I gave up caffeine last summer. Caffeine can have all sorts of effects on the body, both positive and negative. It can increase your alertness, give you an energy boost and even help your sporting performance. On the other hand it can make your heart race, give you heartburn and irritate your bladder. It’s addictive and without it you can find yourself feeling irritable, drowsy and with a banging headache.
Personally I decided to give it up because I was getting a few symptoms that I thought might be caffeine related and I felt drinking it had become a habit that I just didn’t need. Since I started working from home, going to the kettle had become my break from my desk and I’d slowly increased up to five or six cups of tea a day. I only drink coffee once or twice a week.
How much caffeine there is in tea varies according to the type of tea and how long you have brewed it for but there are about 70mg of caffeine in a mug of tea. Five of those a day is 350mg. The recommended maximum daily amount of caffeine is 400mg so I was drinking less than the recommended max amount but it still felt too much for me. (Pregnant women are recommended to have less than 200mg of caffeine per day). By the way, a mug of black filter coffee is around 140mg of caffeine so four of those would put you over the suggested daily amount.
I had been experiencing some palpitations and generally feeling jittery and on edge over a period of months. I wasn’t sure if this was due to caffeine or whether I was starting to become peri-menopausal but there was no easy way to find out other than to ditch the caffeine. I was also finding I was very sleepy in the afternoons and badly needed some caffeine after lunch and then again around 4pm to keep me alert and concentrating on my work. I didn’t like this feeling and it wasn’t helping my work productivity.
I figured I’d just give it up and see what happened! I decided to stop when we went on holiday. I thought a change of routine and the fact I wouldn’t be working might make it easier. I also thought that if I did have any withdrawal symptoms then it would be harder to be irritable in a lovely place!
I didn’t go cold turkey, I kept my morning cuppa to start with – that was the one I thought I couldn’t function without and I had two Greek coffees (just for the experience) during a two week period. I had a mild headache for a day or two but nothing much to speak of. I felt the urge to have one in the afternoons but I was able to ignore it. It was easier than I thought it would be. Being away and out of my normal routine definitely helped. When I came back from my holiday I dropped the morning cup of tea too. That was actually easy and I discovered I didn’t ‘need’ it after all.
My palpitations definitely stopped, quite quickly too, within two weeks I think. I began to feel less ‘on edge’ and after a few months I realised that the afternoon slump in energy levels had gone. I was no longer crawling my way to the kettle at 4pm. Funny really because you’d think that you’d feel more tired without it but I think my body didn’t like being on the roller coaster; for every caffeine high there was a following low that required more caffeine to pull me back up.
One year on I can definitely say I don’t regret it. I feel better for it and I don’t miss it at all. I have more energy, fewer eyelid battles and I’m sleeping better too. My afternoon working has improved as a result. What was vital for me was finding a decaffeinated option that I enjoy. I love making and drinking tea, it’s a comforting and sociable ritual. Once I’d found Yorkshire Tea – decaf and Raw Bean – Definitely Decaf, there was no looking back. I could drink it guilt free.
I’ve become that person who carries their own tea bags around with them. I’m not super precious about it, if I’m somewhere where there’s no decaf and I’ve been offered a cuppa, I won’t say no. If I do drink caffeine now I’m very aware of the effect it has on my body. I feel jittery and sometimes mildly nauseous. I’ll also not be able to sleep for a good six hours afterwards! The half life of caffeine varies between individuals but five to six hours is common.
I might use a shot of caffeine to my advantage when we’re back to racing again, it might just make me shoot off like a rocket! Although reduced in number, I’ve still been having the odd moments of feeling on edge and anxious but I’m certain these are linked to the peri-menopause. I’m discovering it’s a time in life when I’ve just become more sensitive to things; caffeine, alcohol and I think possibly sugar too but I’m not ready quite yet to stop those.
I know some people find it very hard to give up caffeine and have far more dramatic stories than mine. I’d love to hear your experience of caffeine – either giving it up or continuing to drink it.
Featured image: Gratisography