Curbing The Caffeine Addiction

October 17, 2013


My love affair with coffee has been well documented on this blog. And it’s not an overstatement to say I love the stuff. But lately, I’ve been doing a little health inventory, searching for ways that I can eat and live healthier and feel even better. I’m already a pretty clean eater, but my caffeine addiction stood out to me as an area where I could make some changes. My typical coffee consumption, if I’m being totally honest, looks a little like this:

5:30 am: The alarm goes off, I brew a pot of coffee as the oatmeal cooks on the stove. I have a cup with a splash of 2% milk while Joe and I eat breakfast together.

6:45 am: I have another cup (this time black) while I get ready for work, doing my makeup and hair while taking sips of coffee along the way. Usually I only drink half of this cup.

9:00 am: I am at work for a while before I make myself a cup of coffee at work, usually in the Keurig or Nespresso machine, and usually served with a little almond milk or 2% milk, whatever I have on hand.

2:00 pm: This time is hit or miss, but usually I’ll make myself a cup of coffee in the afternoon as a little pick-me-up through my day.

8:00 pm: I make a cup of decaf coffee with a piece of dark chocolate for dessert after dinner while relaxing/watching TV/reading.

Just reading that routine made me a little embarrassed. It means that some days, I can consume upwards of 4 cups of regular coffee and a cup of decaf in a single day. It’s no wonder that I’ve been feeling a little sluggish lately and have had a hard time staying asleep at night! I think my body has been telling me something, and I’ve been ignoring it.

Every now and again I put myself through a coffee detox, cutting out caffeine entirely for a week or two. Every time I cut out the coffee it’s incredibly painful, both physically and emotionally. Yes, I cry and get upset, and feel incredibly crabby. I’m more clumsy than usual and find it hard to focus. I read this article about the perils of caffeine withdrawal and can totally relate.

This time, instead of going cold turkey, I’ve been swapping out coffee for other beverages and allowing myself a cup of coffee or an espresso in the early afternoon, around 2 or 3. It’s amazing how great coffee makes me feel when I limit myself to a single cup. I used to think caffeine had no impact on me, but I think I was just consuming too much to notice.

So what have I been drinking instead? Here’s the breakdown:

1. Water!
This is sort of a no-brainer, but I’ve been keeping my water bottle close by throughout the day. It’s been really easy to drink extra water when I’m not constantly guzzling coffee.
2. Herbal Tea
Now that it’s getting colder outside, I need a little something warm to get me going in the morning. I’ve never been much of a tea person, but I do love a cup of mint tea, especially when accompanied by a little bit of steamed milk and stevia. At Starbucks, I’ve been ordering a Grande Refresh Tea (their version of mint) with a little steamed 2% milk. Around Christmas, they also have sugar-free peppermint syrup, which is my weakness.
3. Fresh Juice
When I’m at home and have time to juice, I have been taking full advantage. We still have plenty of apples from our CSA and it’s also a great way to use up leftover produce. My favorite combination lately has been beets and apples. I just love the color!
4. Hot Water + Fresh Lemon Juice
I’ve read a lot about the benefits of hot water and lemon juice. It seems crazy that such a simple combination could be so good for you, but I’m willing to give it a try. I don’t have this every day, but once in a while it’s a nice way to mix things up.
5. Steamed Almond Milk
We have a milk warmer/frother at home, making it super quick and easy to make hot steamed milk. I’ve been dressing it up with a little cinnamon and stevia or a little bit of local honey to keep things interesting. This is the closest I’ve come to finding something that satisfies me the way coffee does.

I have to admit that I feel SO much better without all the coffee. I’m more hydrated, energetic and appreciative of coffee when I do have my cup in the afternoon. And I have been sleeping much more soundly through the night, which is a welcome perk. Better sleep means I don’t need as much caffeine. Funny how that works!

Do any of you have other suggestions of what to substitute for coffee? Although the ideas above are great, I still find myself missing the rich, earthy flavor of coffee in the morning.

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  • Reply Guest October 17, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    I used to mindlessly drink a huge mug throughout the morning and then take it to work with me. But it was often a cheap brand, and I realized

  • Reply Lindsay October 17, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    I have always been a single cup a day person. I love my one cup in the morning around 9 am while I am at work. Years ago, though, I made the switch to decaf, and didn’t have any withdrawal symptoms. So, basically every day, I have one decaf latte from Sbux, or a brewed cup of decaf from the Keurig with milk (usually 2% – NEVER skim) or half/half and a little sugar. I realized when I got pregnant that I basically only drink coffee, water, wine and beer haha – so I am pretty limited in my beverages now…I drink decaf coffee and lots of water. That is it šŸ™‚ Sorry I don’t have any suggestions!

