I completed my most challenging health experiment to date. I went the entire month of October 2012 without coffee. No decaf either or any food that used coffee for flavoring, such as ice cream. For 21 days of that month, I went 100% caffeine free. My prior record was 100 hours set back in 1997. Despite having added an additional 15 years of caffeine addiction, I crushed my old record.
For someone who owns a website called INeedCoffee, this is quite the victory.
This morning I had my first espresso and boy has it made me jittery. Over two hours later and I can still feel it. This is what I experienced when I had my first green tea after 21 days without caffeine. Before the coffee cheerleaders and fear mongers add their opinion, I want to remind them that this experiment was primarily about developing caffeinated resiliency, not for health reasons. An ideal state is being able to perform at a high level with or without coffee. And this experiment is ongoing. I’m now in the caffeine resumption phase. I’ll be monitoring how I feel over the next few weeks as I dial in a new optimal espresso level.
The final write up of this experiment will be on INeedCoffee, probably in mid November. Once that article is ready, I’ll announce it here. Until then I’m just going to enjoy this win. Thanks to everyone that encouraged me during those times when I was ready to give up. And thanks to those who tried to get me to quit by testing my resolve. It was the perfect balance.
Welcome back old friend!
Ann Rosen Korman
Nov 1, 2012 — 9:59 am
Yay MAS is back!! I thought of you when I posted this : http://web.archive.org/web/20150327081944/http://blog.arkofwellness.com/coffee-ice-cream-with-caramel-sauce/
Now you can enjoy it!!!!!
Nov 1, 2012 — 10:03 am
@Ann – Yummy! Thanks.
Nov 1, 2012 — 9:09 pm
Have you ever monitored your blood pressure with/without coffee? I like my coffee, but my blood pressure runs as high as 160/100 if I drink it all day. If I have one espresso in the morning, it’s 120/80 or so when I check it at 4PM. Nothing I’ve seen online suggests that large of an effect, but for me that’s what it is.
Nov 1, 2012 — 9:13 pm
@Mike – No I haven’t. I get my BP measured once every 8 weeks when I donate blood and the numbers are always good, with or without caffeine.
Nov 2, 2012 — 7:44 am
Well done! Happy you got to experience this, we are all learning with you.
Nov 2, 2012 — 5:43 pm
The way you talk about coffee says a great deal. Congrats, my friend.
Nov 3, 2012 — 2:31 pm
@Mike. I did my own Caffeine free month in October inspired by MAS, and I measured my BP 9 times.
I have started back on Caffeine for November.
BP reading on first day, 1 hour after first cup was the same as average for October despite clearly feeling buzzed/wired.
I tested again right now, but it is later in the day and I am keying up to workout, I have had coffee and green tea today. I am about 10 points higher than average, but I normally take my readings in the morning after being awake at least an hour and at least an hour after coffee if having some.
I think this would be good for anyone to do, to see how caffeine affects their BP. So far it looks like it has minimal effect in me. But I am not very stressed right now. Stress + Caffeine might amplify.
I think it is good to learn as much about our personal physiology as possible. If Caffeine bumped my BP 20 points, I would quit it forever.
Though I am not about to try excessive amounts, because that is nothing I see any potential benefit in.
I am considering more experiments. Like trying to use caffeine like an ergogenic/motivation aid.
My current thought is to resist becoming habituated to caffeine again. Limiting intake to mainly before lunch, and taking 2 or 3 caffeine free days/week. That way I should not become dependent/habituated and nearly every time I use it, I should get ergogenic/motivational push. Not sure it will work that way, but it is what I am mulling at the moment.
From what I have read, once you are habituated to caffeine you get no net alertness/motivation benefit and possible drop in ergogenic effects.
Nov 3, 2012 — 6:31 pm
@Peter S – Can’t argue with BP. It is something I don’t measure. Might someday.
I have noticed that caffeine is affecting me much more stronger than I expected. A single espresso feels like 6 espressos. A little concerning.
Nov 5, 2012 — 9:49 am
@Peter … I seem to be OK if I limit my intake to an espresso or two before lunch, and nothing after. It was drinking the free coffee at work continuously that was driving my BP so high.
Nov 5, 2012 — 10:30 pm
Suppversity has an interesting blog post on coffee boosting testosterone over the short term (4 weeks.) Perhaps stopping coffee intake cold turkey results in a rebound loss of testosterone which would explain the lack of drive and poor mood beyond caffeine withdrawal?
I think my own record is 6 weeks without coffee which was a few years back, and I remember being just as miserable at the end as I was in the first few days. As soon as I had another cup i felt great again.
Nov 6, 2012 — 5:49 am
@Adam – Looks like they were using overweight men. 5 cups a day? That would wreck me.
Nov 8, 2012 — 5:26 am
My experience reflects yours, if you give up caffeine for a period you get back to a more original state of caffeine sensitivity, I can drink two coffees a day (but that’s my limit- one is better). I have experimented with other food sensitivities and I think this is what happens, over time you get what is called a masked response. Your body builds up an immunity to dosage because your daily dose is limiting withdrawal symptoms. It is not showing you the real allergy response, because you are getting that daily dose which hides the allergic/sensitivity reaction. If you clear that out of your system over even as little as 5 days and you re-introduce you get quite a noticeable sharp and clear response in your body/brain. I did this with milk and separately with flour and chocolate. The responses are always big and clear, after the culprit is out of your system. After regular dosage of whatever you think you have an altered/allergic response to then that same response is masked/hidden. Interesting stuff. Anyone elses thoughts or experiences?
Nov 8, 2012 — 6:58 am
@Pauline – I like your term “masked response”. I think that describes my experience. Yesterday I had my first espresso that didn’t leave my heart racing for hours. Could have been because I was dead tired by 2 PM from waking up at 3:45 AM.
Nov 8, 2012 — 7:14 am
I have to give the credit for the term to Dr Richard Mackarness – his book Not All In The Mind (how unsuspected food allegy can affect your body and mind). He has written a few books on food sensitivities, mood and body reactions.
Nov 10, 2012 — 2:38 pm
Congrats on the accomplishment. I’m trying to quit coffee for two reasons: cost and it has a tendency to make me irritable and aggressive. Have you ever had that issue?
Nov 10, 2012 — 7:52 pm
@Brian – Coffee never made me irritable or aggressive.
Nov 15, 2012 — 7:42 am
To answer Brian’s question, I have a tipping point with coffee, anything over 2 cups and I get very irritable and hyperactive. People’s brains and moods respond so uniqely to different substances. Alcohol makes me mellow and sleepy but for others I have seen it make them aggressive. Both my partner and I get very grumpy if we have wheat/flour or any grains – very noticeable. If I have had flour/wheat the day before, the next day I wake up with a hangover feeling, very tired and slow and low energy.