On day 3 I broke out in a cold sweat. On day 5 I tried lifting but even doing one bodyweight squat had me panting. My entire body ached. It felt like the flu without vomiting. On day 7 I woke up ready to kick ass as usual. Finally. Caffeine withdrawal is no joke.
Now why would anyone quit drinking coffee when there are manifold health and performance benefits to caffeine? Plus, if you use a Chemex and the right beans, coffee tastes divine. (Yes, black coffee. If black coffee doesn’t taste full and rich to you, use a Chemex or Aeropress and FRESH beans from Blue Bottle coffee.)
I quit caffeine cold turkey rather than tapering off because some symptoms of burnout were showing. I know my body well and have pushed it to the breaking point several times. Once I have to keep amping up the caffeine to feel “normal,” something is going to give.
I would drink a Monster energy drink (250 mg caffeine) first thing in the morning. Then drink some coffee for the antioxidant boost. Then either another Monster in the afternoon or that new “Bang” drink, which has 300 milligrams of caffeine per can. On any given day I’d be taking in 750 mg to one gram of caffeine a day. (Starbucks drip coffee has 180mg for a short, and 410 for a venti.)
Yes, coffee is a drug, and a powerful one.
Drug is a loaded term. Good drugs are called medicine. People don’t like to think of caffeine as a drug, but science doesn’t care how you feel.
Caffeine is a competitive adenosine receptor antagonist, thus blocking endogenous adenosine, thus preventing the onset of drowsiness, caused by adenosine. Individuals who regularly consume caffeine have increased the number of adenosine receptors in their central nervous system (CNS) and become more sensitive to normal physiologic effects of adenosine. In classical drugs of abuse, such as amphetamines and cocaine, adenosine stimulates dopaminergic activity in nucleus accumbens, thus producing dopamine-like effects in that part of the brain, which accounts for its addictive potential. However, caffeine does not induce a release of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens but leads to a release of dopamine in the prefrontal cortex, which is consistent with caffeine reinforcing properties. Caffeine also stimulates glucose utilization in a caudate nucleus, which mediates motor activity and regulates the sleep-wake cycle.
Coffee is a healthy drug, and in fact many studies show that drinking coffee can extend lifespan and militate against dementia and Parkinson’s:
Most cases of Parkinson disease (PD) over age 50 are sporadic, and twin studies strongly suggest a predominance of environmental over genetic etiologies.1 However, few factors have been found consistently in epidemiologic studies to have major effects, protective in all cases: smoking, urate,2 and caffeine consumption.3 The protective effect of caffeine (found not only in coffee, but also in tea, and some sodas) has been demonstrated in large prospectively followed populations of men, with a dramatic reduction in risk (up to fivefold for persons who drank more than 4 cups of coffee a day). Decaffeinated coffee afforded no protection, pointing to caffeine rather than other substances in coffee or tea as the underlying pharmacologic agent
Caffeine also boosts athletic performance and helps you use stored fat for energy when in a fasted state:
Caffeine as a lipolytic food component increases endurance performance in rats and athletes.
Caffeine is one of the famous ergogenic aids in the athletic field. Caffeine has been known to stimulate lipolysis that spares stored glycogen utilization during moderate intensity exercise
If you want to protect against Alzheimer’s, caffeine the f-ck up:
In the CAIDE study, coffee drinking of 3-5 cups per day at midlife was associated with a decreased risk of dementia/AD by about 65% at late-life. In conclusion, coffee drinking may be associated with a decreased risk of dementia/AD. This may be mediated by caffeine and/or other mechanisms like antioxidant capacity and increased insulin sensitivity. This finding might open possibilities for prevention or postponing the onset of dementia/AD.
Caffeine is amazing.
An amazing drug.
(Pictured below: The two most commonly consumed drugs in America. One drug has health benefits.
The other, sugar, will kill you.)
How severe is caffeine withdrawal?
