Cutting Back on Caffeine? Here Are 3 Tips to Make It Less Painful

Even if you're a die-hard coffee lover, there are a few simple ways to wean off caffeine, including trying a java-free alternative.
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There's nothing like the thought of a warm, steaming cup of coffee in the morning to get you out of bed. And for many of us, other caffeine sources — tea, energy drinks, soda — often help us get through the rest of the day, too.

A moderate amount of caffeine each day can have some positive effects, like stimulating your muscles (hello, workout boost) and perking up your brain.

But drinking too much caffeine could leave you jittery and lightheaded, and it can lead to supraventricular tachycardia, the medical term for an accelerated heart rate. And though very rare, there have even been a few instances in which someone has died from a caffeine overdose.

That's why the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) recommends limiting your caffeine intake to 400 milligrams per day, which is around 4 or 5 cups of coffee (note: that's cups, not mugs).

If you drink any more than that and are looking to cut back, you might find that it's not so easy.

Since caffeine is a psychoactive drug, caffeine withdrawal can be intense:

Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms

  • Headaches
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Insomnia
  • Fatigue
  • Increased hunger
  • Decreased bowel activity

Cutting back can be a challenge, to say the least. Fortunately, though, there are ways to make it easier. Read on for some expert tips on how to safely wean yourself from caffeine.

1. Take It Slow

"Gradually cutting back on caffeine will ensure that you body doesn't get an initial shock and can get gradually accustomed to lower levels of caffeine," dietitian Bansari Acharya, RD, tells LIVESTRONG.com.

To start, take your total caffeine content and divide it in half. "When do you appreciate your caffeine the most? Leave that one in and then decrease or remove those thereafter," suggests Amy Shapiro, RD.

So, if you drink four cups of coffee every day, for example, try to cut back to two for the first week.

Tip

Try not to have your last cup of coffee anytime after 4 p.m., as it can affect your ability to fall asleep later.

In addition to reducing the amount of times you drink a caffeinated beverage, Acharya recommends reducing your serving sizes as well.

"If you are used to drinking an 8-ounce cup of coffee twice a day, change it up to 6 ounces twice a day for a week and then slowly reduce it down by 2 ounces each serving," she says. "Do this process gradually over the course of the week."

2. Try an Alternative

If you simply love the taste of coffee, you can easily switch to decaf and still enjoy it as part of your daily routine. Just keep in mind that decaf still contains between 2 and 15 milligrams of caffeine per cup, according to the FDA (as opposed to 80 to 100 milligrams in a cup of regular joe).

But if what you're after is the stimulating effects of caffeine, there are plenty of alternatives that include a more limited amount of the substance.

The average amount of caffeine in a cup of brewed green tea, for example, is 28 milligrams, according to the Mayo Clinic. But there are also some other, even more inventive options.

"There are so many drinks available these days that provide energy in a more even way than caffeine," Shapiro says. "Look for a variety that suits your flavor profile and substitute it in when you would usually drink caffeine. Matcha provides a more subtle dose of caffeine, and Mud Water is another brand that uses adaptogens to provide energy without excessive anxiety."

If you just don't tolerate caffeine well or need to cut it out for other health reasons, try a caffeine-free, coffee-like alternative like dandelion root, suggests Acharya. Teeccino's Dandelion Dark Roast has the same rich flavor and is brewed the same way as java.

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3. Look for Other Ways to Increase Your Energy

While they may require a little more effort, there are plenty of natural ways to get the stimulating effects of a can of soda or a cup of joe. Exercising and meditating, for example, are known to enhance energy and focus, and they carry many other positive benefits as well.

"Go for a long walk, start or end your day with a 10-minute meditation or go for a run with a friend," Shapiro suggests. "All of these activities provide energy to the body in ways that do not rely on caffeine and, with a little practice, you can incorporate them into your daily routine."

Finally, never underestimate the power of a good night's sleep!

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If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker before leaving the house.
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