Over the weekend I was in class at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition, talking to my lovely classmates about health. Without realizing it, I started talking about how I no longer have a caffeine addiction — a huge change from my old habits.
I admit it, I used to be a complete caffeine addict. In college, I’d drink a Diet Mountain Dew or a Red Bull for energy before class, and had my fridge stocked with Diet Pepsi at all times. I was rarely seen without some type of caffeinated beverage in my hand. After college, at work, I’d start the day off with a large iced coffee and refill it at least 4-5 times throughout the day. In order to have the energy to get through an evening out, I’d have multiple Red Bulls, and then wake up the next day and do it all over again. It makes me cringe to think about how self-medicating this cycle was (not to mention the absurd amount of artificial sweetener I was consuming – but that’s another conversation)!
After years of total caffeine abuse, I can proudly say that today I am free of the addiction – so I’m here to tell you how I did it. If you feel dependent on caffeine, this post is for you!
First off, how can too much caffeine affect our health?
- Higher anxiety levels
- Emotional highs and lows
- Energy burst and then burn out
- Brain fog/fuzziness
- Interrupted sleep
- High blood pressure
- Weakened immune system
- Nutritional deficiency
- ….and more
If you drink a ton of coffee, you’ve probably experienced some of these things. So what can you do? The first thing that really helped me cut down on coffee was when I tried yerba mate (read more about yerba mate here). The first time I had it, I felt the same energizing effect of coffee but without the anxious, jittery feeling. I immediately loved it! I began to substitute my normal coffee for yerba mate on occasion, and eventually I started liking the yerba mate feeling more than the coffee feeling. The yerba mate slowly became my beverage of choice because of the more subtle, happy energy it gave me. I was making a pot of mate every morning (you can make it in your coffee maker just like regular coffee, or buy individual tea bags). My caffeine addiction wasn’t gone, it had just changed forms and felt a little more peaceful.
My relationship with yerba mate changed as soon as I was introduced to green smoothies. When I began to add green smoothies to my daily routine, the need for coffee or tea became non-existent almost immediately. The vibrant energy I get from drinking dark leafy greens, fruit and superfoods every morning is unmatched by anything else I’ve ever tried. The best thing about green smoothies is that the energy lasts for hours. You don’t crash the way you do after drinking coffee. It is an absolutely amazing phenomenon! Green smoothies have allowed me to release the tight grip I had on caffeine and start enjoying a natural, healthy buzz that is cleansing and healing my body instead of harming me.
Other great substitutes for coffee/soda are black tea or green tea. Both of these can help you wean yourself off of excessive caffeine.
Since letting go of the caffeine addiction, my anxiety level is pretty much nothing. Work is less stressful and things just seem easier. If I’m tired, I know its because I’m actually tired, not because I’m coming down from caffeine stimulation. I feel more mental clarity and have more natural energy to do everything I want to get done each day. My energy levels now coincide with my eating habits and sleep patterns instead of artificial stimulation. It is really amazing in comparison!
Now, I’m not saying that the solution is to totally give up all caffeine. I mean, come on now, there’s caffeine in raw chocolate! :) I still like to have a yerba mate or green tea once in awhile, and if I really felt like having a coffee, I’d have one. But there is a big difference between having caffeine sometimes and needing constant caffeine to get through the day. You caffeine addicts know who you are. Hopefully some of these tips can help. Try a yerba mate or a green smoothie…see how it feels. xo.