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3 Painless Ways to Cut Down on Caffeine

Does caffeine bring you up only to make you jittery or crash? Try these methods to cut down without ...

I don’t have a problem with caffeine. As I write this, a steaming cup of yerba mate sits next to my keyboard. But like many people, I have had caffeine issues in the past.

While I came late to the coffee drinking lifestyle -- I didn’t start until my late twenties -- I remember needing another 4 o’clock cup once my morning dose wore off. Too much and I couldn’t sleep at night, woke up extra early, and experienced that midday crash. That’s when I knew I had to find a balance that works for me and changed my relationship to caffeine. Now I have what I consider to be a much healthier habit.

For some, cutting caffeine out entirely seems like the only course of action; others can tolerate some each day. Everyone has a different amount they can handle. I’ve seen 200 daily milligrams listed as an important benchmark, though on a recent radio show I heard somebody say 600 mg is the upper limit. (I think that number is way too high.) There’s one simple rule of thumb: If you find that you cannot survive without a certain amount of caffeine, you have an addiction. All addictions have various health and psychological issues that go along with them. Here are a few ways of dealing with caffeine if you fall into this category, and are looking to cut back without cutting it out.

Take Time Off
Recently I completed a seven-day juice fast during which I did not drink any caffeine. I didn’t miss it one bit, although that was mostly because I was too busy trying not to think about food! Just as taking a day off eating food is a positive reset for your digestive system, a day (or more) off caffeine can only help your nervous system. It’s also a great way of finding out how much the substance has control over your brain chemistry. You really begin to see whether you rely on something that isn’t actually necessary to get through a day, which can be enlightening. Perhaps just like Meatless Mondays, you can begin by taking one day a week off to see how it goes. I do suggest trying to make it for a whole week, though. Not only will you feel great, you’ll also be amazed at how wonderful that first cup tastes after your time off.

Lower Your Dose

Going cold turkey is not for everyone. When some people chose that route, they inevitably return to their habit. Instead, just lower your dose, which is a safe and effective way of cutting down both physically and mentally. Instead of drinking three cups a day, try two or even one. The most coffee I ever drank was two cups a day, which is light in comparison to many. As someone who suffers from anxiety disorder, however, even one cup can set me off on particular days. So I limit my daily dose to under 100 mg a day, often less. That means I drink one caffeinated beverage a day -- either one espresso, a cup of green tea, or a cup of yerba maté. Those are my only three sources of caffeine (although I do eat chocolate on occasion), and I make sure to never have more than that. Since switching to this regimen, I rarely have caffeine-related sleep issues, and my energy levels maintain throughout the day.

Try a Tasty Alternative
There are great coffee-like beverages that can at the very least give you a sensation of drinking it without the effects, and I’m not talking about decaf. Here are my favorites.

Teecino: It’s my go-to. I don’t drink it because I want to replace coffee -- it simply tastes amazing. My favorite is the Maya Chai herbal coffee, which is a simple blend of carob, barley, chicory root and ramon seeds. I usually advise watching out for any unnamed “natural flavors” in beverages, but Teecino offers some very simple blends that are transparent.

Kukicha: A staple of Asian restaurants, Kukicha is made from the stems and stalks of green tea. Be sure to choose a variety that is caffeine-free. Kukicha offers a very hearty, earthy flavor that is delicious. Personally I do not use sweetener in any tea I drink, though a splash of honey does cut through the bitterness, if you are unaccustomed to this tea.

Yogi Tea’s Tahitian Vanilla Hazelnut: A wonderful caffeine-free tea that has the depth and complexity of really good coffee. With its Ayurvedic spice blend of cinnamon, ginger, clove and cardamom, you might not get much kick from this refreshing beverage, but you’ll get plenty of taste and warm feelings.

Guayaki Yerba Mate: A delicious organic alternative to coffee. This Amazonian beverage is the national drink of Brazil and is harvested widely in Argentina and Paraguay as well. It sometimes takes a little time for Americans to become accustomed to the earthy, hearty taste, but once you do, you’ll start craving it. It’s not completely caffeine-free, but it has less caffeine than coffee.

Cheers!

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Photo: Corbis Images

 

 


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