What happens to your body after giving up caffeine? (2023)

For many people, caffeine is a staple part of their day. Present in tea, coffee, energy drinks, Coca Cola and even chocolate, the substance is the planet's most popular psychoactive drug. According to the British Coffee Association, Brits alone get through 95 million cups of coffee a day. It almost goes without saying, then, that giving up caffeine can be tough.

While I have never struggled with Dry January or even going vegan, committing to giving up caffeine felt like a different proposition altogether.

"Caffeine is a stimulant and those who are used to consuming significant quantities of caffeine on a regular basis may experience lethargy, and tiredness, and find it difficult to concentrate if they stop suddenly," explains Abbas Kanani, a pharmacist at the online pharmacy Chemist Click.

It's important to point out that not everyone gets caffeine withdrawal symptoms - and if you do, the caffeine withdrawal symptom severity will depend on how much caffeine you were drinking. As a rough rule, they typically last between two and nine days, peaking after one or two days of abstinence. For heavy caffeine drinkers who stop abruptly, the body can take even longer to readjust.

For me personally, the lure of an espresso was just too much and I quickly fell back into my old habits. I simply couldn't handle the headaches, irritability and brain fog that accompanied going 'cold turkey'.

Caffeine addiction

The good news - according to Dr Nagete Boukhezra, a GP at the London Doctors Clinic - is that people like me aren't technically classed as caffeine-addicted.

"Addiction is defined as not having control over doing, taking or using something to the point where it could be harmful. Caffeine is not generally considered as an addiction as it does not cause harm with a moderate amount," she explains.

How much caffeine is safe?

Boukhezra adds that for healthy adults consuming moderate amounts - up to 300-400 mg of caffeine a day - there is little or no evidence of health risks, and some evidence of health benefits. 400 mg caffeine equates to around four cups of coffee, ten cans of cola, or two energy drinks.

But moderation is the key word here. Just think of the French novelist Honoré de Balzac, who called coffee 'a great power in my life' and was supposed to have imbibed 50 cups a day. Or the singer Robbie Williams, who at one point claimed to be drinking 20 cans of Red Bull and 36 double espressos daily. This kind of consumption is hardly conducive to health and well-being.

In truth, you don't need to be drinking anywhere near that amount for there to be some negative consequences. (Many of us can testify to the jitters, energy dips and poor-quality sleep that occur after one too many visits to Starbucks.)

(Video) What Happens To Your Body When You Stop Drinking Coffee (Minute by Minute)

"The World Health Organization recognises the diagnosis of caffeine dependence syndrome. But more research is needed to understand the dependence, the severity and if there is a real impact on the general population's health," says Boukhezra.

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Who needs to cut down on caffeine?

So how can you know if you need to cut down? Dr Abby Hyams, a GP at MedicSpot, says it's important to check how much you're actually consuming.

"Caffeinated drinks can vary significantly in caffeine content, especially energy drinks, so make sure to check the label," she says. "Caffeine affects some people more than others and it can often depend on how much caffiene you usually consume and how much your body gets used to it."

On average, though, you should be looking at your intake if you're taking in more than 400 mg a day. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms to watch out for are headaches, irritability, insomnia, palpitations, nervousness or muscle tremors - all of which may indicate your caffeine consumption is too high.

What can cause heart palpitations?

Knowing your caffeine intake is particularly important in childhood and adolescence. There's a reason energy drinks are set to be banned for children in England: younger brains are more sensitive to caffeine. As a rule of thumb, children should consume no more than 3 mg of caffeine a day for every kilo of their body weight. (For a child weighing 40 kg, this would equate to 120 mg - about the same as one strong coffee.)

There are other groups of people too who might benefit from giving up caffeine or cutting down. These include pregnant women and those who are looking to start a family, along with migraine and anxiety sufferers.

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"The advice for pregnant women is to avoid caffeinated drinks in the first trimester, after which women should not consume more than 200 mg - equivalent to about two cups of coffee - a day," says Bouzhezra. "Caffeine has been reported as a precipitant for migraine, but each person is different. Caffeinecan also cause heart palpitations and stress, so if you do have stress/anxiety, it might be reasonable to limit your intake of caffeinated drinks."

