4 Steps to Break your Coffee Addiction

Are you addicted?

Coffee fiend

Coffee, which was once an occasional indulgence for only the most privileged in society, has become today’s most socially acceptable and encouraged drug.  Yes, a DRUG, since it is a stimulant that many people are dependent on to regulate energy levels.  I find that most patients are using coffee so frequently (ie: daily) that they don’t even know what they feel like without it anymore!

Have you ever noticed how many people are addicted to coffee?  In fact, you are probably one of them!  According to the 2013 Canadian Coffee Drinking Study, 65% of Canadians drank coffee in the last day (up from 62% in 2009).  

Amount of coffee drunk per day is also up to 3.2 cups per day compared to 2.8 cups per day in 2010.  I hope they are using an actual cup measure, because what is called a “cup” of coffee these days is actually about 2 cups (for a 16 ounce Starbucks Grande) or larger!

The first step is admitting you have a problem…

The first step in the Alcoholics Anonymous famous 12 Steps is “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.”  Now, your life may not have become “unmanageable” due to your coffee addiction, but could it be possible that you have become powerless?

One true sign of addiction is that you MUST have that substance to function, and coffee definitely fits that bill more than most substances!

This article is not intended to force you to stop drinking coffee entirely, but rather to help you regain your power over this substance and get back in touch with your body and energy level as a result.  This will then allow you to use coffee responsibly and actually derive MORE pleasure from the coffee you do consume.

How Do I Do It?

Giant coffee cupStep 1: Calculate your caffeine

First, figure out how much caffeine you are actually drinking per day.  Add up the volume of coffee you are drinking per day in fluid ounces or cups and multiply this by the amount of caffeine per cup.

For example:  so if you are drinking 2 Tim Horton’s medium cups of coffee (14 ounces each) per day, that is 28 ounces per day, or 3.5 cups.  A typical 1 cup (8 ounce) serving of brewed coffee has 108mg of caffeine, so in this example, you are drinking 378mg of caffeine per day.

If you are drinking other types of coffee or caffeinated beverages, you can check out the caffeine content at Caffeine Informer.

For some extra fun, find out how much of your favourite drink it would take to kill you with caffeine with the Death by Caffeine calculator on the Caffeine Informer site!

Step 2: Find a substitute you enjoy

The best way to change a habit or eliminate something is to replace it with something comparable and to do this slowly.  So, simply replace coffee with a substitute that you enjoy.  If you drink a lot of coffee (more than 1-2 eight ounce cups per day), include a coffee substitute with some caffeine to minimize withdrawal symptoms.

See the list below and try a few different ideas to find out what you like – you may be surprised!  Also consider buying yourself a nice mug to use for your coffee substitute.

Yerba Mate tea:

  • Smoky, roasted flavour
  • 85mg caffeine per 8 ounce serving

MatchaMatcha green tea:

  • Powdered green tea
  • Fresh, green flavour
  • High in beneficial antioxidants
  • Same health benefits as green tea, but with more stimulant power!
  • 70mg caffeine per teaspoon used

Black tea:

  • Popular flavour with many variations
  • Contains antioxidants (although less than oolong, green, and white teas)
  • 42mg of caffeine per 8 ounce serving

Green, white, oolong tea:

  • Many variations of taste and flavours available
  • High in beneficial antioxidants
  • Many, many, many potential health benefits including prevention of heart disease, cancer, aging, and more
  • 25-37mg caffeine per 8 ounce serving

Kukicha or twig tea:

  • Dark, rich flavour often enjoyed by coffee lovers
  • High in beneficial antioxidants
  • 25mg caffeine per 8 ounce serving

Herbal coffee substitutes:

  • Brands: Bambu, Teeccino, Dandy blend, or others
  • Taste similar to coffee
  • Support liver detoxification
  • Caffeine-free

Herbal teas:

  • A couple of suggestions: licorice root tea, ginseng tea
  • Invigorating and uplifting
  • Light, sweet, herbal taste
  • Caffeine-free

Step 3: Replace at your pace

While you may want to quit coffee all at once, you are more likely to be successful if you taper down your consumption gradually.  An easy way to do this is to slowly mix your coffee with gradually increasing amounts of a coffee alternative, continuing to drink the same number of cups (use a scoop or tablespoon to measure):

Here is a 2 week schedule to taper down, but you can do this faster or slower if you want:

  • Day 1-3: 3/4 regular coffee, 1/4 coffee substitute
  • Day 4-6: 2/3 regular coffee, 1/3 coffee substitute
  • Day 7-9: 1/2 regular coffee, 1/2 coffee substitute
  • Day 10-12: 1/4 regular coffee, 3/4 coffee substitute
  • Day 13-14: taper to zero coffee

Step 4: Dealing with withdrawal

It is normal to experience some withdrawal symptoms initially, such as headaches, anxiety, fatigue, cravings, and even body aches. These will usually resolve within 3-5 days and you can minimize these effects by:

  • Drinking lots of water to ensure adequate hydration
  • Getting enough quality sleep (so go to bed a bit earlier during this time!)
  • Exercising regularly, which helps your liver detoxify substances like caffeine
  • Doing some simple breathing exercises, like deep breathing
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