    • Reply MadisonMayberry October 17, 2013 at 8:39 pm

      You’re so disciplined! I’m totally impressed with your restraint even before you got pregnant. My new goal: be more like Lindsay! šŸ™‚

      • Reply Lindsay October 17, 2013 at 10:42 pm

        Haha – well, here is the back story (little TMI, but interesting and on topic so…) – I have had to have two different painful (non cancerous) masses removed from my breasts and I told my doctor that my breasts continued to be painful and he said that caffeine can cause breast pain. It seemed totally random, but I gave decaf a try and I noticed a real difference immediately! So, that was the reason for the switch šŸ™‚

        As for discipline – my spending at Starbucks lately has been anything but disciplined haha. I haven’t had any real “cravings” but I have definitely felt free to treat myself more often than usual to Starbucks. Current fave is a decaf grande latte with one pump (not a full shot – that is too sweet!) pumpkin spice. YUM.

  • Reply Jinai October 17, 2013 at 8:01 pm

    I recently also cut down on my daily latte addiction and have been substituting in the mornings with hot masala chai — less caffeine, earthy, and absolutely delicious for fall mornings. This is a no-fail recipe: http://joannagoddard.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-best-masala-chai-youll-ever-have.html

    • Reply MadisonMayberry October 17, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      Thank you SO much for this tip/recipe! I will have to give it a try. I do love chai, so I’m not sure why I haven’t thought to add it into the mix.

  • Reply Katie October 17, 2013 at 8:02 pm

    I used to nurse a huge cup throughout the morning and then at work too, and I’d use skim milk and splenda to offset the taste of a cheap roast. But I recently realized that I wasn’t actually enjoying it, so I’ve splurged on some nicer coffee beans, purchased a French press, and use sugar in the raw with whole milk. But, I only drink a single mug in the morning, and I take time to enjoy it. It’s a better start to the day — tastewise and amount-wise. Then I keep a glass water bottle at my desk and fill it up probably every hour at the water fountain so I always have cold water to drink. Now that it’s fall, I’ll probably make more tea too, and I also want to try my hand at chai. Good luck though!

    • Reply MadisonMayberry October 17, 2013 at 8:34 pm

      Love that, Katie! It’s so true that if your one cup is really good, it almost makes not having coffee the rest of the day totally worth it. I am just now getting to the point where I treasure my one cup, and make it really good (whole milk! cream! real sugar!) rather than a bunch of crappy coffee. Life is too short for crappy coffee. šŸ™‚

  • Reply Justine October 17, 2013 at 8:08 pm

    I hear ya. My problem is that I just really like everything about the ritual of coffee. I like taking the little break, I like holding something warm, I like coffee shops, etc. (Plus, yeah, I have a hard time giving up the little burst of energy it gives me. I’ve tried cutting it out completely, but I always end up feeling more miserable than I did when I was drinking it.

    The steamed almond milk is an idea, though. It would definitely satisfy the soothing aspect.

    • Reply MadisonMayberry October 17, 2013 at 8:33 pm

      You and me both, lady! I’m pretty sure every good Christian girl develops a love for coffee because of the ritual of “coffee dates” right?! I’m pretty sure I’m destined to always be in the cycle of too much coffee/coffee detox all my life. šŸ™‚

    • Reply Lindsay October 17, 2013 at 10:45 pm

      This is so me – I love the ritual of my one cup. I am super picky about the mug that I drink it from, it has to be super hot in winter, and iced in summer, and I love exploring coffee shops. There is just something about coffee that is so comforting šŸ™‚

  • Reply Caitlin Murphy October 17, 2013 at 8:27 pm

    Curious what kind of coffee maker you use and ratio of coffee to water? I’m still on a mission to make good coffee at home and I still can’t get it right every time.

    • Reply MadisonMayberry October 17, 2013 at 8:32 pm

      Caitlin, I rotate between a Cuisinart coffee maker we got from Williams-Sonoma for our wedding a couple years ago and our Nespresso espresso maker (also a wedding gift). When I make coffee, I usually aim for 2 tablespoons grounds per 8 oz water. It seems like a lot, but I like a good, bold cup of coffee. As for the brand, I mix it up. Lately, I’ve been getting beans from Whole Foods (Allegro brand or something like that) but I also love Dunkin Donuts and Starbucks brand ground coffee.

      • Reply Caitlin Murphy October 17, 2013 at 8:34 pm

        Thanks for the quick reply! I think I need run a good vinegar + water solution through mine too.

  • Reply Rachel October 17, 2013 at 9:16 pm

    Oh boy! Haha, I say that because I’m in the same boat. And I feel sluggish a lot. Honestly, I am also horrible at eating breakfast. I think if I got into a morning work out routine and/or woke up earlier to eat breakfast, I would gain some energy without having to rely on caffeine. I have gone off caffeine for a week before, it was one of the most difficult things I’ve ever had to do! Reading this is making me think I should stick to some herbal tea or try to get back down to a little bit of caffeine in the morning, and no caffeine in the afternoon!

  • Reply Kristin October 17, 2013 at 10:11 pm

    I didn’t start drinking coffee until we moved to Alaska a few years ago. Everyone there survives on coffee and takes it VERY seriously. Now I’m addicted. I love my Keurig and the TJ’s coffee I grind up every morning has been such a ritual.

    I have no advice :/ We’re in the same boat. 2-3 cups a day here.