So severe that caffeine withdrawal is considered a medial condition.
According to science, “Multiple studies have demonstrated that caffeine withdrawal syndrome is a clinically relevant entity, and is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (5th ed.; DSM–5; American Psychiatric Association, 2013).”
Do you know how your legs feel after leg day? You’re stumbling around. You’re sore. It hurts.
My body felt worse than after a full body leg day style workout. There was a deep ache, and apparently this is common.
Withdrawal from caffeine causes mild to clinically significant distress and impairment of normal functioning. The severity of symptoms vary from individual to individual, and most commonly include a headache, fatigue, decreased energy/activeness, decreased alertness, drowsiness, decreased contentedness, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and feeling foggy/not clearheaded.
I felt all of the above, especially on days 1-2. Some people also have constipation, that’s not an issue as I supplement with magnesium.
- Magnesium is the most important supplement that everyone should be taking.
Yes, the headache has been a non-stop pulsating on the sides of my head. These have lasted every day for a few days, although the severity has decreased significantly.
How long does caffeine withdrawal last?
Depending on how much coffee you drink, withdrawal can last anywhere from 48 hours to two weeks.
The last time I went more than 72 hours without caffeine was in 2011.
It took me two weeks to withdrawal fully.
Quit caffeine cold turkey or taper off?
Most people taper off of coffee rather than quit cold turkey, as the caffeine withdrawal symptoms are milder. If you drink 3 cups of coffee a day, lower your intake to 2.5 cups for one week. Then drop a half cup each week until you’re off. You won’t feel hardly any withdrawal symptoms if you taper slowly.
Cold turkey is for people who must get some rest and mellow out.
How tired are you if you quit coffee cold turkey?
I slept for 16 hours for the first 3 days due to physical exhaustion. My entire body felt like it was lead. Walking into the next room left me winded.
Why quit cold turkey?
I had been pushing my body and mind too hard for too long, and quitting coffee cold turkey forced me to relax for a few days. The best benefit of stopping suddenly is you must get some rest. Your body won’t give you a choice.
Invariably people will say, “Why would you quit drinking coffee? It’s so great!”
Those are called people who don’t read, because I explained my reasons for dropping coffee.
And of course I’ll start drinking coffee again. That mushroom coffee stuff is good.
Alternatives to drinking coffee.
I was no caffeine at all, from any sources, and this included green and black tea, although you can enjoy “herbal” tea.
Detox herbal tea (caffeine free)
- 3 bags of Biodynamic Tumeric Cinnamon
- 5 drops stevia
- Put stevia drops in bottle of a coffee mug.
- Boil water in a kettle. Add stevia. Add the bags.
- Drink, enjoy.
I also enjoy cans of Zevia, a refreshing drink made from the plant stevia. Check the bottom of the cans to make sure it’s labeled caffeine. Cream Soda is my favorite flavor.
Caffeine Withdrawal by day.
Day 1 – Complete fatigue, could barely get out of bed. Chronic headaches, although nothing severe as a migrane. Slept 16 hours.
Day 2 – Fatigue, trouble doing day-to-day tasks, extreme irritability. Continued headaches. Slept 16 hours.
Day 3 – Broke out in a sweat, still tired, still had a headache, vision blurred for a minute.
Day 4 – More of the same, except not as sleepy. Back to a normal sleep schedule.
Day 5 – Went to gym but “phoned in” the workout as I was weak weak weak.
Day 6 – Starting to feel normal except the extreme body aches persisted. Still a mild headache.
Day 7 – Today. Woke up with the usual HYPE I feel for life. Headache is persisting.
I’ll be back on coffee soon, because it’s healthy and makes you feel good.
For me, quitting caffeine cold turkey was about self-management and self-care.
If you’re feeling burned out, consider cutting down the caffeine for a forced “vacation.”
Or taper it down.
Or don’t do anything at all.
It’s your life, after all!
