very own caffeine-free experiment, then let me know how it went in the comment section below.