Updated: Apr 26
You know that groggy feeling you have, first thing in the morning, when you wake up? You try to drag yourself out of bed after you've hit the snooze button two (ok, three) times and you still can't seem to find the energy to start the day.
After rolling out of bed, you stumble into the kitchen and start brewing your wake-up fix: coffee, the liquid gold that our modern society runs on. After a cup or two, you feel much better. Now you're ready to start the day.
Coffee is one of the most enjoyed beverages worldwide with people in the United States drinking about 400 million cups a day! That's a lot of caffeine. But caffeine isn't only found in coffee. It's also found in about 60 plant species known to science like cocoa beans, kola nuts, and tea leaves.
While caffeine is the most common (and well known) compound in coffee, it certainly isn't the only one. Coffee contains more than 800 compounds like cholorogenic acid, a polyphenol which influences the taste of coffee, and kahweol, a diterpene.
While coffee has some pretty awesome benefits like increasing cognition and alertness, protecting against certain cancers like colorectal cancer, and lowering risk of diabetes, there have been some risks involved with coffee consumption, namely increased total and LDL cholesterol and increased liver enzymes.
Some people even report having coffee/caffeine induced anxiety and heart palpitations which can be due to the difference in metabolization of coffee and its derivatives based on individual genetics .
Personally, I have experienced an increase in anxiety, blood pressure, and headaches when consuming too much caffeine.
While there may be slight risks involved with caffeine consumption, overall there are more benefits especially if you limit your caffeine intake to 400mg/day (about 4 cups) and less than 200mg/day in pregnancy. Interestingly, the benefits seen with coffee seem to be due to the chemical compound of coffee itself and not just the caffeine because similar benefits were seen in individuals who drank decaffeinated coffee [4,5,6]. (Just in case, you don't want to give up that dark roasted goodness for ever).
So while drinking coffee isn't bad for you and can actually be downright healthy for you, maybe you've reached a point in your health journey where you feel that you want to cut back on it. Perhaps you're tired of needing coffee just to function or maybe you've gotten the dreaded caffeine withdrawal headaches and you've had enough.
Whatever the reason you're deciding to cut back or eliminate your morning cup of joe, if you've been struggling to get out of bed without coffee, then try these five easy tips to get the day started: no caffeine required.
When it comes to improving fatigue, look no further than HIIT. High intensity interval training is enjoying a bit of the spotlight these days and for good reason. It has been found to have some pretty great benefits like improving fatigue and burning fat . Studies have shown that HIIT causes your body to release a steroid hormone called cortisol.
Cortisol is released by your adrenal glands (that sit on top of your kidneys) and into your blood stream in a diurnal or daily fashion. It peaks in the early morning about 30 minutes after waking and reaches it's low at around 3AM when you should be sound asleep. Cortisol is an essential hormone and it has many different functions in the body from reducing blood sugar levels to decreasing inflammation, but it also helps to wake and arouse the body.
Caffeine increases the body's release of cortisol but the amount of cortisol released reduces with daily caffeine consumption . This means that your initial cup of coffee gave you a huge cortisol jolt but now that you're enjoying a daily cup (or two, or five), your body isn't responding with as much cortisol release as it once did.
Further more, your body is probably in a state of elevated or unregulated cortisol in which your body is producing too much cortisol at the improper times.
While the caffeine cortisol boost may drop over time, HIIT has been shown to modify cortisol and testosterone production well into the next morning, especially if you add in resistance training . What's even more interesting with HIIT, it was found to regulate cortisol levels when implemented over a week's time, lowering high cortisol levels in women with BMI (body mass index) of over 43, which would classify them as obese.
Regulating your cortisol production through HIIT, helps your body to produce the proper amount of cortisol at the proper time. This helps you to wake you up and give you an energy boost without the use of caffeine.
A good HIIT routine for beginners includes: working out 2-3 times a week, starting slow (20 seconds of intense activity and 40 seconds of rest) for 5-7 minutes a day for the first week and then building your interval time from there.
Your goal should be to get to 15 minutes of HIIT (rest and activity time included) within 3-4 weeks time.
Go To Sleep
Going to sleep earlier gives rise to a whole new world of health benefits. Most of us don't get enough sleep as it is and when we extend ourselves by trying to do more it just depletes our sleep banks even further.
The average person needs between 7.5 to 8 hours of sleep. Is staying up late to catch the late late LATE show really worth the side effects of sleep deprivation?
Sleep deprivation decreases cognitive performance: memory, focus, clarity, and creativity, increases reaction time, and effects mood .
The lack of sleep almost forces you to reach for that cup of coffee in the morning because how else will you function? Chronic partial sleep deprivation, a condition in which your body doesn't get the amount of sleep it needs over a long period of time, leads to multiple health problems like high blood pressure and obesity .
