The Health Benefits of Quitting Coffee (for Me)

Three months ago I stopped drinking coffee. It's taken a while to notice the changes but I'm not fully convinced of the great health benefits of quitting coffee. Everyone is different but this was a great change for me!If you missed yesterday’s post, I talked about my relationship with coffee over the years and my experience giving it up three months ago. Today I want to talk about all the health benefits of quitting coffee I’ve noticed over the last three months. By no means did I wake up the next day and suddenly feel like a brand new woman–most of these changes are subtle and weren’t noticeable for weeks or even months.

Now that I can take inventory of tangible improvements, I’m certain my gut feeling to quit drinking coffee in the first place was right, and I’m even more enthusiastic about continuing to go without my morning cup of joe. For years though, I never stuck it out long enough to see and feel these changes, and that left me conceding that I might as well just drink coffee again. And that I did. Time and time again. Everyone’s body is unique and responds differently to coffee and caffeine, but if you suspect it may not be the healthiest habit for you, my advice is to really give it a few solid months before making a judgement call. Like I mentioned in yesterday’s post, the first month the only noticeable change for me was how sad I was to be without my favorite beverage. It took patience and will power and was totally worth it.

Health Benefits of Quitting Coffee (for Me)

I’m More in Tune with My *True* Energy Levels

Three months ago I stopped drinking coffee. It's taken a while to notice the changes but I'm not fully convinced of the great health benefits of quitting coffee. Everyone is different but this was a great change for me!

This is huge for me. My whole idea of health is being in tune with my body–when I truly listen to it, it is always my best, most informed guide for what workouts I should be doing and food I should be eating. I’ve learned you can only fight your body (physically and/or emotionally) for so long before it ends in injury, illness, energy crash or emotional breakdown.

Caffeine was effective at masking how I truly felt and what my actual energy levels were, but really was just delaying the inevitable. Sure, I could power through a week of not getting enough sleep by drinking coffee throughout the day but that doesn’t change the fact that my body is sleep deprived.

At the three month mark without coffee, I definitely feel like I have more energy and I don’t experience that drastic afternoon dip. That being said, I really do need to go to bed early enough to give my body the sleep it needs in order to feel that freeing natural energy. I have to work with my body instead of against or despite it.

I should add that things definitely got worse before my energy leveled out. The first class I teach in the morning starts at 5:45AM. For weeks this was brutal without my caffeinated crutch. No longer could I bypass the effects of a bad night’s sleep by drinking coffee to power through my classes. Eventually though, my body adjusted to life without caffeine and now I’m back to being the natural morning person I’ve been since I was a kid. I can’t even explain how liberating it is to wake up full of *real* energy each day without needing a cup of coffee to feel like a functioning human. (Granted, I need to get my ass to bed at a decent hour to feel this way, but that’s how it should be!)

My Skin Is Clearer

Caffeine increases your body’s stress levels by triggering a sort of fight or flight response that signals the adrenal glands to pump out stress hormones. Increased levels of cortisol have been linked to acne and breakouts, so–especially if you drink several cups a day–your daily coffee intake could be having a negative affect on your skin. (This article goes deeper into the possible connections between caffeine and acne if you’re interested.) Sometimes it’s more what you put in your coffee (dairy and sugar) than the coffee itself, but I drink my coffee black so that wasn’t the case for me.

I haven’t had really “bad” skin since high school, but my oily complexion and sweaty profession usually result in clogged pores, small zits and an overall bumpy, dull texture. Honestly nothing bad enough to lose sleep over but I always feel like there’s room for improvement. I still get a few zits before my period, but  since quitting coffee, I’ve noticed an improvement in the texture of my skin–it’s smoother and more even.

Another contributing factor to my skin changes isn’t so much the removal of caffeine but the increase in water because of it. I drink a lot more water now that I don’t drink coffee, and staying hydrated is one of the best things you can do for your skin. Instead of drinking coffee while teaching my morning classes, I drink a big bottle of water. When I sit down to start working at my desk, I again reach for water instead of a second cup of coffee. Yes, coffee is water, but it’s also a diuretic so in my mind the two cancel each other out (I’m not a doctor or nutritionist–take that as opinion more than fact!). I certainly don’t feel hydrated after drinking a bunch of coffee.

If you think caffeine might be affecting your skin negatively, check out this girl’s experience cutting out coffee to cure her acne.

I’m Actually Hungry in the Morning

Three months ago I stopped drinking coffee. It's taken a while to notice the changes but I'm not fully convinced of the great health benefits of quitting coffee. Everyone is different but this was a great change for me!

