Here's What Happens to Your Body When You Quit Caffeine
Approximately 85% of American adults regularly consume caffeine—most of us more than once a day. And whether you're going cold turkey or just trying to cut back on your consumption, quitting caffeine can have some short- and long-term effects on your body.
Depending on the severity of your caffeine habit, you could start to experience some intense withdrawals (caffeine is a drug, after all). It's probably best to slowly wean yourself off of coffee or soda—especially if you currently consume several cups a day—since those who consume only one cup of coffee per day can still experience withdrawal symptoms!
While some of the following side effects may make you reconsider quitting caffeine, most of the negative consequences will only last for a few days. There are plenty of great reasons to push through if caffeine consumption has been affecting your energy levels, sleep, digestion or other aspects of your life.
You Could Experience Some Nasty Headaches
Caffeine is a double-edged sword when it comes to headaches. Not only is caffeine consumption linked to more frequent headaches, but caffeine withdrawals are too. To make things even more complicated, caffeine can also be used to treat headaches!
Caffeine consumption causes our blood vessels to restrict, which can slow blood flow by as much as 27%, according to a Wake Forest University study. Quitting caffeine allows those blood vessels to go back to their regular size, and may cause headaches temporarily. Just be sure to avoid Excedrin and other headache relief medications that have caffeine in them.
You Could Lose a Few Pounds
Whether you're hooked on coffee, soda—yes, even diet soda—or another caffeinated beverage, quitting caffeine could cause you to lose weight. Although coffee only has about 2 calories per cup, a 2016 study published in Public Health found about ⅔ of Americans add anywhere from 22-58 extra calories per beverage consumed—and that's without ordering a fancy latte or frappuccino from a coffee shop. A grande Caramel Macchiato made with 2% milk from Starbucks has 250 calories and 33 grams of sugar. That's a far cry from the sugar-free, nearly calorie-free beverage your coffee started as and can cause your weight to creep up over time.
Both diet and regular soda consumption is linked to weight gain, even though diet soda is technically calorie- and sugar-free. Recent research from George Washington University found that kids and teens who drank diet soda actually consumed 200 more calories a day than those who just drank water. And sugar substitute consumption is linked to higher weight and a larger waist circumference, likely due to the substitute causing your body to crave the real thing later. You may find yourself feeling lighter mentally and physically when you say goodbye to caffeine for good.
You Could Become Constipated
Coffee is attributed to stimulating our digestive system as much as our brain, and researchers believe it's likely due to the way caffeine interacts with our microbiomes. This means that quitting the stuff could mean a little irregularity in the bathroom. The good thing is, if you're replacing that caffeine with water and consume plenty of fiber-rich plant foods like fruits, veggies, nuts and whole grains, then you likely have nothing to worry about.
You Could Feel More Relaxed
Nixing caffeine means no more morning or late-night jitters, and that could be good for your stress levels. All that irritability and restlessness you may experience during the workday could dissipate or lessen simply by cutting out coffee or soda. While you may feel a bit irritable and anxious when you first quit caffeine, your mood will eventually level out.
You Could Get Better Sleep
Sleep expert Michael A. Grandner, Ph.D., M.T.R., explained to us that coffee has a direct impact on our body's sleep-wake cycle, and it lasts in our body for hours. This means your midday cup of coffee could be the culprit for a restless night. Cutting caffeine out entirely lowers your risk of sleep disruption and helps your body recognize when it needs some shut-eye.
Grander also says you really don't need a cup of joe to energize you first thing in the morning; your body does that naturally, so quitting caffeine won't necessarily leave you in a slump all day. Try an herbal tea in the morning if you like the ritual of a warm drink to start off your day.
You Could Feel Lethargic
Caffeine is a stimulant, so it's likely you'll experience a little dip in energy for at least a few days when you first quit coffee or soda. Several side effects of caffeine withdrawal include reduced alertness and activeness, drowsiness and feeling foggy, so you may want to brace yourself before quitting for good. It may be worth cutting back little by little to lessen your chance of experiencing these unpleasant side effects. This could look like ordering a half-caf latte for a few days, then mixing three parts decaf with one part regular coffee for the next few days before finally ridding of it for good.
You Could Have a Whiter Smile
Quitting coffee means saying goodbye to coffee stains for good, which is great news for your pearly whites. The American Dental Association considers coffee and soda to be some of the most damaging foods for your teeth, as both can erode your enamel.