And if you want to get HYPED, try Gorilla Mind Rush and Smooth.
coffee man says
Lol okay drama queen.
Yup, headaches and a bit of tiredness. 16 hours of sleep wtf
Sergio Vazquez says
Yes. I quit caffeine 10 years ago when I realized I was addicted to it and getting withdrawal headaches every weekend because I wasn’t drinking enough coffee then. When I quit, I experienced withdrawal headaches for 2 weeks straight. And you can’t just quit coffee; you have to quit caffeinated drinks in general like Pepsi and Coke, otherwise your body will remain addicted to the caffeine and you’ll get withdrawal headaches if you don’t drink enough Pepsi or Coke.
What benefits did you experience from quitting?
Here is why I dont take caffeine anymore.
It can cause inflammation and eczema. Ive had horrible rashes and inflammation for years and couldnt figure it out until I dropped caffeine.
It messes up your cortisol and adrenaline levels.
It messes up your normal sleep pattern.
how long no caffeine James?
It does not pay well to be a weakling !
I’ll keep up with the moderate caffeine.
2-3 cups per day. Black coffee. It’s great!
The last time I tried to quit coffee I had extreme migraine like headaches and threw up.
Possibly some withdrawal symptoms were from the sugar as well:
One can of Monster Energy Drink contains 54 grams of sugar, or more than 13 teaspoons.
kratom anyone? sounds like a decent replacement for caffeine withdrawals, mild energy, no caffeine and in the same family as coffee. plus itd help the soreness from caffeine withdrawal. There’s too much propaganda on it just BC it tickles your opioid receptors despite antagonizing it the higher dose you take thus cancelling out effects making it pretty self regulating and impossible to harm yourself with. but its great for various aliments from pain, to inflammation and diabetes to a cough/cold. id say there’s no more risk taking that than coffee so alternating between both would reduce susceptibility to being addicted to either no matter how mild it would be. just stick to low doses, the worst thing that could happen is taking too much at once and feeling nausea or an upset stomache but like I said taking too much cancels out the effects anyway. plus its an incredibly safe alternative to alcohol consumption. another drug that’s too socially accepted and alot worse than you’d think. the only safe dose of alcohol is one glass of wine a year. “how about your tanins and antioxidants?” there’s healthier ways to get them in your system than wine. take green tea or matcha for example. Whites and greens will give u better energy than coffee yet reds will give you more relaxation and a clearer head than poisonous alcohol.
Ive taken plenty of kratom. It gives me so much optimism and self motivation to get work done. Its so underrated. It can make a shitty day flip around to a more positive one.
I quit coffee for 1.5 months and did not feel the same ever as when I drank coffee. I remained in this brain-foggy, lethargic state. I believe my body was in an extended period of withdrawal.
I’ve heard it takes 1-3 months for the caffeine to fully leave your system and influence your body to use it’s stores of natural energy.
Any truth to this?
Me ordering at Starbucks ” Hi, I have had zero caffeine and not one drop of coffee for nine years. Now I am going to have a cup and start again.”
Starbucks guy. ” ( looks at me like I had just asked him to stab himself to death )
” What ‘s your order, please.”
Good article, Mike. Similar experience.
What you’re describing was my exact same reaction to finally quitting adderall cold turkey several years ago. It was a nightmare, and the hallucinations were insane. Great post, and thank you for documenting this experiment.
your symptoms are probably not so much the caffeine as the fucking chemicals in those energy drinks they are toxic
Alec Thomas Quinn says
This blog post inspired a change.
I had always known about the cognitive benefits etc. of caffeine, but was always wary of consuming too much out. I was afraid of the success that could come of it, I think, out of some naive sense of “but then it wouldn’t be ME succeeding,” and in some way I do feel like this is an artificial pumping-up of my intellect/performance more than it is my ACTUAL intelligence… but today’s boost in productivity can’t be denied.
