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What Happened When I Quit Caffeine

hot coffee
Gina Harney - Blogs
By Gina HarneyCertified personal trainerJuly 26, 2019
From the WebMD Archives

It’s hard to believe that it’s been two years since I officially quit caffeine.

I’d been hooked on it since college. My life in college involved a lot of physical demands – I’d go to school all day, teach or take a total of 3-4 dance classes at night, then go home or to the library to study until the early hours of the morning – and I drank coffee all.day.long. I had a 16-cup coffee maker and would make all 16 cups in the morning and drink it throughout the course of the day.

Over time, I realized this probably wasn’t healthy and started to cut back. My “happy place” was 1-2 cups a day. I’d have a cup in the morning when I woke up and one in the afternoon with a little snack. I eventually cut out the afternoon coffee because I realized it was affecting my sleep and making me jittery.

While I’ve always loved coffee (and caffeine, like energy drinks), I’ve also suffered from anxiety for a long time. I’ve had it since I was very young – as young as I can remember – and when I was in college I started experiencing panic attacks. At my worst point, I was experiencing 2-3 panic attacks per week. With therapy, I got my anxiety mostly under control before I had kids. But two winters ago, the attacks started to come back. My heart rate was constantly elevated, and I had insomnia, which was highly unusual for me.

Around that time, I was about to have surgery (for an unrelated issue), which made my anxiety even higher – I was nervous about the surgery and on edge from being in pain all the time – so I reduced my coffee intake down to 1 cup a day. I noticed that when I had coffee, my anxiety was higher and my heart rate was elevated. I didn’t feel focused and energized; I felt like a freaked-out rabbit.

The day after my surgery, I decided to skip my morning cup. I was on pain pills, so I figured if I was going to quit, that was the time to do it. Also, I didn’t feel comfortable drinking it with all of the drugs that were in my system. So, I stopped cold turkey, and I never went back.

Two years later, my energy levels are so much higher, my anxiety is down, and I don’t really miss it at all. I’ve found that since I stopped drinking caffeinated beverages, I feel more focused and energized than I did with my morning cup of coffee. When I wake up in the morning, I feel rested. My anxiety is the lowest it’s ever been, which is reason enough for me to skip it.

While I pass on caffeinated coffee, I still drink a ton of hot drinks. They’re warming and comforting, and I find that they’re just as good without the caffeine. Here’s what I’ve been choosing instead of regular ol’ coffee:

  • Decaf coffee. (Well duh, Gina.) I used to drink whatever, but it turns out that many companies will use chemicals to remove the caffeine. Organic fair-trade coffees will sometimes have a label on them that says, “Swiss Water Method” which means the caffeine is removed using only water and osmosis.
  • Medicine Ball from Starbucks. This is also amazing during winter months when everyone seems to be fighting a cold. The original version uses green tea, but if you ask for decaf, they’ll use Mint Majesty instead. It’s peach and mint tea, steamed lemonade, honey, peppermint syrup, and life. Just try it; you’ll love it.
  • Caffeine-free herbal teas. There are so many amazing ones! Here are some of my very favorites:
    • Tulsi Sweet Rose
    • Egyptian Licorice
    • Lemon Loaf
    • Cinnamon Vanilla Healthy Skin
    • Chamomile-Lavender
    • Bedtime tea
  • Mushroom hot cacao mix. It sounds terrifying, but it tastes wonderful. Mushrooms can provide healing properties, and you can’t taste them. Four Sigmatic is my very favorite brand.
  • Golden milk lattes. These are so warming, lightly sweet, with a hint of spice. This is my go-to recipe, and I also love the one you can buy from Gaia.
  • Morning detox drink. This has been a staple for years now. It can help kick-start your metabolism for the day, help fight cravings, and provide immune system benefits. Check out the recipe here!

Editor’s note: This post is an adaptation of a post originally published on The Fitnessista website. You can read the original post here.

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About the Author
Gina Harney

Gina Harney is the blogger behind the healthy lifestyle brand, The Fitnessista, which reaches millions of viewers all over the world. She’s been featured on Greatist, Forbes, Buzzfeed, Shape, Fitness Magazine, and Well + Good. She’s the author of “HIIT It!” and the voice behind the Healthy In Real Life podcast. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.

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