Kanani adds that those with certain heart conditions should reduce their caffeine intake, definitely keeping it below the 400 mg threshold.

"When you start to go over the 400 mg mark, you run the risk of increasing your blood pressure. This puts a strain on the heart and can weaken it, putting you at risk of a heart attack," he says.

It also goes without saying that energy drinks are not an insomniac's best friend. After a difficult night's sleep, it can be tempting to pep yourself up with caffeine. But that just compounds the problem, making it trickier to fall asleep the next night.

"Consuming caffeine, even six hours before bedtime, has been shown to disrupt sleep," says Mark Winwood, AXA PPP Healthcare's director of psychological services. "Caffeine affects your sleep stages and cycles, influencing the amount of time spent in lighter sleep stages. It can also act as a trigger to wake you when you would naturally transition between REM (deep sleep) and Stage 1 (light sleep). And it can influence your circadian rhythm - even one coffee after dinner can delay the production of melatonin by about 40 minutes, shifting your body clock."

Giving up caffeine comfortably

For some people, giving up caffeine is probably a good idea. However, the general advice is not to give up caffeine immediately, but rather to take a phased approach.

"Instead of giving up caffeine completely, some people find it easier to switch to lower-caffeine varieties of tea and coffee or choose drinks with lower caffeine content," says Hyams. "If you have a more severe dependency on caffeine, it is suggested that you should aim to reduce your caffeine intake slowly instead of giving up caffeine all at once."

She adds that it's important to stay hydrated after cutting back on caffeine - dehydration can make the headaches and fatigue even worse.

"Try to get a good amount of quality sleep after giving up caffeine to counter fatigue that you may experience," she says. "Boosting your energy levels naturally can also make the process easier. You could do this by exercising more frequently, eating nutrient-dense foods and making stress-reduction techniques part of your daily life."

Giving up caffeiene may not be the most comfortable process, but if you really have been going overboard, you should see some benefits to moderating your consumption.

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"Those that have a high caffeine intake, especially at regular intervals throughout the day, are likely to experience higher energy levels, improved concentration, fewer headaches and a generally better mood," explains Kanani.

That's incentive enough for me to try again. While I don't see much reason to giving up coffee altogether, I am certainly considering swapping cups 3 and 4 for decaf.


What happens when you completely quit caffeine? ›

The severity of symptoms vary from individual to individual, and most commonly include a headache, fatigue, decreased energy/activeness, decreased alertness, drowsiness, decreased contentedness, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and feeling foggy/not clearheaded.

How long does it take to feel normal after quitting caffeine? ›

Caffeine withdrawal fatigue can last anywhere from two to nine days. If you're sleep deprived and rely on coffee to perk you up, though, you may feel fatigue until you address this.

What are the positive effects of quitting caffeine? ›

The benefits of quitting coffee
  • You'll feel happier and more awake. ...
  • You'll sleep better. ...
  • It'll help shift belly fat. ...
  • It may reduce anxiety. ...
  • It'll help with vitamin and mineral absorption. ...
  • You may reduce your overall daily calorie intake. ...
  • Save yourself some dough.
Mar 4, 2019

Will I get my energy back after quitting caffeine? ›

More Energy

After a week or two of quitting caffeine, you will see your energy levels improve and you'll feel ten times better in the morning!

How stopping coffee changed my life? ›

Although things were bad for the first few days, by the third day, I started feeling the benefits of quitting coffee. I was sleeping better and it was easier to wake up in the morning. I had more energy throughout the day, and I could think more clearly. Perhaps most surprisingly, I was experiencing less anxiety.

What's a substitute for caffeine? ›

10 Caffeine Alternatives to Leave You Energized to Tackle The Day
  • #1 Try Golden Milk.
  • #2 Bring in the Natural Light.
  • #3 Add Some Cold Water to Your Shower.
  • #4 Sip on Some Peppermint Tea.
  • #5 Try Chai Tea.
  • #6 Blend Up An Energy-boosting Smoothie.
  • #7 Brew Some Herbal “Coffee”
  • #8 Hydrate With Water.

