My Caffeine Detox Plan

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Last week I posted Caffeinated Delusions, which outlined my addiction to caffeine and my desire to overcome that addiction. It also covered how my prior detox attempts were flawed or too short. Well I started down the path a week ago. Immediately I dropped my intake by 50% and then yesterday I dropped my levels again. Now I am down to a single espresso plus tea. It hasn’t been easy. My thinking is fuzzy and my mood is much lower. I haven’t had any caffeine withdrawal headaches, but my performance is way down.

There have been a lot of posts on this blog about self experimentation. They can best be divided into two groups. Those that I believe that I’l have a high probability of success and those where I have far less faith. Those tests where I have higher confidence, I am more likely to post prior to the start of the test. Those were I am more filled with doubt, I keep to more to myself until the test is well under way. Of all the experiments I’ve done before, this is absolutely going to be the hardest.

There is a raging debate on whether announcing goals make you more or less accountable. Well, I am about to find out. Here is my goal.

I will go the entire month of October without coffee. No decaf either. During this time I will drink tea, but eventually ween myself off tea until I am 100% caffeine free. I don’t know how long that will take, but eventually I’d like to go at least 15 days with no caffeine. If I feel great after my goals have been met, I may extend the test longer.

Today I am boxing up all my coffee equipment and storing it away. That includes my espresso machine, grinder, press pot and home coffee roaster. I will have 1 espresso with the Coffee Club of Seattle on Saturday and one on Sunday. The coffee I have already roasted up will be given away.

Here we go.

See you November old friend. 

13 thoughts on “My Caffeine Detox Plan

  1. Peter S

    I may give a similar experiment a go. I am not a heavy user these days. Usually just one cup of coffee in the morning (sometimes a second later) and 2 or 3 green teas.

    Previously it was more like 3 and 3 and was clearly messing with my sleep. I first switched the coffee to decaf and within about 5 days I lost the desire for coffee as it more or less broke the coffee->caffeine link in my brain. Proving to me, that my coffee cravings were entirely caffeine based. Oddly I never get Tea cravings no matter what. And the caffeine levels are not that different (I drink a small coffee and double serving green tea).

    After quitting the decaff, because I had no desire, I then went cold turkey on all caffeine for about 2 weeks. I think it only took about 3 or 4 days before I felt normal without caffeine, and my sleep improved a lot (first 2 days I had headaches and felt exhausted).

    It crept back in when I felt I needed a pick me up to work out and from there back to starting the day with coffee. But just the one coffee followed by tea.

    Now I try to limit my last green tea to early afternoon (having it now actually) and I don’t find it interferes with my sleep, but I do feel fuzzy in the morning and look forward to my morning coffee.

    I don’t have any Decaf anything around. Maybe I just try cold turkey this weekend, since my usage isn’t that high.

  2. @Peter – For me coffee itself has its own pull outside of caffeine. And espresso – even decaf espresso – has this intense flavor profile that I’m really addicted to.

    Good luck on your detox.

  3. Pauline

    Good luck. The detox is not easy but do-able. I haven’t had coffee or tea for two weeks now after a month of cutting back. I don’t really miss it. It’s very strange to be on the other side of it. I am much calmer. I do get the odd impulse but its short lived. It’s hard work to get off it and I am not ready to give that all up for a cuppa. I am still discovering who I am without it. its good to walk free of it for now. If you don’t have it regularly there is no pull for it and that is a whole new experience for me. I am full of amazement about that. But mood is very even an none of those exagerrated highs from caffeine. I will wait and see how it unfolds for me.

  4. @Pauline – Thanks. I think announcing this is actually going to make me more accountable. All my equipment has been cleaned, boxed up and placed into storage. This weekend I will get rid of my roasted coffee.

    Today I went on a 3 hour hike so my mind was off the “fog”.

