As a kid, few things were more unappealing than coffee. With its bitter aftertaste and heady aroma, that brown liquid was feared and pushed aside, our greedy hands clutching instead to bottles of soft drink that turned our tongues purple or a neon shade of orange. But past high school, something changed and suddenly, energy levels weren’t what they once were. In an effort to keep up with visions of our younger selves, we began fixing our eyes on that coffee machine beloved by parents and siblings alike and soon afterwards, we became hooked. We dabbled with filters and began to wax lyrical about varying roasts and the benefit of an aero-press. Pretty soon we were what the neighbourhood locals called “a coffee snob.”
Whatever your coffee order of choice, the fact remains that few things can eclipse our hankering for that sweet nectar of the gods. Most of us begin our days with it, unable to function until the cup is at least three-quarters finished. But sometimes our love for coffee and other caffeinated beverages can become a bit too strong, leading to a problem when it comes to the late hours of the evening when we should be sleeping and can do anything but.
If you love your caffeine but also feel you need to cut down, the idea of going cold turkey can seem baffling, enough to steer you running in the direction of your favourite coffee shop. Thankfully, there are ways you can cut back without going through the dreaded withdrawals or hating the process entirely. Most would recommend not going cold turkey or following a dreaded detox program. Instead, turn your attention to the 4-Step Drink Less Caffeine Program.
The process involves four easy steps that ensure you get the kind of energised calm you’ve been wanting from the get-go. Yes, you can still enjoy a cup of coffee and yes, you can still enjoy the benefits of decreased caffeine by getting a good shut eye and listening to your body’s own energy stores all so you can avoid the dreaded face-plant that hits at 3pm when you find yourself feeling a little worn down and sluggish from a day of Zoom calls, tireless meetings and work. Here’s how the challenge works.
1. Work out how much caffeine you’re really drinking
Make a list of all the caffeinated drinks you guzzle in a typical day. While it’s most commonly associated with tea and coffee, don’t forget to list energy drinks, sodas and other soft drinks, or potentially even caffeinated gum. Write down when you drink the caffeine and take note of the caffeine you drink later in the day. According to data from the Cleveland Clinic, it can take up to 10 hours for caffeine to clear from your body, which is why most dieticians suggest cutting it out from noon.
Work out how many milligrams of caffeine you’re drinking in a typical day. Certain speciality drinks like cold brew tend to have higher caffeine content and you might also be drinking larger quantities at a coffee shop than if you were at home. Total up all the caffeine you’re drinking in milligrams and that’s your starting point.
2. Start cutting back
Don’t get carried away and go cold turkey from the outset as this will have you hating the process and suffering serious withdrawal in the form of headaches and fatigue. Aim to cut back by 20 per cent in the first week, a reasonable percentage that will lead to slow and steady results. If you drank five cups of coffee, cut back to four. Do the same the next week and week after that, until you reach a level of consumption that makes you feel great all day long. If you’ve cut back so much that you’re missing out on something to drink, consider swapping to a decaf coffee or tea, or another beverage that is caffeine free.
3. Beat the afternoon slump
If caffeine is the thing you reach for to beat the dreaded 3pm slump, consider turning to new alternatives. Consider doing some exercise or, if pressed for time, even just walking up stairs. You could also take a 10-minute power nap, or give a mate a call and spend several minutes having a chat. Eating the right foods is also important when it comes to avoiding an energy lag. Foods low in sugar and high in fibre can help you avoid energy slumps as their sugars are absorbed into your body more slowly, allowing you to avoid the high/crash cycle.
4. Check-in on yourself
The main takeaway from all of this is checking in on yourself and asking: how do I feel? If you feel great without caffeine, then that’s a huge achievement. But if you’re not feeling all that great, it’s OK to add a little caffeine back into your day – as long as you’re mindful of when you’re consuming it and how much you’re allowing back in. The goal here is to have you feel your best, and that means doing what works best for you.