Here’s how the first two weeks of being caffeine free are going for me…
So this is the third time I’ve tried going caffeine free – and I’m LOVING it!
As a Computer Scientist I’ve built up a severe caffeine addiction since age 18 and studying late nights, hacking away with my Linux Kernel (as you do).
Caffeine also has strange side effects. Did you realise caffeine can make you irritable… as does a lack of caffeine if you are addicted. Not a great combination!
Also by having caffeine in the early evening I found myself going to bed later and being unable to sleep, then starting early mornings not functioning particularly well. I’d forget my rail pass, or miss a piece of kit I needed for work. Not a great start to the day.
So I decided that my body knows what it’s doing and I should trust it – so going caffeine free may remove the ebb and flow of being on point just after caffeine, then comatose when not on it.
I decided to go cold turkey. Now, you may not think caffeine addiction is severe – or even a real thing – but let me tell you – it is!
For the first couple of days it was fine. I think my body was ever so slowly removing the caffeine and thinking “he’ll have some more soon… it’ll be ok… it’ll be fine…”.
Then at day four the body realised what was going on. Oh. My. Word.
I had a massive migraine on day 4. So severe I had to work from home rather than risk driving or the train/tube to the London office.
Major distraction, very low ebb that day. Had to take a nap in the early afternoon in a cold dark room with a wet flannel on my forehead. After a couple of hours though, I started to feel better.
Separate from this, from day 3-6 I was increasingly irritable and generally in a bad mood. Not great when you’ve just started a new job! So I tried to stay away from situations with people as best I could.
Day 7 though was amazing. I still had a little background headache, but hardly anything. I felt energised in the morning. I woke up 30 minutes before my alarm, when the sun got bright outside. I sprung out of bed – literally – and had myself ready for the day in a record 15 minutes.
On that seventh day I had a great day at work, had lots of internal meetings, planned lots of activities – fantastic.
Since then it’s been getting better and better. Day 9 was probably the craziest – but in a good way! It was a Saturday and I had a long list of chores. I didn’t think looking at them that I’d be able to finish them in the day.
So I jumped out of bed at 06:30 – again way before the alarm of 08:00 – and got ready for the day. Played with the dog for a few minutes – he’s gotten used to me getting up on weekends and feeding him immediately. Me being up 90 minutes early and not feeding him didn’t go down well!
I then got to my 8 tasks for the day. Drove in to town, performed a few errands, even went to the garden centre (not on my list). Got back, did a little gardening (again, not on the list), and did the rest of my chores.
All in all the now 10 tasks of the day I had completed by 14:30 in the afternoon!!! Unbelievable. I just had so much energy and concentration first thing in the morning that I found everything simple and quick.
This actually gave me a problem of what to do for the rest of the day… Luckily I had Command and Conquer Generals – Zero Hour installed on my wife’s laptop, so it was an easy decision.
Days 10-14 went well. No headache at all. I did have the urge a couple of days to nap in the early afternoon, but managed to work around this by doing a few stretching exercises and going to grab another drink of water. Relaxing and reading Harry Potter when I had a ‘low energy’ segment for 30 minutes helped reset concentration.
Day 15 was a very long day. I had an online course at work in US time zone (I’m in the UK), so agreed with my boss to vary my day hours to start later. Given the free time, I booked in a flying lesson – my first formal lesson for my Private Pilot’s License (PPL). That went great!
Got up super early (no need to… just did!), got ready and drove the the airfield. Completed 3 lessons rather than 1 as we got through so much material. Having flown a lot before helps too.
Then did my training course. Was so on point and ahead of the material that I managed to build a few demos for a course I’m creating on another topic in the slack time. As luck would have it the class finished early at 17:30 too.
Then I spent some time with my wife, and jumped on a work call with Canadian and American colleagues at 21:00 in the evening, talking about complex NoSQL database and data orchestration challenges. I still felt totally awake and contributed a lot to the discussion. So an amazing long day – 15 hours – and never felt the urge to nap.
As I’m writing this it’s day 17. I’ve been awake since 06:30 again. Done lots of reading on healthy lifestyles and detox (a potential future blog topic), then got up and ready, fed the dog obviously, had a game on the computer (or three), and wrote this. It’s now 10:03!
I should tell you – I’m no health freak. My diet consists mainly of takeaways and snacks, and I’ve not been getting as much exercise as I’d like lately (way too hot to go running recently…). Managed to get a day on the hill with my dog, Leo, yesterday to test his harness/rucksack and prepare a navigation course for a youth group though. That again went quick too, having lots of energy first thing helps!
Losing caffeine has been great. Crappy side effects for the first week, then they eased in the second week, but well worth it.
There are some side benefits too… although I’m not sure everyone would agree!
Firstly, as most fizzy drinks have caffeine in, I’ve massively dropped my intake of sugar. Probably a very good thing as my grandad had type 2 diabetes, so the more of this I avoid the better.
I’ve also dropped my chocolate intake – as unbelievably this too has caffeine in it. So no Ben & Jerry’s, no Cadbury’s, no cookies – again less fat and sugar in the diet. I do realise some people cannot live without chocolate – so maybe try and have a small couple of pieces every other day.
I do occasionally still have fizzy drinks. I’ll have a Fanta Orange or Tango Orange every 2-3 days just to remove the monotony of water. I have found the Robinson’s Lemon & Lime “Squash’d” super concentrated, low calorie, drink additive to be very useful (shown above). You can also carry this to work easily. This helps with water boredom. Apparently Lemon helps the body cleanse itself too, so an added bonus there.
Thankfully I’ve never liked hot drinks like Tea or Coffee, and only had the very occasional hot chocolate. So not having to give those up made it easier for me. I know some people who cannot function for the first three hours of the day until they get an espresso in the office!
I’ve also noticed my palette has changed. I tried a sip of a Coke my wife had the other night and nearly threw up! The taste was repulsive! Similar sensation to drinking watered down engine oil… Not that I do that often. Not appealing at all – and I used to live on Coca-Cola.
I also don’t need much flavouring in water anymore. Before if I used just a little juice in a drink it would be too bland. Now it’s not a problem.
I highly recommend going caffeine free to anyone. I personally think the only way to ensure you complete it is to not try and ration yourself. I tried that the first two times, and I ended up consuming the same amount as ever after the first week.
I’d recommend going cold turkey from Wednesday morning. That way you can have the headaches and irritability on your own at home! Just lock yourself away, Trainspotting cold turkey style, and get over days 4-5 in your room. They’re the worst. If you can make it to the end of week one, try a sip of coke and marvel at how bad it tastes, and how you don’t crave it anymore.
I’ll let you know how it goes. If you try and do this too, then good luck! Let me know how you find it!