I didn’t even know how much I relied on caffeine to get me through the day until I didn’t have it.
I knew, of course, that any form caffeine didn’t have much effect on me anymore. In fact, I hadn’t felt energized from the caffeine in years. I drank it simply to feel normal levels of energy and avoid feeling like garbage.
It is this subtle progression to caffeine-tolerance that makes it so hard to recognize our dependence on caffeine and also makes it difficult to quit. Coffee, and caffeine in general, are so insanely common and popular because they have some nice benefits with minimal side effects. For most people, having moderate amounts of caffeine every once in a while (or even every day) isn’t going to be that big of a deal.
That being said, the majority of people who use caffeine are so burned out and have put their body’s in such a stimulated state for so long that they are getting almost no benefits from it (like me). If you are in that position, you will notice some awesome health benefits by detoxing from caffeine and letting your body recover.
Once you successfully give up coffee and your caffeine tolerance has returned to normal levels you can start using caffeine again in a controlled and moderated manner to get all the benefits that it has to offer. Or stay stimulant-free, whatever floats your boat! So if you’re a long term caffeine abuser here are just a portion of the health benefits of giving up coffee and caffeine:
11 Health Benefits of Being Caffeine Free
#1. It’s One Less Addiction
Coffee is addicting, but you already knew that. People think it’s funny to talk about how useless they are without their coffee but can we just take a minute and think about that? You literally cannot function as yourself without first getting your fix of a stimulating, neurochemical releasing, drug? In any other context it sounds crazy and you would be admitted to rehab. For some reason, however, it is socially acceptable for you to function in your dependant state.
Unless you refuse to accept that as your reality.
Needing to rely on something to function at my best isn’t very liberating. Add into that the fact that most people actually function better when they fully detox from caffeine and it becomes clear that being held hostage isn’t a good idea.
#2. Decreased Anxiety
In 2020 there seems to be enough anxiety to go around and then some. Every time I visit the advice page on Reddit I see people saying, “I’m so stressed out and anxious about life…what do I do?
Well, here’s one answer, give up the coffee and energy drinks!
Obviously things aren’t that simplistic, but with cases of anxiety on the rise, the health benefits of giving up coffee and caffeine are undeniable. Nearly every person could benefit significantly from giving up both caffeine and social media: the two major causes of anxiety and depression.
Coffee (and other caffeine sources) are particularly adept at raising your anxiety because they turn on your body’s fight or flight system. If your body is constantly in a twitchy state and expects danger at every turn you obviously aren’t setting yourself up for calm and relaxation.
#3. Better Sleep
While caffeine-buffs have argued with me (and the science) surrounding giving up caffeine, sleep quality is one area where I’ve never been challenged.
Coffee is a stimulant and is meant to keep you awake. How in the world could having it in your body not affect your sleep cycle? One of the main issues is that, as your caffeine tolerance grows, your body compensates by combatting the excess caffeine and adenosine. This has the ability to disrupt your sleep well after the caffeine is out of your system (which can take more than 12 hours depending on your individual physiology)
Coffee has the ability to turn your sleep cycle into a vicious non-sleep cycle. You drink coffee and can’t sleep, so you feel tired, so you drink coffee and can’t sleep, so you feel more tired, so you drink more coffee….and on and on.
#4. Fewer Headaches
There were many times at the end of the day where I would have a dull throbbing headache and have to wonder, “Is it because I’ve had too much caffeine or too little?”
Caffeine constricts the blood vessels going to the brain which can, in excess, cause headaches. The other problem is that, once your blood vessels acclimate to being constricted they start relaxing even when you can caffeine. When you inevitably miss your cup of joe, the vessels which were used to being bathed in caffeine are now larger than they should be and create pressure and a headache. At least that’s the prevailing theory as the origin of caffeine withdrawal headaches.
Once you make it through caffeine withdrawal, the good news is that your overall occurrence of headaches will likely be significantly lower. However, those first few days can be a monster so if you need some help, check out our natural cures for a caffeine headache.
#5. Improved Dental Health (and whiter teeth)
Everyone knows that smoking stains your teeth, but did you know that coffee can be almost as bad? Not only does regular coffee drinking leave you at risk for having some manky brown teeth, but the acid content of your drink can also work to erode your enamel, leaving you at risk for dental caries.
And if you add a bunch of sugar to your coffee? Well it’s lights out for your mouth-stones.
#6. Reduced Brain Fog
I wish this one could be a bit more scientifically based, but the best evidence I have is my own experience and the experiences of dozens of others who have quit caffeine.
If you have been taking caffeine for any period of time, it’s likely that you never feel quite 100%, even when you’ve had your coffee. I always felt dull and a bit sluggish. I was able to get work done, sure, but I never felt sharp, original, or creative. What was more worrisome was that it hadn’t always been that way. The brain fog I experienced seemed to grow as a got older and I could remember times of much greater mental clarity just a few years before.
Within 30 days of giving up caffeine, my brain felt like it was my own again. I was ready to crank out creative work, crunch numbers, etc.