Today I went pretty extreme with my caffeine intake, doubling my coffee and also taking a capsule of Rush along with two of Smooth (if anyone in the comments is on the fence, you have nothing to lose and lots to gain by trying out a bottle of some Gorilla Mind product – I prefer Smooth).
I was better able to understand and follow along with today’s lecture given by a notoriously hard-to-follow instructor (it turns out the problem doesn’t lie with the instructor, but the students: the man is brilliant, and CONSCIOUS EFFORT during the lecture yields much deeper understanding than merely passively expecting to be spoon-fed).
In addition, every other item on my to-do list is being crossed out at an alarmingly BAD ASS rate, in stark contrast to most every other day where I have been ‘lucky’ to get half of the list done before allowing fatigue to overtake me.
Thank you for the article Mike, it was a fun departure from some of the heavier stuff on the blog. That being said please keep up the fight. I doubt anyone else could do what you are doing.
How coincidental! I took a week long caffeine break too! I haven’t gone this long without caffeine in likely 15 years. You really do go through withdrawal!
22 years. And with alcohol and recreation drugs. After watching Lustig’s videos, a major cut down of sugar too….
First time I quit caffeine cold turkey was about a year and a half ago. The reason was simple. Just to show my body who is boss. Didn’t drink any for 3 weeks. First 6-7 days were brutal. Anxiety attacks, sweating, stuuuuupid fatigue, slept everywhere… I slept in the wood shop on the concrete slab. Dead!!! Cold turkey from about 20 shots a day. (I own a specialty coffee shop, I have espresso machines at home and at the wood shop.) oh and I forgot to mention the headaches. Head was pounding, felt like somebody was stomping their feet on my dome. When I started drinking coffee though, I didn’t enjoy it as much for the first few weeks. After having a double shot I was already jittery and my heart-rate would spike. I’m back to normal now and I try to keep my tolerance at a decent level. I drive it up and down as life requires. Good coffee is just too good to drop. (If you haven’t experienced good coffee just hit me up 😉 I will guide you in the right direction)
The Judge says
I guess I’m lucky, caffeine has no effect on me.
Great article Mr. Cernovich and I am very happy that I found you. I love Hoaxed, I am loving your GM book and now you are part of my personal Jedi council together with people like Scott Adams, Naval Ravikant, Ferris, Elon, etc. Thank you and thank you for the amazing inspiration. I stole your Be Unstoppable affirmation, try to stop me. 🙂 ha!
Marcus The Wolf says
I cycle caffeine. 4 days on, 3 days off or 5 on 2 off
I have a pretty physical job, and on my feet all day, I use caffeine at certain times only on work days. This way I keep tolerance from getting too high. 300-600mg is usually my dose, as long as I time my meals and get portions right, I have energy throughout the day.
I love black coffee on my Aeropress, but I quit a couple weeks ago because I could also tell I was getting too hooked and craving it on weekends. Was definitely tough for a couple of days, but now it’s kind of nice to not be dependent on it to be productive.
I have Crohn’s disease and my body is so sensitive to caffeine. It turns my bowels on hyperdrive, my heart is racing, I can’t sleep even if it’s 12 hours later and I only had a little bit. I also get a headache and, strangely, my jaw starts hurting and sometimes locks up. It’s an intense drug.
This is very confusing …
On the one hand you’re citing the benefits of coffee and talking about how sugar is a drug and citing studies (all valid), and then … you say that you were downing multiple monster energy drinks, including one first thing in the morning … and conclude that the reason you had these severe withdrawal symptoms were because of the COFFEE, and not even mention the monster energy drinks….
Which are not only one of the worst things you can put into your body because of the ingredients and sugar, but they have literally more than 3 TIMES the amount of caffeine as one single cup of coffee.
This is very confusing…how could you even not bring up the monster energy drinks as heavy reasons for your caffeine withdrawal and only place blame on the coffee? That’s nuts.
Mike Cernovich says
You’re not smart enough to comment here, please don’t return.