Quitting Caffeine

Caffeine, the performance enhancing drug of choice of programmers, gamers and just about everyone else in America and abroad. I used to worship the molecule just like the next coder, and why not? Code longer, focus better and hell, it’s cheaper than most party favors!
Hi, I’m Josh and up until last year, I was chemically dependent on the high energy sauce. Energy drinks, diet Dew, coffee, whatever, I’d drink it all. After I went nomad last year, I switched exclusively to coffee for my caffeination needs. Why? Because it’s easily renewable, of course! Pot’s empty? Make another! And I would, if coffee was made, I would drink it. If it ran dry, another pot was minutes away. At my worst, I was drinking a pot and a half to two pots a day.

Fast forward to late last year when I decided that enough was enough. I’m better than an addition to a bitter, white crystalline xanthine alkaloid. Not just that, I was sick of chronic insomnia. I had been chugging caffeinated beverages for my entire adult life and in my 30s I forgot if my insomnia was related to that or if I always had insomnia. That’s when I decided to drop my caffeine intake to zero, but not cold turkey, that’s just crazy talk 😉

At this point, I had already sworn off energy shots and drinks after I got my hands on a “The Hangover Recovery Shot” that (from what I can tell) had too much niacin in it. In my defense, it was free and the first one I had previously didn’t have any adverse side effects. Racing heart, light headed, luckily it passed within 20 minutes and that was the last energy drink I had. Either it was the energy drink or the chicken wings I had for lunch, honestly neither would surprise me.

When I decided to drop caffeine entirely, my first thought was to go cold turkey, but I’ve been there before. Headaches, irritability, random acts of narcolepsy and such. Last year I had picked up some multivitamins from Walgreens (their brand, because frugal) that contained caffeine, 90mg to be exact, as well as some of the herbs and spices that are typically found in energy drinks (Guarana and such). Instead of going cold turkey, I reduced my entire intake down to a single pill a day, which contained around the same amount of caffeine as a single cup of coffee. Quite the reduction.

To my surprise, I did not experience any caffeine withdrawls after switching to the multivitamin and I continued to take one a day for around 30 days or so. After I started to run low, I started to start taking an additional multivitamin every other day in place of the energy vitamin to help ween me down to no caffeine at all. Upon doing so, still no headaches or other withdrawl symptoms and my insomnia had cleared up nicely. Keep in mind, I was also making an effort to get up earlier and was working out a few days a week as well. I finished off the energy pills and continued on with the regular multivitamins for a couple of weeks or so.

Now when I picked up the non-energy multivitamins, I noticed something that made me rethink taking a multivitamin at all. Most of the multivitamins on the market are marketed (and/or formulated) towards the 50+ crowd. Nothing wrong with that, but being in my 30s I was starting to think that there was no need for me to be taking a multivitamin.

Insert 1980s montage with me researching multivitamins, a la Back to School but with young Eddie Murphy playing me

Conclusion, multivitamins are great if your diet is total shit. If not, you’re probably getting most, if not all the vitamins and minerals your body needs from the food you eat. After coming to that conclusion, I started researching foods that would provide high energy through the day. That’s when I came across the Green Monster Movement and decided to give it a spin. Honestly, I was skeptical at first but after the first day of injesting a ton of fruits and veggies for breakfast and being peppy all day, I was convinced!

The gist of the smoothie is you load up on a ton of leafy greens (kale or spinach) and you mask the flavor with fruit (banana, peaches, whatever) and then you blend the fuck out of it. The result for me was a natural energy drink and an easy way to force me to eat breakfast in the morning. I absolutely love breakfast food, but I despise eating in the morning, so my typical breakfast consisted of a half toasted piece of dry toast and a glass of water.

With the addition of the Green Monster I dropped the multivitamin from my routine entirely (I have a pretty full bottle if anyone wants to barter 😉 and haven’t looked back. By the time I started drinking a smoothie for breakfast, I’m pretty sure I had already broke my caffeine addiction. At this point, I’ll have a Jack and Coke from time to time, that’s about the extent of my caffeine intake. The best part about being off the sauce is that I’ve been able to realize that you really don’t need it. Even on days that I skip a smoothie, I’m still energetic and can get through the day (I regularly stay up past midnight) without dragging ass.

Your body, like with most abused substances, builds up a tolerance to caffeine and you end up in a vicious cycle of increasing your intake. Talking to people about how I’ve quit caffeine, the natural reaction is “WAT?! WHY?!”. You only rely on it because you’ve built up a tolerance to it, if you can ween yourself off of it, you’ll realize how unnecessary it really is.

Josh Sherman - The Man, The Myth, The Avatar

About Josh

Husband. Father. Pug dad. Musician. Founder of Holiday API, Head of Engineering and Emoji Specialist at Mailshake, and author of the best damn Lorem Ipsum Library for PHP.

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