Sunday, May 1, 2011

Why We're Giving Up Coffee for 100 Days

It's May Day, while some people might be out celebrating International Worker's Day or decorating a Maypole - we are celebrating our 50th day off the coffee, and caffeine in general.  Both being coffee lovers* we can picture the look of utter shock on the face of other coffee lovers who may be reading this.  We know, it sounds crazy.  Going paleo doesn't mean you have to give up coffee, and/or caffeine.  Why give up something that could still be considered paleo?  It's not like it's bad for you; coffee is a natural antioxidant, black tea has been associated with decreased instances of some diseases, and according to Ryan, ancient ninja masters drink tea!  (For the record we also gave up black and green tea, but still drink herbal tea on occasion). 

Well, after reading the Whole9's Coffee Manifesto, we figured why not give it a try.  We decided to give it all up for 100 days.  Ryan also mentioned the desire to not be addicted to any substance.  Both of us agreed that giving up caffeine was easy and we drink coffee because we like the taste more than anything - and probably the habit or ritual of it.  Having a cup of coffee means the day can now commence.  Although prior to giving it up, we both had noticed that going even a day without the 1 or 2 cups usually meant an afternoon headache - so it was definitely time to kick the habit.

What we've observed over the first 50 days coffee/caffeine free:
  • Headaches only happened the first 2-3 days.  The duration for caffeine withdrawl is typically 48 hours, but can last for up to a week.  Although incidence of withdrawl symptoms in caffeine consumers is only 50%, so if you quit - maybe you'll be in the lucky half of the population. 
  • Ryan craved coffee for the first 2 weeks, I only craved it for a few days.  The weekends seem the most difficult.  We both enjoy making a good breakfast while sipping coffee on a Saturday/Sunday morning (typically post workout, even though it might be better to drink coffee before a workout and rehydrate post-workout).  Herbal tea has really been a perfect replacement for these times and suppresses any coffee cravings I might have. 
  • After the first month, I only had cravings when walking past a coffee shop and catching a whiff of freshly ground beans.  Not fair they can spit out those smells. 
Occasionally, I'll see someone walking with a coffee cup and I'll get a little envious, which makes me consider drinking decaf as a special treat from time-to-time once our 100 day trial is over.  Unless, over the next 50 days, I decide the benefits of living sans caffeine are too great. 

Benefits we've experience:
  • It's easier to fall asleep and get a good night's sleep
  • Whiter teeth
  • No more dependence (afternoon headaches) on caffeine
  • Fat loss!  I'm not sure if this is related to eliminating coffee, but I have noticed that some stubborn belly fat that wouldn't go away during our 45-day challenge is finally disappearing.  Ryan has a theory that it is related, since coffee consumption leads to increased cortisol levels, which can lead to more belly fat. 
  • Less general crankiness
  • Save money - $2-$4 per day adds up fast
  • It's easier to stay hydrated now.  In the past, I would occasionally experience muscle cramps due to dehydration.  These occur very infrequently now, and I can usually pinpoint why they happen - either drinking alcohol, or not drinking enough water.  Before, they would often occur even though I'd been drinking a lot of water, and I wouldn't know why.  Probably the coffee.
  • More counter space - storing our coffee maker and bean grinder, we have more room for other things.
So, we have 50 more days to go and depending on how this list of benefits grows - coffee may be out for good.

* Our love of coffee has run deep.  We both drink it black, truly appreciating the flavor of coffee, not just using it as a sugar/cream/caffeine vehicle.  We owned 2 coffee makers prior to this trial (now down to 1), 1 french press, 1 bean grinder, and more coffee mugs than cups (we also own 2 tea kettles - for rare days we might not have any beans).  Ryan has even been able to identify our favorite Chicago coffee, Intelligensia, in a blind taste test. 


  1. Are you still happy coffee-less? I think it will be next to go for me. The reasoning is sound, and compelling. Am thinking about going from 2 shots per day to 1 ... then a few sips a day ... then none. Hey, if we can give up DQ hot fudge sundaes and artisan pizza without looking back, coffee ought to be doable.

  2. Hi Becky! Yes, definitely still happy coffee-less after 100 days. Now I only miss it at times where the habit of it would be nice or when others are indulging - I don't miss the actual coffee. Ryan thinks he'll do decaf on occassion, I'm kind of scared to even try it. Good luck and I bet you will feel great!

  3. Am (finally) doing coffee-free and dairy-free for September. Breaking in gently with oolong tea, but don't think I "need" that, really. I know what you mean ... once you realize you're FINE without something, you hate to reset your cravings for it by having even a little.