Will giving up coffee improve my skin? ›

Quitting coffee can increase the growth of collagen and makes look healthy and makes it glow. Moreover, the dehydration can cause premature aging and a caffeine detox can lead to a beautiful change in your skin quality. Coffee can also increase oil production in the skin and cause our pores to get clogged due to this.

What happens when you stop drinking coffee for a month? ›

Headaches aren't the only painful symptom of caffeine withdrawal. Those who stop consuming coffee have reported side effects like depression, anxiety, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, insomnia, irritability, mood swings, and sluggishness. Here's the good news: you won't feel this way forever.

Is it healthier to have no caffeine? ›

Not partaking in caffeine can be good for your blood pressure. Caffeine has been shown to raise blood pressure levels due to the stimulatory effect it has on the nervous system. High intake of caffeine — 3 to 5 cups per day — has also been associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

How can I get more energy without caffeine? ›

Caffeine-Free Strategies to Stay Energized
  1. Jump-Start With a Snack. Look for foods that have a low sugar index. ...
  2. Eat Well and Regularly. ...
  3. Exercise. ...
  4. Try the Stimulating Breath Technique. ...
  5. Stay Hydrated. ...
  6. Take a Power Nap. ...
  7. Connect With Nature.

What are 3 benefits of caffeine? ›

It's important to note that coffee and tea contain other bioactive compounds (besides caffeine) that may also be beneficial. Caffeine may improve mood, decrease the likelihood of depression, stimulate brain function, and protect against Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Does quitting coffee make you look younger? ›

Quitting or cutting your coffee intake may stop or reverse aging leading to a more youthful appearance. Caffeine slows down the rate your body makes collagen, a protein that both tightens and gives your skin its elasticity.

Do non coffee drinkers live longer? ›

Drinking two to three cups of coffee a day was linked to the largest reduction in early death, compared to people who drank no coffee, according to the statement. Ground coffee consumption lowered the risk of death by 27%, followed by 14% for decaffeinated, and 11% for instant caffeinated coffee.

Will I be more calm after quitting caffeine? ›

Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant that can significantly contribute to anxiety. There's evidence that quitting caffeine can be even more beneficial for anxiety than taking prescription anti-anxiety drugs!

What can I take to wake up instead of coffee? ›

There are many alternatives to coffee that can help you wake up in the morning to greet the day.
  • Matcha tea.
  • Chaï tea.
  • Carob.
  • Maté
  • Lemon water.
  • Chicory root.
  • Peppermint tea.
  • Golden milk.
Sep 10, 2019

What is a better stimulant than coffee? ›

Tea may be a suitable alternative for those who are sensitive to the high amounts of caffeine in coffee. Due to the presence of L-theanine and its effect on alpha waves in the brain, tea may also be a better choice than coffee for those who need to concentrate for long periods.

What is better for energy than caffeine? ›

It's best to get B vitamins naturally. If supplementation is recommended, make sure it doesn't negatively impact your sleep. Vitamin B is an excellent caffeine alternative that will provide all-day energy.

How does coffee change your face? ›

While coffee doesn't cause acne, some studies suggest it can make it worse. Caffeine makes you feel alert and awake but also leads to a heightened stress response in the body. Stress hormones, such as cortisol, may increase the amount of oil produced by your sebaceous glands, meaning you can be more prone to breakouts.

Does caffeine cause hair loss? ›

The short answer is - No, it's not true! Caffeine does not cause hair loss when applied on the scalp but here's what's important – it must be used in moderation.

Does coffee make your face sag? ›

“Coffee contains caffeine, which has a diuretic (water losing) effect, so drinking coffee (even decaf) can make you and your skin dehydrated and saggy,” she says. “Drinking coffee has also been shown to reduce skin circulation by constriction blood vessels.

Should I quit caffeine cold turkey? ›

The cold turkey method is the fastest way to quit caffeine. The downside is you may be out of commission for a few days while your body readjusts. Plan to start your first caffeine-free day on a weekend or holiday. This way, you can avoid headaches or hits to your productivity while you're at work.