  5. I have been through something similar, and I find when I am not using caffeine (particularly coffe/espresso caffeine) my energy/productivity/resiliency is much more stable and consistent. There are not such highs, but there aren’t such lows. It is different, and the lack of highs/manic energy can _feel_ like I’m not being productive but in the long run it’s like the tortoise and the hare – steady consistency wins the race. Like being off gluten, once free of it I can now see much more clearly the negative aspects caffeine/coffee/espresso had on my life.
    It is interesting how how strongly resistant some readers are to you identifying caffiene/coffee/espresso as an addiction & a problem. I am impressed that you continue to return to the truth of your experience.
    I have read that caffiene can be cross reactive with gluten. That those of us with gluten sensitivity can react to (& be addicted to) caffiene in similar ways we react to (& be addicted to) gluten. I have also read the same of chocolate & sesame. I have observed that I have strong reactions to chocolate & sesame, and noticeable reactions to caffiene/coffee/espresso.
    Very useful & informative blog you have! Looking forward to reading more! Good luck with everything.

  6. glenn whitney

    What’s your policy on chocolate / cocoa / cacao during this caffeine abstention period?

    I’m pretty sure I’m addicted to the theobromine in cocoa but I have yet to see reliable research suggesting this might be problematic in any way…

    (Just so people know – I consume the equivalent of 4-6 tablespoons of pure cocoa powder per day. I may have somewhat less than this once or twice a month, but it’s a rare day…)

    BTW – If you’re in the market for an alternative “flavor profile” – try mixing pure cocoa powder with a couple of splashes of vanilla essence, a pinch of cinammon and maybe a tiny bit of cha’ai type spices…

    I mix all this up in a “ketogenic cocoa drink” with 2-3 tablespoons of light flavor olive oil and 2-3 tablespoons of coconut oil, per pint.

  7. charles grashow

    http://suppversity.blogspot.jp/2012/09/caffeine-protects-brain-function.html

    Caffeine Protects Brain Function Against Stress & SAD Diet; Coffee Withdrawal, Anxiety & More; Giardia, Messy Subtenant W/ Gusto For Arginine; Vit B6 & n6:n3 PUFA Ratio

    Problems thinking straight? Guess what: 3-4 cups of coffee could help 🙂 According to a soon-to-be-published paper by scientists from the Jordan University of Science and Technology in Irbid, Jordan, the ingestion of the human equivalent of approximately 3.8mg caffeine per kg body weight or 3-4 cups of coffee per day, can inhibit both, the stress, related as well as diet induced (we are talking of the “typical” Western diet (WD), that’s both high in carbohydrates and fat) cognitive impairments (Alzoubi. 2012)… well, at least in the researchers 3-months rodent study it worked like a charm

    Additionally, caffeine has also been shown to increases the expression of hippocampal brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and its receptor, which is impaired in response to chronic stress and a hypercaloric Western diet (Aleisa. 2006; Molteni. 2004) and leads to deteriorations in cognitive performance. In the long run those effects could also contribute to the anti-dementia and anti-Parkinson’s effects, I mentioned in the recent SuppVersity post on the insulin sensitizing effects of coffee.

  8. @Glenn – I will be avoiding chocolate too. I’d hate to have an asterisk on this experiment. That should be easy enough for me. I can go weeks or months without even thinking about chocolate. I much prefer ice cream.

    @Nathan – I have no idea. This will be new territory for me.

  9. Peter S

    I went cold turkey after my posting above. I think I have cleared the worse of it. It may seem early to judge, but I don’t consume that much anymore, so this isn’t surprising.

    I lasted about 24 hours until the headache became very annoying. Then I had one cup of green tea, which took the edge off a bit. But I pretty much had a headache and felt out of it all day right up to when I fell asleep for the night.

    But I woke feeling quite normal today. It is past noon again and no headache, no deep fatigue like my previous caffeine withdrawal (heavier use then). So I am having zero Caffeine today, and I plan to go a week or two at zero caffeine.

    The experiment for me will be is anything better without caffeine. Do I really get better sleep and wake more refreshed? If I can’t detect a positive benefit, I will go back to full caffeine. If I do detect some benefit I will try decaf next.

    There has to be reason to stop, because I enjoy my coffee and tea, and they are great sources of antioxidants and they are consistent because they are self reinforcing.

  10. @Peter S – The question is how long does one need to go off caffeine for a true test? A week or two may not be enough. I don’t know the answer. I hope to find out.

  11. Peter S

    It should partly depend on your intake, since mine was low and I only had about 24 hours of withdrawal symptoms or less, and feel normal now, I believe that if I am showing no additional changes in the next week, that is probably it.

    It doesn’t seem likely to me that I am going to feel normal for 2 or 3 weeks then all of sudden I will get a new burst of energy and superior sleep/wake etc…

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