Whether you’re highly reluctant or excited about the challenge, choosing to eliminate coffee is not an easy feat. But if you decide to try, there are a few things that you may want to consider on your coffee-free journey.
Some background: Coffee has over 800 compounds, but we hear most about its stimulant, caffeine. As caffeine is quickly absorbed in the bloodstream, it gives us the morning energy boost and alertness that we love. Your body removes it within four to six hours, contributing to the midday slump. For most adults, up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day is considered safe, which is about three to four cups of coffee.
Beyond the energy boost, research shows that there’s lots of potential benefits to drinking coffee, like decreased risk of type 2 diabetes, lower chances of liver disease, and decreased inflammation. But it comes with potential risks, too, like increased hypertension. High amounts of caffeine are associated with anxiety, panic disorder, and insomnia. It may be worth taking a caffeine break to see how it’s affecting your body so that you can recalibrate as needed.
Caffeine in the Body
Caffeine affects many physiological functions: mood and alertness, blood pressure and heart function, respiratory and kidney function, immune and gut activity, exercise performance, and the sleep-wake cycle. It does so by binding to specific receptors throughout the body, including stimulating dopamine in the prefrontal cortex (an area in the front of the brain that is important for making decisions that are based on reward, or whether something feels good) and the caudate nucleus (a part of the brain that helps regulate motor activity and the sleep-wake cycle). When caffeine is removed from the diet, these functions are affected, too. And that’s often expressed with withdrawal symptoms.
If you’ve detoxed from coffee before, you’ve likely experienced at least one of these mild withdrawal symptoms: headache, fatigue, muscle fatigue, decreased alertness, difficulty concentrating, mood fluctuations, upset stomach, cravings, or bowel irregularity. Sometimes people experience more severe ones, like changes in blood pressure, vomiting, muscle stiffness, abdominal pain, and digestive fluctuations. Typically, symptoms start twelve to twenty-four hours after the last cup of coffee, peak around twenty to fifty-one hours after, and last for two to nine days. To prevent or limit symptoms, especially more severe ones, it can be helpful to decrease caffeine consumption gradually.
Whether you decide to go cold turkey or wean yourself off, caffeine-free and low-caffeine coffee alternatives can help soothe the process.
A note on decaf coffee: It’s not always caffeine-free—it often contains two to fifteen milligrams of caffeine per cup, according to the FDA. Brands aren’t required to share with the customer how much caffeine is in their decaf coffee, but FDA regulation requires at least 97 percent of caffeine from the original coffee bean to be removed (caffeine amounts vary per coffee bean).
Even though you’ve cut the caffeine (for now), sipping on a coffee-like beverage can remain a part of your morning routine. Wooden Spoon Herbs’ Herbal Coffee alternative contains a blend of roots and herbs: roasted chicory root, dandelion root, maca root, burdock root, mesquite pod, and cinnamon bark. Whisk a tablespoon of the powdered blend into hot water or whatever alt milk you choose. Sip on.
For some people, gradually eliminating caffeine is best—it can help limit or prevent withdrawal symptoms. Having a tea stash with varying caffeine amounts can help: Black has about fifty milligrams of caffeine per cup (compared to coffee’s ninety-five), green has about thirty milligrams, and herbal teas are caffeine-free.
For a pleasantly bitter coffee-like taste, Equitea’s black tea blend combines loose-leaf Indian Darjeeling tea with roasted dandelion root and cacao for an energizing coffee alternative (and it mixes well with milk and honey).
And if you’re looking for a caffeine-free option, Comfort Herbal Chai is a delicious blend of our favorite chai flavors (minus the black tea): red rooibos, cinnamon, clove, allspice, cardamom, and nutmeg.
If you prefer a tea bag to loose-leaf, Steep & Mellow’s signature tea set is masterfully blended and delicately balanced. For a bold, sweet blend, sip on Flow: a black tea with tulsi, goji, juniper, schisandra, eleuthero, and dried strawberry pieces. If you’re going for a cool, crisp vibe, Groove’s green tea is blended with ginger, peppermint, licorice, spearmint, orange peel, and adaptogens including eleuthero and cordyceps. And for a caffeine-free herbal option, turn to Dream’s blend: a mellow chamomile mixed with cherry, rose, lemon balm, lemongrass, lavender, valerian, reishi, and ashwagandha.
If you’re looking to upgrade your kitchen accessories, here are a few stylish additions to help boost your new caffeine-free routine.
This stovetop kettle has a wide spout that automatically unseals when you start pouring, a soft whistle, and a generous size.
The Seven-Day Reset
Caffeine is one of the potential dietary triggers that’s removed during our annual detox to help our bodies recalibrate. This year, we’re using our G.Tox 7-Day Reset Kit for a weeklong elimination program. Our plan provides a filling superfood cereal blend, a plant-based protein powder, and a recipe guide to take the guesswork out of the process. You’ll get added support from daily superpowders formulated to help promote the body’s natural detoxification system and promote digestive health.* And an easy-to-follow schedule helps you experiment with new eating patterns and an intermittent fasting protocol.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.