On a scientific note, caffeine is actually known to increase productivity if you do repetitive actions or basic labor (such as an assembly line) but decrease your work-abilities if your work requires originality or creativity (pretty much anything else). So if you have a big paper or presentation coming up maybe you should give that Red Bull a pass. (You can check out that study here).
#7. Improved Gut Health
Coffee is a double-edged sword when it comes to your stomach and gut health. While moderate coffee drinkers have been shown to have healthier gut biotas overall, caffeine can increase your chances of stomach ulcers, increase acid reflux, and worsen GI problems such as Crohn’s disease and IBS.
So, while there is evidence on both sides of the fence, I’ll hedge my bets, give up coffee, and simply take a probiotic (or eat my yogurt) daily.
#8. Fewer Empty Calories, Synthetic Sweeteners, and Preservatives
My wife’s grandma is an absolute coffee freak. At least she used to be. On each one of her (several) daily trips to Starbucks, she would get a venti-sized coffee and another cup to hold the cream/whipped cream. She thought she was getting the most coffee possible, and she was. What she didn’t realize at the time, is that she was also getting a THOUSAND EXTRA CALORIES PER DAY!
With the most caloric drink at Starbucks topping out at over 700 calories, it’s easy to see why we crave them. Huge amounts of sugar and caffeine are a great combination if your goal is to get a short-lived but addicting energy rush followed by a huge crash.
So, while the health benefits of giving up coffee will be drastically reduced if you drink it black, you probably don’t. The other problem is that the addition of all the sugar/dairy/preservatives outweighs any health benefits that coffee actually has. I guess the coffee shops never told you that all the health benefits come from black coffee, did they?
#9. Improved Vitamin Absorption
If caffeine was a person, your parents wouldn’t let you hang out with them. Sure, it seems all “cool and fun” but it temporarily props you up while stealing your vitamins right out of your body!
Caffeine can cause nutrient depletion of important nutrients, like vitamin B6, and interfere with nutrient absorption of essential minerals, including calcium, iron, magnesium and B vitamins.Effects of Caffeine on Health and Nutrition
Not only does caffeine block absorption of some vitamins, but it also acts as a diuretic which often ends up with you peeing out a high proportion of the vitamins you just ate.
*While caffeine does lots of sneaky things, one of the things it does not do is make your bones brittle (as is popularly believed). Check out that myth-busting study here.
#10. Less systemic inflamation
Coffee/caffeine has a strange relationship with inflammation within our body. While it appears that coffee can help with inflammatory diseases in some cases, it most it does just the opposite.
A study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that consuming more than 200mg of caffeine per day (2 cups of coffee) leads to significantly raised inflammation markers across the board. This is true for both men and women.
So, if you are having issues with inflammation (in your gut, your joints, etc.) then it is possible that detoxing from caffeine may help.
#11. Improved Mood and Natural Energy
People think it’s funny or endearing to wear a shirt that says something along the lines of “No talkie before coffee” but it actually highlights another huge problem caffeine-drinkers have. Not having coffee makes you grumpy.
Despite the obvious health benefits of quitting caffeine and giving up coffee, I still vacillate between drinking caffeinated drinks and detoxing. When I detox, it only takes my wife a couple of hours to notice because I turn into a grouch.
The main reason I get so grumpy and short with people is I feel like I just don’t have the energy to deal with their crap. However, when I’m either fully detoxed or fully on caffeine, I realize that their “crap” is just normal conversation and I’m much more agreeable.
I will also say, the whole idea that coffee/caffeine gives you energy is a myth. Caffeine simply fools your body into thinking you have energy so it reapportions what energy you have available for immediate use. Really you’re just robbing your future self and making the crash inevitable.
Bonus: Money Savings!
If you drink a single cup of cheap coffee that you make yourself, you might get by on $30 a year. Not a big deal. However, not many people are satisfied with 6oz of “recommended strength” Folgers in the morning.
In fact, many coffee-lovers spend $30 in a week rather than a year. The average drink at Starbucks is $3 which, coincidentally, is about the same price as most energy drinks. Drink two a day and you’re already at almost $200/month.
Pay an extra $200 a month for less energy, headaches, and worse health? Hard pass…
So are the health benefits worth giving up coffee?
So let’s not blow this too far out of proportion. For the majority of people, drinking coffee every day is not going to wreck your health. It has some mild health benefits and a few more negative effects. However, if you’re here reading this it’s probably because you’ve noticed that coffee or caffeine is not exactly your cup of tea.
For me, I can’t just have one caffeinated drink a day. As soon as I’m tolerant of one (within a couple of days) I have another, and another….and soon I’m back to 4-5 energy drinks per day, brain fog, and no energy. So was going without caffeine hard? Yes. Was it worth it? Heck yes. Even without half of the health benefits on this page, the difference in how I feel would make me detox again in an instant.
So, whether you decided to give up coffee or not, hopefully you’ll be able to use this information to snag some of the health benefits we discussed.