But how will going to sleep help you kick the caffeine habit?
Simple. When your body has had enough sleep to rest and restore itself, you wake up naturally feeling refreshed and ready to start the day. There's no need for an energy boost when you've woken up feeling rested, relaxed, and ready to start your day.
For you to get the benefits of sleep, you have to, well, actually sleep. Many people go to bed and even after they've turned off the tv, are scrolling through social media or looking at something (no doubt pressing) on their phones.
Exposing your tired, ready-for-bed eyes to the blue light of computer/phone screens and monitors reduces the amount of melatonin that your body creates.
Melatonin is a hormone that helps the body to sleep. It is produced by the pineal gland deep in the brain and it responds to light. Shutting off, or at the very least filtering out, blue light from your electronic devices can go a long way in helping you get the sleep you need to wake up ready for the day and caffeine free.
Stress takes a lot out of you, even if you are barely conscious of it. Stress is not only a psychological phenomena, its also a physiological one. When you are experiencing a stressor, your body releases hormones like epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol.
Epinephrine is our fight or flight hormone that gives you the feeling of anxiety, sweating, faster heart beat and quicker breathing. It's purpose is to prepare us for an incoming danger or threat. While this may be a good thing when you're running from a bear, it's not when you are trying to start your day or get some sleep.
Too much epinephrine release over a long period of time can cause a whole host of health problems like headaches, weight gain, and even mood disorders. Too much epinephrine release has even been associated with cognitive decline in older men .
But epinephrine isn't the only hormone released during stressful periods. Enter our old friend cortisol.
Too much cortisol release at the improper time tends to disrupt sleep. For example, if your body starts releasing cortisol around 3 AM when it's supposed to be at its lowest, then you'll find yourself waking without knowing why.
Obviously, this would lead to a bad night's sleep and the need to consume caffeine just to start the day.
Furthermore, this leads to a vicious cycle because sleep loss leads to increased cortisol levels into the next evening , causing you to have a hard time sleeping once again.
And all of this happens because of improper or nonexistent stress management techniques. Sometimes I feel that schools should have a mandatory class on how to deal with stress because it so pervasive in our society and no one really underscores the importance of dealing with it in a healthy manner.
So since we agree that stress reduction is essential in getting rid of your morning caffeine fix, here's two stress reduction strategies that I always recommend. I recommend them because they are easy to do and require little effort on your part.
To reduce stress try 4-7-8 breathing. Breathe in for 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and breathe out for 8 seconds. This technique helps you feel more centered and switches your body from the fight or flight stage into a more relaxed, centered, and calm place.
The second technique I recommend is what I call "Gray Rock". This technique is very helpful for those who deal with negative, toxic, or life draining people on a regular basis. The gray rock technique involves you mentally sending back any and all negativity right back at the person who is dishing it out to you.
For example, if you're on a call with a particularly challenging or rude client, mentally send back their insults or rudeness to them. Say: "this doesn't affect me. This is not a reflection of me. It is a reflection of you and I am sending it back to you." You can even physically hold up both hands, palm facing away from you, and push out as if pushing back their negativity to them.
This technique helps reduce stress by not taking on other's negativity mentally (spiritually/emotionally) and reminding you that you have the power to choose what you will accept into your life.
Reduce sugar intake
You knew that no post of mine would be complete without addressing one of the biggest culprits when it comes to reducing caffeine intake, sugar.
Sugar, especially the processed kind, has been getting a bad rap these days and not without reason.
Recent studies have made claims that added sugar can be more addictive than powerful street drugs like cocaine . Why? Because excess sugar (sucrose or table sugar) consumption leads to a release of dopamine, a "feel good" neurotransmitter released in the brain .
This dopamine release causes you to seek out sugar and consume it more often to get that good feeling once more. So how does this relate to caffeine intake?
When you consume a meal, your body releases insulin which helps your body use the broken down sugars for immediate energy or to store it in your cells for later use. Eating large amounts of sugar over a long time leads to an increased insulin response which can be over-exaggerated by the body.
Essentially your body, expecting a lot of sugar, releases too much insulin which causes your blood sugar to get too low. This leads to a whole host of symptoms like headaches, nausea, anxiety, and drowsiness.
What do you do when you're feeling drowsy? Reach for a cup of coffee of course!
Reducing your sugar intake prevents the excessive release of insulin and prevents any after meal sleepiness.
To reduce your sugar intake, make sure all of your meals have protein, whole grain carbohydrates, and good fats. If you find you're in a need of a snack, choose protein snacks with good fat, (think a boiled egg and cheese stick or turkey jerky with guacamole), when you're feeling hungry. Not only will these snacks prevent the after meal low but they will fill you up and keep you from reaching for that cup of joe!
While getting rid of the caffeine fix may be challenging, trying these 4 easy tips can help you kick the habit for good!