Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Changing your caffeine habits

As part of my aim to get better sleep at night and drink more water during the day, I've naturally cut down on my intake of caffeinated hot drinks recently. I've never drunk loads of tea and coffee but I do enjoy a cup of English breakfast tea in the morning and a good strong cup of coffee mid-morning. Yesterday, I decided to go without both of these and as a result, I had a headache by the evening. It's common to get withdrawal headaches when you cut out caffeine completely, especially when you do it suddenly like I did. Of course there's no need for everyone to cut caffeine out of their diet but reducing the amount you consume on a daily basis can bring about some benefits such as reduced stress, helping you sleep better and ironically, make you feel more energetic.

If we consider the reasons why we drink caffeinated tea and coffee, it becomes easier to find a solution to cutting down that suits your lifestyle:

• REASON: It gives you an energy fix

SOLUTION: There are lots of other ways to get an energy boost. Getting out for a walk, drinking some water, eating an apple or banana are all healthier ways to make you feel more energetic.

• REASON: Habit. It's what you always drink at a particular time of the day.

SOLUTION: Substitute your usual caffeinated drink with a herbal tea, fresh juice or even just an extra glass of water. Over a period of time, you can change a habit.

• REASON: Social reasons. You often go out for coffee with friends and everyone else drinks coffee.

SOLUTION: Consider a decaffeinated version of your usual coffee. I used to hate decaffeinated coffee but if I have a milky coffee, I find it hard to taste the difference (as opposed to drinking it black, without milk). This reason is also essentially a habit so try an alternative to find something that suits your tastes.

• REASON: You like the taste!

SOLUTION: Choose a time of the day to drink a cup of your favourite tea or coffee. By limiting the amount you consume, you'll find you enjoy it even more than drinking it regularly throughout the day. If you have trouble initially reducing the number of cups you have, try just drinking half a cup rather than the full amount each time.

There are probably other reasons too but I think these are the main motives behind why many of us reach for a tea or coffee. Since cutting down my own intake, I find that I really savour the two (caffeinated) cups I have a day. If I do have more, it makes me feel a bit sluggish. Cutting down on caffeine can seem like an overwhelming task but by making a few little changes to your drinking routine, it's relatively easy and you'll find you soon settle into a new drinking pattern. Water is a big help too because often when we think we want a tea or a coffee it's because we are dehydrated. Drinking a big glass of water may mean you don't need the tea or coffee after all.

Cold drinks like coke contain caffeine too. I never drink anything like that but if you do, it's worth remembering that they are contributing to the amount of caffeine you consume. Healthier alternatives like water, juices, smoothies can be ways to enjoy something cold without the caffeine.

What's your typical daily caffeine intake? Do you notice any differences in the way you feel when you consume more or less than your usual amount?


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  1. I don't drink caffeine at all in any drink. I do drink tea and coffee but it's only decaf. Tastes just the same. I'm epileptic and caffeine is known to bring on seizures.

    CJ xx

  2. I only used to have 2 cups of tea - 1 morning, 1 afternoon - when I was at work, and would drink herbal tea or water the rest of the time. Since being at home with my daughter/working at home, this slipped and I ended up drinking tea all day. My skin got really bad last year and I couldn't work out why - then I switched back to 2/3 cups a day and the rest herbal. Surprise surprise, my skin cleared up straight away!

  3. This post seems so apt! I never drink coffee, as I don't like the taste, but always start the day with a cup of Earl Grey and then go on to a Diet Coke at about 10am. Yesterday I went crazy and had two!!! Diet Cokes and was up to 4am, totally unable to sleep. I never drink enough water, but recently have been trying to drink fresh ginger and boiling water - delicious alternative to Cup of Tea.

  4. Thanks everyone for sharing your experiences! It's really interesting the different ways that caffeine can effect us and it all goes to show that too much really doesn't do us any good.

  5. One of the hardest adjustments I made when I found out I was pregnant was reducing my caffeine intake. I think the reasons you listed are all true but another was that I simply was genuinely addicted and this became clear with how grouchy I became when I stopped drinking so much tea and coffee. I soon learned that my way of coping with anything remotely stressful was to drink something caffeinated and that my addiction was both physical and psychological. Good post.

  6. Hello Circus Queen - thanks very much for reading and leaving a comment. I too found giving up coffee during pregnancy difficult and it was the thing I missed most. You're right of course that addiction to caffeine is another common reason behind people drinking so much. Like you've pointed out, it effects people both physically and pyschologically and is probably the hardest to address.

  7. Good advice. I'm definitely addicted to Diet Coke. Get VERY grumpy if I don't have it, though didn't have it very often when pregnant so I know I can kick it.

    Discovered Peppermint Tea, which is caffeine free so am currently trying to increase intake of that whilst reducing the DC.

    Going through an horrendous bout of insomnia so caffeine is the enemy!


Thank you for reading. I'd love to have your comments and thoughts!