Drinking coffee first thing in the morning would leave me without much of an appetite until late morning or even lunchtime. I either teach three workout classes or do my own workout first thing in the morning so this just didn’t feel right. My body should be hungry. The result of not eating much in the morning usually meant that I’d then overeat at night, having a massive dinner and then snacking on the couch until bedtime.

Now I wake up with a good, healthy hunger in the morning. Eating a big breakfast to satisfy that has helped me eat a normal portioned lunch and dinner and then chill on the late night snacking.

I’m Not as Moody and Irritable

Caffeine is a stimulant, and stimulants can cause anxiety as they increase your heart rate and blood pressure. This was absolutely the case for me. Because caffeine is addictive, you can also experience the irritability and depression that comes with withdrawals. Now I should preface this retelling of my experience by emphasizing that I have a history of depression and moodiness so for me in particular, really the last thing I need in my life is to be drinking any sort of substance that can alter my mood. I’m sure lots of people happily enjoy a cup of coffee a day without the dramatics I experienced!

I honestly didn’t really notice I was moody, anxious and irritable while drinking coffee regularly–it wasn’t like any of this was so intense that it was affecting my life or relationships. I only noticed the change afterwards. Sometimes it’s hard to connect the dots: Am I irritable because there’s something valid to be irritated about or is it the caffeine that’s making me respond so intensely to this irritant? Only through eliminating coffee was I able to see the cause and effect relationship. Now my mood is stable, I don’t get rushes of anxiety over trivial things, and I think I’ve been an all around more pleasant person in the last couple months.

This article from Whole30.com talks more about this (the author apparently had a similar experience to me when she quit coffee!). This article elaborates on the connection between caffeine and mood swings, and finally this piece discusses some studies suggesting caffeine worsens depression. To play devil’s advocate, I’ve also seen studies suggesting caffeine improves mood, so take everything with a grain of salt. My intent is to share some information on the topic and ultimately just encourage you to figure out what’s best for your body.

My PMS Isn’t as Bad

The days before my period have, for the last several years, consisted of a drastic dip in energy and irrationally bad moods. If that part of my cycle happened to fall on a day I was teaching, I would drag through my morning classes (even after inhaling a cup or two of coffee) and then I’d inevitably need a nap afterwards I’d be so drained. I’d also snap at Joe for the dumbest of dumb reasons (“You didn’t put the toothpaste cap back on?!” *sobs hysterically*) and would feel super down and antisocial. It’d only last a day or two and I always just brushed it off as an inevitable part of being a female, but the craziest thing happened when I stopped drinking coffee.

My PMS exhaustion and moodiness have all but vanished. What?!

I didn’t connect it to quitting coffee at first, but for three cycles now I’ve had no noticeable dip in energy before my period and my mood has held steady. The only change I’ve made to my daily routine in that time has been to eliminate coffee. It makes sense that with increased natural energy, lower anxiety and a more stable mood, PMS would be a bit more tame.

Before I end this post, I wanted to share this Forbes article I found interesting. It suggests the only reason coffee has been linked to increased performance (more coffee = more productive at work) is because of caffeine withdrawals, which decrease performance. So the coffee is actually just bringing you back to neutral after a night’s sleep withdrawing from caffeine, rather than making you some workplace superhero. Some food for thought!

Ok phew! This has been two long AF blog posts in a row. Before signing off and returning to our regularly scheduled program, I want to emphasize that I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad about their coffee habit–you have no idea how much I wish I could still drink it every morning and feel as good as I feel without it! Our bodies are all different and I think we should be constantly striving to figure out what lifestyle habits make us feel our best.

How does coffee/caffeine affect you? If you’ve eliminated it, what changes have you noticed? Think this post is a bunch of BS? Share your positive experience with caffeine and/or any studies supporting it–all opinions welcome!

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Comments

  1. i quit and it was SO hard but it felt awesome once i did. i stopped getting as frequent headaches. I just love the taste and ritual of coffee, so i went back to it, and now i get headaches again 🙁

    i wrote about it here: https://cuckoolemon.com/2017/02/05/time-gave-meat-dairy-soy-nuts-gluten-sugar-caffeine/

  2. I’ve been considering quitting coffee (especially because I drink mine with cream & sugar). This post is super timely and a great motivator! Thank you!

