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
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
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!