  • Reply Melanie October 17, 2013 at 11:07 pm

    Great post, thanks for sharing your tips at the end! I’ve also been kicking my caffeine habit since I was realizing I wasn’t enjoying/finishing the whole cup of coffee and I don’t like to see it wasted. My first tip to cut back, cook your oatmeal with your coffee (milk and sugar included) instead of milk, water, etc. it has a wonderful flavor. Then get on board the tea wagon! Tazo Chai is a great way to start a chilly fall morning!

  • Reply Andrea Zoe October 17, 2013 at 11:54 pm

    I’ve battled a similar addiction to coffee for years. Also done the detox and limited my daily cups, but I always fall back into my usual tendencies because I love coffee. Recently, I’ve switched my approach and now I focus on drinking half my body weight in water every day. The water keeps me hydrated and naturally keeps my coffee drinking down.

  • Reply chelsy October 17, 2013 at 11:55 pm

    Madison, I was totally going to suggest steamed almond milk. I have been making steamed almond milk forever after dinner. It makes me feel like I’m having a little warm and cozy treat w/out all the gilt. Love cinnamon & stevia along w/ it. I have also swirled a little cacao powder in it before, so yummy!

  • Reply Cassandra October 18, 2013 at 1:52 am

    Have you ever heard of/tried cereal coffees? There’s a brand called Roma that’s made out of roasted barley and chicory root. It’s pretty good. There’s also DandiBrew, which is made out of roasted dandelion and chicory roots. Another one of my favorites is Teeccino. It’s also gluten free, which is nice for those who can’t do Roma.

  • Reply Laura October 18, 2013 at 3:42 am

    There’s a really great nonprofit coffee shop right next door to where I work, so I love supporting them and buying a coffee every morning, and refilling it in the afternoon. So, I’ve taken to having a black tea of some sort for the morning ritual (and for the 4 hours I’m awake before I go to work.) Chai tea w/o milk, and black ginger peach tea are two of my favorites.

  • Reply amywheaton October 18, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I’ve been trying to cut back to one cup a day too. Someone else commented, and I agree, when you enjoy one GOOD cup of coffee it’s so much more satisfying than drinking so-so coffee! Lately I’ve been getting an Americano from Starbucks and adding whole milk and honey. We get Davids Tea at work, and one of the flavours is coffee, which is a nice substitute for when I want a cup in the afternoon (but I also love green tea, mint tea, etc.) If I have coffee in the afternoon I don’t sleep well at night, so I only drink herbal tea in the afternoon. Now that the colder weather is coming I’ll probably have a hot chocolate here and there for a treat too.

  • Reply DessertForTwo October 18, 2013 at 12:36 pm

    Wow, that IS a lot of coffee. I’m not normally a coffee drinker. I do green tea. But on Fridays, I drink coffee. And I’ve noticed that on days when I drink coffee, I’m so tired later in the day. I feel much more relaxed yet energized without coffee.

    • Reply Madison Mayberry October 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      You’re a better woman than I am! šŸ™‚ Your love for tea is something I aspire to!

  • Reply Katherine Kelly October 18, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    Have you tried a chai tea latte? You can buy the concentrate (Tazo is my favorite) from the grocery store and make it with almond milk. It’s rich, feels like a treat and doesn’t have nearly as much caffeine as coffee. I also love Good Earth Original black tea. šŸ™‚

    • Reply Madison Mayberry October 18, 2013 at 2:57 pm

      I’ve had chair tea lattes at coffee shops, but I’ve never made a habit of having them at home. But now that a couple people are suggesting it, I think I need to reconsider. šŸ™‚

  • Reply Jenni October 18, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    I also don’t drink coffee all that much, since I tend to have more energy crashes later in the day when I do and find myself jonesing for more caffeine in the form of Diet Coke, which I prefer to avoid as well. Now I always start my day with ice water, and then a cup of green tea when I get to work (Tazo Green Ginger is fabulous). When I want something more coffee-like I go for earl grey tea – love that bergamot smell/flavor – or chai tea.

  • Reply Erin S October 20, 2013 at 2:19 am

    Thanks for sharing this! I only drink 2 cups a day but I realize I’ve been doing it for about years (I’m only 22) and that maybe I should cut back! Good to hear some real life experience. šŸ™‚

  • Reply Katie McClain October 20, 2013 at 11:49 pm

    Thanks for sharing this! I really struggle with my caffeine levels! I laughed as I read your “daily coffee routine” because it is so similar to mine! I’ve been thinking about giving up caffeine; yet, its such a crutch when I’m having a bad day. Thanks for the inspiration šŸ™‚

    • Reply MadisonMayberry October 21, 2013 at 4:22 pm

      Glad to know I’m not alone, Katie! And I know exactly what you mean when you say that coffee is a crutch when you’re having a bad day. It’s totally mine, too! I think because it seems “healthier” than eating a bunch of chocolate! Trying to tackle the addiction in baby steps. šŸ™‚

  • Reply Jeffrey James October 21, 2013 at 5:26 pm

    Good for you for taking charge of your caffeine addiction! I drink mostly water, and occasionally throw in juice or milk to keep it interesting. No soda or coffee for me!

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