Yep, you read that right. I dropped caffeine for nearly 1 month. Now, why on earth would I want to drop the coveted bean water, tea + pre-workout for nearly a month?
It began with the effort to solve some new mysterious ailments I had developed. For the past several months, I had been suffering from unexplained bloat, heightened anxiety, imbalanced blood sugar, stronger PMS symptoms + chronic inflammation that kept my performance sub-par in the gym.
I had already ruled out most other food intolerances since I already eliminate eggs, dairy + most grains due to known intolerances. What's more, my sugar intake is low + alcohol intake stays around 0-3 drinks on average-leaving me with the last known addictive substance left in my life...caffeine.
Months before cutting out all caffeine I decided to put some new guidelines on my caffeine consumption in an effort to feel better. At that time I lowered my consumption by drinking only 1 serving of coffee or pre-workout consumed before 2 pm.
Previous to this I was consuming 1-2 cups of coffee per day + 1 additional serving of a pre-workout supplement with 80mg of caffeine. Despite feeling a little better, my symptoms were still not going away-thus my decision to eliminate caffeine for some time completely.
Upon deeper research about why I should possibly consider eliminating caffeine, I ran across an article by Alisa Vitti called What Women Need To Know About Caffeine.
In it, she explains how "caffeine disrupts your hormones — including insulin, cortisol, and reproductive hormones — for many hours after you drink it, interfering with blood sugar, sleep AND a wide range of physiological processes."
She further goes on to explain that some people can have a genetic predisposition that causes them to slowly metabolize caffeine. Interestingly enough that same genetic mutation (called the CYP1A2 mutation) is also involved with the metabolism of Estrogen.
She goes on to say, "...if you struggle with PMS or a diagnosed estrogen-dominant condition like PCOS, fibroids, or endometriosis, then you have reason to suspect that you have a CYP1A2 mutation and are making less of the enzyme that breaks down both caffeine and estrogen. "
So how can we tell if we have a hormone imbalance + that it's time to ditch caffeine?
Some signs + symptoms of hormonal imbalance, for women especially, include:
Severe period cramps
You have been steadily gaining weight for a few months or years
You can’t seem to lose weight even with a healthy diet + increased exercise
Breast or ovarian cysts
Low sex drive
"Women who are experiencing one or more of these symptoms should consider ditching caffeine for good", according to Vitti.
Naturally, cutting out caffeine has been known to improve hormonal function, PMS, cortisol, blood sugar. Since caffeine has been known to leach nutrients from the body, eliminating can it can rebalance nutrients + minerals like magnesium, calcium, + B vitamins.
Symptoms of overconsumption of caffeine can include:
Fatigue (yes, fatigue!)
High blood pressure
Poorly balanced blood sugar
Feeling wired but tired
So how did I go about it?
After doing a deep dive on the best methods for cutting back I decided to half the intake each day by consuming 1/2 the milligrams of the previous day for 3 days + transitioned to 0mg on day 4 to help manage any side effects I might feel.
It looked like this:
Day 1: 80 mg
Day 2: 40 mg
Day 3: 25 mg
Day 4: 0 mg
My biggest concern was the physical side effects I was likely to experience from cutting it altogether. I hoped that I didn't react the same way some other people did, whose stories sounded like that of cutting hard drugs. -I did survive...but don't say you haven't been warned.
To have easier menstrual cycles, more energy + less pain/inflammation.
Week 1, I experienced:
lack of focus
grieving the morning ritual of my daily coffee, almond milk, + stevia for the first 5 days
lack of focus
lack of focus
I got my period + experienced far fewer PMS symptoms
lack of focus
The pros overall:
I had more steady energy.
I did not have high highs + low lows that come with the crashing after drinking caffeine.
Energy for workouts was quite sustained throughout the month!
Experienced a more pleasant period. I was happy with this since during most of my periods prior I would take ~2-4 days off from working out due to fatigue.
I suspect that I experienced better mineral retention + absorption from my food and supplements.
Here's why: We know that...
1) Again, caffeine can leach minerals + nutrients from the body.
2) We need adequate minerals + nutrients in our bodies before our menstrual cycle to lower PMS symptoms. My cramps + food cravings were much less severe, I suspect, for this reason.
I also experienced much less inflammation, less muscle tension, + less anxiety.
I really did miss the ritual, smell + taste of having coffee each morning. There was something sad to me about no longer having that experience each day.
My focus never returned. I was missing that ZESTY-ZING that I usually have to my personality. I often lost my train of thought + became easily distracted while completing tasks.-Not a great experience when you're a solopreneur!
My plan going forward?
I plan on listening to my body!
I ended up breaking the fast on day 27 since I had gathered the information I needed about my body, what was working + what wasn't working.
While I felt so much better in many ways, I could tell I simply perform better with a small amount of caffeine here and there-in the gym + in the office.
Some guidelines I have set that work well for me to give ME the best of both worlds:
Consume caffeine before 10 am. I have found that my sleep performance is much better if I consume earlier in the day.
Consume food + fat to help manage my blood sugar.
Opt for lower caffeine options like tea more often.
Do not drink it every day. Each week I usually take 1-3 days totally off of caffeine to help my cortisol, adrenals + anxiety come back to normal.
Aim for no more than 100 mg each day, this is what feels best for me + my body.
I supplement with CBD if I happen to overdo it to help soothe anxiety.
I opt for healthier versions of decaf coffee like Purity Coffee. Most decaf coffees are quite chemical-laden. Purity Coffee uses the Swiss Water® Process that uses pure water and is 100% chemical-free for decaffeinating. Not to mention, it's 99.9% decaf, unlike standard decaf which can still have around 25 mg of caffeine. For added focus, I add Four Sigmatic's Lion's Maine Elixir + as an adaptogen, gelatinized maca root powder.
Focus on consuming only on days when I feel exceptionally groggy from a poor night's sleep or I have a lot of deep work on my to-do list that demands a lot of focus.
All in all, please note this is a reflection of my experience + what worked for me! If you suspect you are over-consuming caffeine I would encourage you to go through your own caffeine elimination process + see what works best for you!
While I am not a fan of detoxes or cleanses I knew this experiment was necessary to assess if I could better my health overall, + it very much did.
During this process, I rediscovered what it means to challenge yourself, say no, + affirm I
can do hard things.
I am happy to know that I can "quit" anything that I am addicted to. Lastly, I affirmed, yet again, that Balance is key.