What does lack of caffeine cause? ›

The researchers identified five clusters of common withdrawal symptoms: headache; fatigue or drowsiness; dysphoric mood including depression and irritability; difficulty concentrating; and flu-like symptoms of nausea, vomiting and muscle pain or stiffness.

What are the symptoms of caffeine addiction? ›

Common symptoms include headache, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and dysphoric mood. Low doses of caffeine have been shown to suppress these symptoms.

What vitamin is best for energy? ›

The eight B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, biotin, folate and B12) provide the most energy, as they aid in cell metabolism, help the body transform carbohydrates and fats into energy and carry energy-nutrients around the body.

What is a natural energy booster? ›

Exercise is a natural energy booster, because whenever you do it, oxygen-rich blood surges through your body to your heart, muscles, and brain. Regularly squeezing a workout into your day -- even if you can spare only 10 minutes at a time -- will help keep your energy levels at their peak.

Does your body need caffeine and why? ›

There is no nutritional need for caffeine. It can be avoided in the diet. Caffeine stimulates, or excites, the brain and nervous system. It will not reduce the effects of alcohol, although many people still erroneously believe a cup of coffee will help a person "sober-up."

What are 5 effects of caffeine? ›

Caffeine can cause insomnia, nervousness, restlessness, nausea, increased heart rate, and other side effects. Larger doses might cause headache, anxiety, and chest pain. Caffeine is likely unsafe when used in very high doses. It can cause irregular heartbeat and even death.

What happens when you stop caffeine for a month? ›

Symptoms of withdrawal include possible headaches, sleepiness, nausea, and irritability. While these symptoms may feel intimidating, it can help to focus on the benefits that may come from kicking your coffee habit.

Will quitting caffeine help lose weight? ›

In fact, when you quit coffee, after a few days your body's response will be overwhelmingly positive. One of the most widely reported side effects of quitting coffee is weight loss.

Is decaf 100% no caffeine? ›

How much caffeine is in decaf coffee? Decaffeination removes about 97% or more of the caffeine in coffee beans. A typical cup of decaf coffee has about 2 mg of caffeine, compared to a typical cup of regular coffee, which has about 95 mg of caffeine.

Does quitting coffee make you gain weight? ›

You could gain weight

This is especially true when your caffeine withdrawal kicks in and your body starts searching for a quick sugar fix, boosting your blood sugar and daily caloric consumption. This is what your food cravings secretly reveal about your health.

Are there long term side effects of caffeine? ›

Long-term effects at this level may include chronic insomnia, constant anxiety, depression, and stomach problems. It can also cause high blood pressure or make high blood pressure worse. More than 300 mg of caffeine (about 2 to 3 cups of coffee) in a day may be linked to miscarriages and low-birth weight babies.

Does caffeine reduce belly fat? ›

Coffee is a delicious way to start your day, and it can also help jump-start your goal to lose belly fat. For example, caffeine has been known to help boost your metabolism as well as reduce feelings of hunger, both of which can support weight management.

What is the Swiss water method? ›

What is the “Swiss Water Process”? The Swiss Water Process is a patented decaffeination method that uses only water to remove 99.9% of a coffee's caffeine content. Heat and time are also employed, but clean water is the only added ingredient.

Why do people drink decaf? ›

It Has Less Caffeine

One of the biggest reasons people choose to drink a decaf beverage is to avoid the effects of caffeine. While caffeine can provide a subtle energy and mood increase, there are some adverse side effects. People who are sensitive to caffeine can drink decaf coffee without having to worry.

Which coffee has the least caffeine? ›

What's interesting here is the fact that they found that espresso actually had the lowest caffeine content at 100 mg per 2 ounces. Next was coffee brewed in the French press with 107.5 mg per 7 ounces. Drip-brewed coffee came in last with 145 mg of caffeine per 7-ounce cup.

What to drink that has no caffeine but will wake you up? ›

Drink a glass of cold water

If you're not a water drinker, a cold glass of any low-calorie beverage is a plus — the cold is a refreshing boost to energize — but skip the sugary drinks, which will sap your energy after a quick boost, she added.


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