6 Ways to Break Your Caffeine Addiction (and Why You Should)

Jan 31 2017 - 10:30am

When your very first thought after your alarm goes off is "I need coffee five minutes ago," you probably already know you're on the verge of a pretty serious addiction to caffeine [1]. There are definitely benefits to sipping one cup a day [2] — it improves memory, it keeps you regular, and the antioxidants can help fight disease — but if your one cup is more like a 24-ounce Big Gulp, that much caffeine can cause some harm.

Just how much caffeine is too much? The limit for the average person is 300 to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day [3]. The average eight-ounce cup of coffee has almost 100 milligrams, but if you go for a 16-ounce Starbucks Grande, you're looking at 330 milligrams. A 12-ounce can of cola offers 35 milligrams of caffeine [4], Mountain Dew has 55 milligrams, and Red Bull and Rockstar each have about 80 milligrams.

Why is too much caffeine bad? Aside from caffeine jitters, if you consume more than 500 milligrams every day, it can induce anxiety, insomnia, and muscle tremors and can even lead to increased heart rate and blood pressure, headaches, or digestion issues.

Caffeine, like any drug, will cause unbearable withdrawal symptoms such as intense cravings, headaches, irritability, depression, and anxiety [5]. Here are six ways to make cutting down or giving up caffeine a little less painful.

Slowly Cut Back

You definitely don't need to go cold turkey, and you don't need to give it up completely. To avoid unpleasant side effects like headaches, over the course of a week, slowly wean yourself down to 12 ounces. Then you can begin to add in decaf coffee, if you choose, or just keep decreasing until you're off coffee completely. If caffeinated soda is more your thing, follow the same plan by slowly decreasing the amount of cola you consume, but don't replace it with caffeine-free soda [8]! Go for herbal tea, seltzer, or water. It'll be a major change, but after a couple weeks, you'll be craving plain water.

Find an Alternative

Sometimes it's just the act of cupping your hands around a warm mug and sipping on something deliciously warm. Instead of your usual latte, reach for decaf coffee or a savory sweet chai tea to quench that morning habit — green tea has only 30 milligrams of caffeine [9].

Load Up on Veggies

According to Annemarie Colbin, PhD, founder of the Natural Gourmet Institute [10] and prominent author and lecturer on natural health and holistic medicine, diminishing caffeine cravings could be as easy as eating more vegetables and salads [11].

Eat Less Meat

Annemarie also says that caffeine cravings can be stronger when you eat meat [12], sugar, flour, grain, and salt, so as hard as it may be, try to avoid these foods. Here are some ways to go meatless [13].


If you drink coffee in the morning for an energy boost, exercise works just as well if not better because it offers sustained energy. Working out releases endorphins, strengthens your immune system, and helps you sleep better at night, all of which contribute to more energy the next day. Get into a regular workout routine where you do at least 15 minutes a day [14], and you're sure to notice a difference in your energy levels.

Chug Some H20

Dehydration can often be a source of fatigue, which is why people reach for a cup of joe. So grab a glass of water when you're craving caffeine [15], or better yet, drink water all day to stay hydrated and prevent feeling sluggish and foggy-headed.

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