I don’t know about you, but I love reading about other people’s failed attempts or successes at following a very specific food diet.
Someone committed to drinking fresh-pressed juice for three days straight but only lasted one hour? Not surprised. Someone ate cereal for every single meal for one month straight? Dream.
I would nag our blog editor, Andrea, to let me write one of my own but whenever she asked what I would give up or what I would do, I didn’t have an answer. Naturally I turned to Google for inspiration and landed on an article titled “76 Gut-Busting Restaurant Challenges for Free Food.” As fascinating as reading about Pig N’ Chik’s four pound burger challenge was, it wasn’t what I was after. I started straight shooting apple cider vinegar in the morning because the internet told me Miranda Kerr and Megan Fox swore by it. I contemplated brothing, but forgot about it after I realized it meant I’d be required to slow cook a chicken carcass for 24 hours.
Something else happened instead: I turned 27 and I started hearing words like “hormones” “adrenal fatigue” and “cortisol” way more than I wanted. I was unable to fall asleep or stay asleep through the night. I was feeling sleep deprived and worn out, and like most people, turning to caffeine to keep myself alert and energized at work.
It wasn’t until my naturopath suggested I was over-caffeinated that I realized I had a blog post topic waiting to happen. I was casually pouring myself four cups of coffee every morning and finishing up the day with one (okay, maybe two) Diet Dr. Pepper cans.
I would always say “caffeine doesn’t affect me,” but it wasn’t until I stopped drinking it that I realized I was wrong. So I did something I never thought I would do: I said farewell to caffeine.
No coffee. No chocolate. Worst of all, no Diet Dr. Pepper. While the office ate pizza boxes full of Le Gourmand cookies, I ate zoodles and drank green tea – and I’m not talking Heinz’s animal shaped noodles, I’m talking adult zoodles. Vegetables disguised as pasta.
Agency life is fuelled by coffee. I missed the routine of it the most. Not to mention, there was just something about going to Dark Horse and ordering a green tea that didn’t feel right. My first week without coffee also happened to be the first week back in the office after the holidays and my productivity was at an all time low. My eyes were shutting at my desk and I didn’t want to see or talk to anyone. When people would sing me praises for my willpower and talk about how great I must be feeling, I felt like an imposter. I didn’t feel different, I felt worse.
I drink the Instagram wellness Kool Aid. If there’s a fad diet, I’ll try it, but this time I wanted to learn more about why I was giving up caffeine so I’d have a better chance sticking to it. I reached out to naturopathic doctor at Aspire Health in Toronto, Erin Enns, N.D., to understand what effect caffeine has on the body.
“Caffeine is what we call a stimulant, meaning it increases activity in the body,” Enns told me. “As a central nervous system activator, it has the ability to speed up your metabolism and give you a boost of energy. The average plasma half-life of caffeine in a healthy adult is 3 to 5 hours, but individuals may metabolize caffeine at different rates depending on the function of their liver.”
So while that boost of energy might feel short-lived, it can take roughly one full day for caffeine to be completely eliminated from your body. No wonder I wasn’t getting any sleep at night, but why could I drink green tea and not coffee if they both had caffeine?
Enns explained, “The main difference between the caffeine in coffee and the caffeine in green tea is the amount. Generally speaking, the amount of caffeine in green tea is much less than the amount found in coffee. There are many reasons why health experts will suggest that individuals cut down on coffee. The main reasons are if someone has insomnia, digestive troubles, or anxiety.”
I checked all three boxes, and this affirmation told me I had to stay caffeine free. So what should someone expect to feel after eliminating caffeine from their diet for 30 days? Enns suggested that everyone will experience caffeine elimination differently. Many people report feeling more awake in the mornings and less mid-afternoon crashes. The acidity of caffeine can affect the stomach lining of many individuals and therefore some may have less digestive upset.
I wanted to be a caffeine free success story, but did I really give up caffeine just to write this blog post? No. For anyone who’s contemplating ending their relationship with coffee, here are the biggest changes I’ve noticed so far:
- I’m tuckered out by 9 p.m. and can fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow.
- I used to wake up without fail every single night at 3 a.m., and sometimes I’d be up every hour on the hour. Now I’ve started sleeping through the night – and it’s a dream.
- I can wake up in the morning without hitting the snooze button 10 times. This means getting my ass to the gym at 6:30 a.m. before work.
- My energy level is stable throughout the day, whether it’s 9 a.m. or 3 p.m.
Will I never drink caffeine again? Definitely not, but first I’m going to try drinking collagen – because y’know, the celebs are doing it.