I Quit Coffee Cold Turkey, And This Is What Happened To My Body

by Amber James
Amber is the Branded Content Editor at LittleThings. She currently resides in Manhattan.

Americans love coffee. Most people brew a cup or two as soon as they wake up and feel they can’t start their day without it. Others continue to drink it to help stay awake throughout the day.

Although there is plenty of evidence to suggest that a morning cup of joe or a midday coffee break can positively influence your health (and boost productivity), excessive caffeine consumption can be a real problem.

I was a college freshman when I tried coffee for the first time. It was a godsend after I’d procrastinated on a big term paper and needed to stay up late to finish it. Since then, I can’t recall a morning I’ve gone without drinking coffee.

Now, at age 31, I am drinking at least four or five cups of coffee a day. From the moment I get up in the morning, I’m brewing a pot of coffee. I’ve even been known to drink a cup after dinner.

Lately, I noticed that I wasn’t feeling like myself. I wasn’t sleeping well, was tired a lot and had acne popping up on my face. All this got me wondering if my coffee addiction had anything to do with it.

And that’s why I decided to try a one-week coffee detox. I wanted to see if my coffee habit was affecting my health. Despite knowing how difficult it would be, I also wanted to prove to myself that I could live without java. I mean, it’s just seven days. How bad could a coffee detox be, right? Right?

The Benefits Of Quitting Coffee

The Benefits Of Quitting Coffee
Amber James/LittleThings

Although recent studies have found that drinking coffee is linked to lower death rates, coffee carries several potential health risks, especially for devoted drinkers like myself.

The benefits of quitting coffee may make you think twice about reaching for that daily jolt of caffeine. A few alleged benefits include:

  1. Lower blood pressure
  2. Better sleep
  3. Decreased anxiety
  4. Healthier, whiter teeth
  5. Weight loss
  6. Clearer skin

In addition to health and beauty benefits, there are financial benefits, too. The cost of a caffeine addiction can add up to thousands of dollars a year, particularly for those splurging on a cappuccino every day.

It was now or never for me to go cold turkey.

The Rules

Coffee Detox Rules
Amber James/LittleThings

The rules were pretty simple: No coffee for one week. In addition, I could not have any caffeine, including, tea, soda, espresso, etc. However, I could have herbal tea with zero caffeine.

I assumed I’d have a headache for a couple days while my body adjusted, but knew it’d be worth it if I actually did reap all the purported health and beauty benefits.

Day 1

Coffee Detox Day 1
Amber James/LittleThings

Hi. My name is Amber, and I’m addicted to coffee.

Before starting my coffee detox, I knew there would be symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. I just don’t think I realized how bad it would be. Headaches are the most common symptom, but there are a variety of other issues that can accompany quitting caffeine. Some of these are:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Anxiety
  3. Irritability
  4. Depressed mood
  5. Difficulty concentrating
  6. Drowsiness
  7. Brain fog
  8. Flu-like symptoms with muscle aches

At 9 a.m. on my first day of the detox I got to the office and apologized to my coworkers. I knew that my withdrawal symptoms, specifically my pounding headache, would make me cranky and irritable. Their reactions were pretty much all the same: “Are you crazy?”

Many admitted they’d never be able to kick their caffeine habits and wouldn’t want to either. They wished me luck anyway.

“Godspeed!” one coworker joked.

By 3 p.m., the afternoon slump hit. My brain was foggy, and I needed a cup of coffee so badly. I didn’t realize how much I’d miss that afternoon “pick me up.” The coffee break was also a reason to walk away from my computer for 10 minutes and leave the office for some fresh air.

I pulled through and just kept drinking water to distract myself. I was staying very hydrated (and the number of trips to the bathroom proved it!). I’ve always known that drinking water is good for you — but I don’t think I realized how little I was drinking before this detox because I was always reaching for my coffee instead.

Maybe this would ultimately be a good thing, I thought to myself.

Day 2

Day 2
Amber James/LittleThings

When I woke up on Saturday morning, it felt odd to not turn on my coffee maker. I did a quick Google search on my phone for “energy-boosting foods.” Almonds. Fresh fruit. Lemon water. I opted to make myself a fruit smoothie with almond milk.

I truly missed the taste and ritual that came with my morning coffee and weekend morning news. It was the best way to start a lazy Saturday. Plus, my head hurt. (Admittedly, I did have a couple glasses of wine with dinner, which probably didn’t help.)

The struggle was real. It was pretty difficult to get out the door for my morning workout. I personally like having a bit of caffeine beforehand because it gives me an extra energy boost.

Typically, I am ready for a 9 a.m. run, but I just felt tired. I finally made my way to the gym around 1 p.m. From the minute I stepped on the treadmill, I felt fatigued and my pace was seriously suffering. Hopefully it’d get better as the week went on.

