So, there are a lot of things I don’t know. There are a lot of things I don’t know about business (but luckily I’m curious, so I learn a little bit every day), about CrossFit (it’s true!), about diet (ratios, good and bad this, good and bad that), and coffee.
You heard me. Coffee.
Progress: That’s tea.
I love it. I won’t lie to you. But, I’m cutting back. Here’s why I’m cutting the caffeine and how I did it.
Over Christmas week, I cut down on my caffeine tremendously by sleeping a lot (whew! had a lot to catch up on), and making all of my coffee half-caff. This worked incredibly well because I was on a break from CrossFit (not as tired), and was always eating something wonderful, so I didn’t get much in the way of headaches. When I got back to Syracuse, I was pretty steady with one cup in the morning and no more until just before CrossFit. But, soon enough, I began sitting at a desk for most hours of the day with an espresso machine readily available. My grand tally of coffee cups most days added up to around 4-5. EEK. No good.
I either ended up drinking that much coffee because I either am: A. Tired, B. Bored, or C. ADD. I was tired of:
- Constant fatigue
- Caffeine-induced headaches
- Rapid heartbeat
- Delayed muscle recovery
- Being a slave to the cup of joe.
So, what did I do? It was quite simple. I stopped being tired, bored, and unable to focus, and started drinking less coffee.
Here’s how I tackled my caffeine addiction.
1. Trick yourself. This part’s deceptively simple. I started brewing all of my coffee half-caff. I was able to trick myself with this one, having a cup at breakfast, after breakfast, after lunch, and in the mid-afternoon. This added up to only about two full cups of coffee (caffeinated), and at the beginning, was a huge struggle. To be honest, I didn’t think I would get through it. I got reverberating headaches and thought I was going to lose my marbles.
My tip for you: Instead of making one full cup of coffee in the morning (and trying to stick to that), brew a pot of half-caff and have the two cups. Or three cups. Decide how many cups-worth of caffeine you’re going to reduce to (remember, take it day by day), divide it up, and add an equal amount (or more) of decaf grounds whenever you brew.
2. Sleep more. I have this thing where I could stay up all night working if I wanted to, but that doesn’t coincide very well with the fact that I love waking up early. I get more done in the morning, so I generally wake myself up around 6 or 6:30. Granted that both of these are true, I started going to bed slightly earlier, sleeping a bit later (until 7 or 8am), and taking advantage of time in the afternoon to get in a quick nap. I only needed a few days with hour-long naps before I felt more like a functional person again.
My tip for you: Set your bedtime and give yourself 8-9 hours of rest. If this is unrealistic (career, family), set aside as much time for rest as you can, and try to slip in a couple of 20-minute naps throughout the day.
3. Eat more vegetables. I found that when I was really about to crunch some pencils around 2pm, if I built myself a big ol’ salad, I felt a lot better. I’ve started adding more vegetables in general because I think they’re typically considered to be pretty good for you (just a hunch). The organic, live, crunchy, and incredible vitamins, minerals, enzymes in veggies give a little bit of an extra boost. For an even bigger boost, I make green juice. How bout them apples.
My tip for you: Add some fresh vegetables to your lunch, snacks, and dinner. Small baggies of chopped vegetables or lunch salads are great ways to get a crunchy fix when you’d normally be looking for a cup of joe. Instead of grabbing pizza for lunch, pack some veggies (see #3), good protein, and healthy fats. Quick one: Salad with homemade chicken, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Boom. Quick and satisfying.
4. Exercise. In the first few days of doing this, I would get extremely tired and cranky around noon. Yes, noon. Instead of giving in and drinking coffee (kind of how I feel when I’m learning certain things in CrossFit: dont. give. up!), I would head to the gym and get in a good workout. Getting the blood pumping and lifting some heavy weights usually does the trick, and I’m back on track (and focused) for the rest of the day.
My tip for you: Hit the gym during your lunch break. Or, if that’s not realistic, take a walk outside. The fresh air (and more importantly, the physical activity) will get your blood pumping for an energy boost better than what caffeine has to offer.
5. Hydrate. Drinking lots of water (frequently) will help to clean your system a bit and offset headaches. There are debates about whether coffee actually has a dehydrating effect (I’m still convinced that it does), but with and without it, water is our friend. Hydration will keep you energized and reduce the negative effects of the process.
My tip for you: Keep a water bottle (or glass) near you at all times. When it’s empty, fill it back up. If you have to, set a timer, and make sure that you drink the whole thing within 60 minutes. Have a meeting? Bring a water bottle. Make simple changes to incorporate more water into your day.
I drink a cup of Earl Grey in the mornings, and drink decaffeinated tea and coffee throughout the day. The goal of this wasn’t to cut out caffeine completely (after all, it does give me an extra kick-start before workouts), but to reduce my caffeine. Go from dependent (read: addicted) to controlled and enjoyable amounts; not so much that I would have withdrawal symptoms without it. The results are so much better:
- I’m sleeping more deeply
- Reduced acne/breakouts
- Less cravings for sweets
- Stable energy levels
- Better workouts
- Decreased recovery time
YES, it’s true! My workouts are a LOT better. I take a half-cup of coffee before workouts, as opposed to two cups. Whereas I used to go into workouts with my heart beating out of my chest (because I was convinced it helped me lift heavier and go faster), I go into workouts with a clearer head and better breathing.
My skin has seen the most improvements. I never realized before how the acidity of coffee might have been affecting my skin… until now.
I’d like to know:
- Have you ever tried to cut down on caffeine? How did you do it?
- Are you a tea or coffee person?
- What benefits have you seen with changes in your caffeine intake (increased or decreased)?