  3. Interesting to hear about the hunger and PMS symptoms! I honestly don’t feel that caffeine has a huge effect on me, but then again, I do have it *almost* everyday. I find that it makes my skin feel drier, but I don’t know if that’s the coffee or just my pale, dry face- hah!

  4. Emily Ashton says:

    It’s so interesting to me how impactful coffee can be for some people. For me it’s definitely a ‘hot beverage’ routine, as I didn’t have any coffee today or yesterday and feel fine, but I did have some green tea in the afternoon yesterday. But I honestly don’t notice a difference unless I have a huge cup of coffee close to bed, (not like an affogato, but like a cup of coffee) will sometimes give me poor sleep. I don’t get those caffeine withdrawal headaches either, but maybe it’s because I only drink coffee 3-4 days a week? I find when I work out in the morning I don’t always want it because I’m already warm hah. Thanks again for sharing your experience! Would you ever consider drinking decaf?

    • Something about decaf is depressing to me haha. Also the acidity of coffee used to upset my stomach sometimes so I think it’s better for me to just steer clear of it altogether. I’m going to find a (decaf) tea I enjoy though–I think that’s my next step. 🙂

  5. I have also been contemplating quitting coffee, however I dont sleep well through the night. Not sure if its because of coffee, and Im stuck in some sort of viscious cycle, where I drink coffee and dont sleep, then drink more because im tried…
    Anyways, I was wondering did you give up all caffeine, or do you drink tea (something with less caffiene ever)?

    • I gave up all caffeine as coffee was really the only source of it I was getting anyway (I’m not a soda or tea drinker). I was definitely caught in the drink coffee to stay awake–can’t sleep because of coffee–drink more coffee to stay awake cycle!

  6. I agree that quitting can be so hard!!! The biggest change I’ve noticed is that I go to bed earlier. Without the caffeine kick in the morning/mid afternoon, I need to plan my bed time appropriately.

  7. I am a total coffee addict. I can’t start my day without a cup (or 3). But I definitely appreciate this post because I feel like I drink *too much* coffee and am in the process of attempting to cut back. It’s hard but hopefully worth it!

  8. This is so so interesting & thank you for sharing! I was never a coffee drinker until I started working a regular 8-5 office job a little over 4 years ago but I’ve been a soda drinker since I was a kid. I’m more of a night person so I know I rely on coffee right away in the morning to give me a boost before I get into the office. Quitting has been in the back of my mind lately for some of the same reasons you listed– getting more natural energy, better skin & digestion, and just feeling good overall without all the caffeine. The thought of withdrawals makes me nervous to do it though. Like, I feel like I might want to take a day or two off from work if I decide to go cold turkey!

    • I’d start by just slowly weaning off and then if you do go cold turkey, time it during the weekend for sure! I couldn’t get ANY work done the first couple days going without it.

  9. Love Coffee, it keep me fresh. Also, i am big fan of your blog, your writing and pics. Keep it up.

  10. Kennedy says:

    These were such interesting posts! I’m Mormon, and part of one of our beliefs is something called the Word of Wisdom. Part of it is that we are counseled to not drink coffee. It’s always something I’ve just followed, but I enjoyed reading your perspective and thinking about how it probably is better for my health overall to not be drinking it. Thanks!

  11. I quit coffee a few weeks ago! I used to get it every morning before college classes. A caramel machiatto, so definitely the dairy and sugar in that one. I have really bad skin problems and I have just wanted to get more balance and health in my body. It was hard at first but now I treat myself to a lot of tea and smoothies! Next I am contemplating going kind of paleo..

  12. Amanda F says:

    I have my cup (really 1.5 in my thermos) every morning during the week, but I don’t always have it on the weekends. I don’t really notice much of a difference either.

    I will say that in college, I usually had a cup some time in the afternoon, but over the last few years I dropped in favor of a cup of herbal tea. I crave the warmth not the caffeine. I would be curious to drop it all together…. but not that curious haha.

  13. Katrina Alison says:

    Definitely interesting to think about! I have been wondering about how much my coffee may be effecting me. I have been battling with depression and have been looking at what foods and other things may be irritating my symptoms. I feel like coffee may be one of those irritants but I have a hard time to convince myself to give it up, I love it so much! But maybe I will try to give it up for a little but at least until other things balance out. Just for a little while. haha.

  14. Mrs MCNutt says:

    I used to drink coffee throughout the day. I finally gave it up when I became pregnant with my first child (5 years ago). I noticed a lot of the same improvements that you have. I have hot chocolate with protein powdEr by using my froth maker. It’s fantastic.

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