(Spoiler alert: It didn’t!)

Day 3

Day 3
Amber James/LittleThings

I miss coffee — a lot!

Although I’m trying to replace my morning coffee with non-caffeinated herbal tea, I haven’t been able to concentrate and feel drowsy. I could have stayed in bed all day.

I forced myself out the my apartment at 11 a.m. and went for a run in the park.

Thankfully, by the end of the five-mile run, I felt more energized and ready to take on the day. I ran some errands, did laundry and made dinner.

By 9 p.m., I was in bed and passed out early.

Day 4

Day 4
Amber James/LittleThings

You know what’s worse than Monday mornings? Monday mornings without coffee.

On my way to work, I passed at least 10 coffee shops, hyper-aware that I couldn’t stop in any of them. My favorite was one with a sign out front that understood my Monday blues:”A coffee a day keeps the grumpy away.”

By 9 a.m., I was already having a serious case of the Mondays. I didn’t have a headache, but I felt tired and couldn’t concentrate. This wasn’t getting easier. I lamented with a few coworkers in the break room about how much I love the smell of coffee. It’s all I could think about.

When I got back to my desk, I turned to my coworker and asked, “Would a little sip of coffee be cheating?”

“Don’t do it!” she said.

I knew she was right. I continued to drink water and peppermint caffeine free herbal tea.

Day 5

I Quit Coffee
Amber James/LittleThings

Despite all the reports about how giving up coffee would improve sleep, it was doing the opposite for me. I woke up half a dozen times during the night and was left tossing and turning. When my alarm went off at 7 a.m., I felt absolutely exhausted. I needed coffee more than ever.

Despite how much I craved it, I resisted. (At this point, I was all in and only needed to get through a couple more days.)

By 11 a.m., I was dizzy, irritable, and unable to concentrate. Was it ever going to get better?

At 3 p.m., I enviously watched my coworkers indulge in their afternoon coffee while I sipped on water. (See how happy they all look?) Coffee really brings people together.

Day 6

Coffee Detox Green Juice
Amber James/LittleThings

Today I woke up on my own at 6 a.m. and wasn’t tired. Maybe my body was finally getting used to not having caffeine? I still wanted my morning coffee, though.

Instead, I opted for a natural energizing option: a cold pressed juice of pure greens. It was delicious and made of kale, spinach, cucumber, celery, zucchini, romaine lettuce, apple, lemon, and ginger. It almost made me forget about wanting coffee.

Key word: almost!

Day 7

Day 7
Amber James/LittleThings

This was the home stretch.

I still felt tired, though, and even writing an email seemed like a difficult task that was taking a lot of concentration to complete. Was I even writing coherent sentences? It was a rough day, but I made it through, knowing I’d get to wake up and have a coffee in the morning.

What I Took Away From My Coffee Detox

What I Took Away From My Coffee Detox
Amber James/LittleThings

I did it! I successfully ditched coffee for one week and lived to tell the tale. I woke up and made myself a cup of coffee the day after my detox was over, though. It tasted so good! I forgot how much I missed it. Not having coffee for a while makes you appreciate it more. I was alert and felt great.

While giving up coffee was a great experiment, it didn’t give me any of the positive results I was looking for. My sleep didn’t change. If anything, I was just more tired at the end of the day, so I crashed earlier than normal. Also, not having coffee made me tired and negatively impacted my workouts, too. What a bummer.

Pros: I did lose five pounds. I also have a new appreciation for water. I’m reaching for it more often now than I ever did before, and think it might attribute to the weight loss.

Some of my acne cleared up, but I think it might be from not having dairy. (I am very liberal with my half-and-half creamer when I drink coffee.) But that’s another detox for another day.

Cons: I was tired most of the week, which is not fun.

Would I do a coffee detox again? Maybe, but only for a few days. I think I’m better off having coffee in my life. I like the idea of cutting back how much coffee I consume each day, though (my regular four cups is a lot!). Going forward, I’d rather take a day off here and there to let me body detox. But long term? I didn’t see enough benefits to kick my coffee habit. It would probably take weeks or months to see any results, and I’m not willing to give up coffee at this point in my life.

The one positive takeaway is that the detox forced me to be healthier. I drank more water, made delicious smoothies, and drank a lot of green juice and tea. It made me more aware of what I was putting in my body and opened up my options (post-detox) for things I could swap coffee for in the future.

Overall, the detox also gave me a greater appreciation for coffee. And now, after seven days, I don’t need to drink as much coffee to get the same effect. That’s a positive for my body (and my wallet!).

Would you ever go on a coffee detox? If so, please SHARE this story with your fellow coffee drinkers who could join you in this challenge.