Whether you’re looking to transition to tea or go caffeine-free outright, quitting coffee can feel like an overwhelming thing. The withdrawals are real (more on that in just a bit), and maybe you just miss the taste that you’ve been enjoying for the past years-worth of mornings. But the things that happen when you stop drinking coffee go far beyond just the wallet savings (and yes, you will save some serious cash if you’ve been consuming a cup, or two, or three, each day).
That’s not to say that coffee does not have its impressive benefits. It can help burn fat and speed up your metabolism thanks to the increase of the lipolysis process when you ingest caffeine. In other words, it helps to convert stored fat cells into energy—giving you that boost in energy while helping to whittle your waistline. On top of that, it can also help increase longevity, with a recent study showing that four daily cups of coffee can actually help you live longer.
Great reasons to drink it? Undoubtedly. But if you’d rather consume your energy and life-boosting elixirs in different forms, going cold turkey with your coffee consumption might not be a bad idea.
So you decide to eliminate it, and do it all at once. One day you’re drinking your joe, the next you’re starting off your day with a cup of water and getting your morning start in a completely different way.
But don’t go into it blindly. Knowing what to expect, and how your body is likely to react, means that you can minimize the shock to your system. If you’ve been consuming coffee for years, stopping on “day one” won’t be easy. With it will come serious and noticeable symptoms, and you’ll quickly see the difference in your daily functions as you go about your regular day, sans coffee.
If your mum has ever told you not to consume caffeine (in the form of coffee, soda, or otherwise) after 3pm, she was definitely onto something. According to a 2013 study published in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, consuming coffee even six hours before bedtime can lead to worsened sleep.
“Even at 6 hours, caffeine reduced sleep by more than 1 hour,” researchers write. “This degree of sleep loss, if experienced over multiple nights, may have detrimental effects on daytime function.”
In turn, that means that if you’ve chosen to nix caffeine from your daily intake, sleep should and will come much more easily. Not only will you have an easier time falling asleep, you can actually improve the quality of your sleep and be able to reach your REM cycle much more consistently and effectively.
Most noticeably, your smile. Coffee is a known substance that darkens your teeth over time. No wonder our dentist asks if we drink coffee and wine when determining how they can whiten our teeth. On top of that, since caffeine is an acidic drink, it wears away on your tooth enamel over time. Through the course of several years, and a lifetime, you could be doing serious damage to your smile. But quitting can certainly mean a major—and noticeable—improvement in both the health and appearance of your teeth.
Skip your coffee one morning — or have it a couple hours late — and you’ll already start to have the withdrawal headaches, but according to a report written by Karima R. Sajadi-Ernazarova and Richard J. Hamilton of Drexel University, there is a 50-50 percent chance that you will experience a headache while coming off of caffeine. For most people, the authors note, “the onset of symptoms starts 12–24 hours after caffeine cessation, peaks at 20–51 hours, and may last up to two to nine days.” Don’t expect those headaches to just go away in no time. Prepare for upwards of a week if you’ve been hooked on the java for years.
A 2008 study from the University of Chicago studied the link between caffeine and anxiety and found that caffeine-induced anxiety was shown in people who consumed 450 milligrams of caffeine per day (roughly four cups). If you go cold turkey and eliminate all caffeine from your day, you might find that your anxiety and stress levels were significantly reduced. And the more time you go without consuming coffee, the less anxious you might be.
Coffee is a well-known diuretic. Fact: it helps keep you regular because it promotes movement through your digestive system and allows for your intestines to process foods efficiently. And if you’ve been consuming it for an extended period of time, your body is likely used to having it help keep your gut working and healthy. Start removing it from your morning routine, and you could just be more constipated as you work through your day. However, this also passes. Drinking more water throughout the day—and starting off with a glass early in the morning—can help keep your systems working properly. If you’d prefer something warm, a hot cup of water with a squeeze of lemon will also do.
When it comes time to get a major project done, we often reach for a cup of coffee. You need to finish a paper or study for an exam, you caffeinate. At least that’s been the thinking of college students and all-nighter-pullers for generations. Take the coffee away and you might not have a go-to stimulant to help you concentrate on finishing a major to-do. But there is an alternative. Kate Morgan from Cardiff University published a study in the British Journal of Psychology that showed that chewing minty gun could be a healthier alternative to coffee or energy drinks. Chewing a stick or two of peppermint gum can help keep you alert and paying attention, even in moments when you can’t seem to keep your eyes open.