Coffee is an undergrad’s best friend, and I am in no position to be telling undergrads not to use it to their advantage when in dire circumstances. But, like anything else, coffee is recommended by doctors only in moderation. Too much coffee has been linked to increased heartbeat, insomnia, anxiety, agitation, jitters, and headaches in various studies.
400 mg of caffeine or less per day is what doctors recommend, which becomes problematic when you realize there are 415 mg of caffeine in a Starbucks venti and you’re on your third one. Drinking too much coffee on a regular basis can create a dependence causing cravings, withdrawals after stopping, irritability, and overuse to get the same effect.
You might be addicted to caffeine if you feel irritated, fatigued, or have trouble concentrating when you don’t have any for a day. The best solution to this is to cut back, rather than quitting cold turkey since when used in moderation coffee can have a world of benefits. So let’s get into how you can cut back on coffee.
1. Hold back on the morning coffee
You might be surprised to realize that the morning is the one time a day that our body really doesn’t need a coffee (I sure was!). When we wake up in the morning our bodies produce cortisol which is a natural energy booster. Rather than relying on the caffeine boost let your body naturally raise your energy and save the coffee break for mid-morning when cortisol levels lower. Wait about an hour after you wake up for your first cup.
2. Consider only drinking when you need a boost
Rather than having a coffee every morning creating a dependence, try only drinking coffee when you really need a boost. Long drives, night classes, long study study sessions, and nights spent writing essays are all great times to use coffee for a boost. This way you’re coffee will feel like more of a treat than a necessity.
3. Don’t drink too close to bedtime
Research has found that drinking a coffee even 6 hours (and less) before bed can interfere with your sleep quality. Try limiting those late night coffee runs to stop interference with your REM cycle. Improving your sleep is the first step in cutting back your morning coffee, because you’ll be less likely to need it!
4. Set a goal
If you’re drinking way too much coffee in a day set a goal, when you achieve that goal set a new one. If you’re drinking 10 cups a day now, cut down to 6, then 4. Writing down your goals is a strong motivator. A study done at Harvard found that people who don’t write down their goals tend to fail easier than the ones who have plans. Participants who wrote down their goals made 10x the earnings of the participants who didn’t.
5. Get motivated by your friends
If you want to cut back on coffee it might mean cutting back on coffee breaks at work or coffee dates with friends. If you think meeting up with friends or work might be a trigger for you to drink a coffee let the people around you know you’re trying to cut back will prevent this. Better yet, find a partner to join you in cutting back.
6. Switch to decaffeinated
Despite what the name “decaffeinated” implies even decaf coffee can still contain up to 20% of the original caffeine content as your regular cup of Joe. Switching over to decaf doesn’t mean letting go of caffeine all together, so don’t worry we can still get our fix. If you don’t think you can switch over all at once, buy some decaf and have 1 cup a day, then 2, then 3…
7. Choose a replacement beverage
If you’re not down for decaf, replace your coffee habit with another drink that has less health risks when drank in excess. Try an herbal tea if you still need a caffeine boost.
8. Get a good nights sleep
For a lot of students coffee is used as a sleep alternative, i.e. if I have a coffee I can stay up another 2 hours. Try not to compensate for a lack of energy during the day. An all nighter writing session powered by coffee is one thing, using coffee to stay up late every night is another.
9. Increase your energy without caffeine
There are so many ways to naturally increase our energy. Next time you feel yourself falling asleep and wanting to reach for a cup of coffee listen to some up-tempo music, turn on the lights, sit up straight, have a herbal tea, or try a bit of stretching.
10. Cut the carbs
Don’t get me wrong, carbs are an important part of any diet but high carb lunches and dinners can leave us feeling tired once digested. Although carbs provide us with energy, consuming empty carbs give us a short-term rush of energy that depletes soon after. Once our bodies release insulin to regulate blood-sugar levels, the quick removal of carbs from our muscles can leave us feeling lethargic and tired. This sudden drop in blood sugar is called hypoglycemia. If you can, avoid empty carb based meals and ensure you’re getting protein at lunch to get through the day.
Despite it’s downfalls coffee is still an undergraduates best friend. Lucky for you and your coffee addiction research has shown benefits associated with coffee consumption too. Researchers found that people who drink at least 4 cups a day had a 20% reduced risk of depression, another study found that drinking two-three cups a day was correlated with a 50% reduced risk of suicide. Trials have also found that coffee improves various aspects of brain function. Coffee can also improve physical performance by 11-12% on average. These are just some of the many benefits coffee can have.
Bottom line, like anything else enjoy your coffee, just in moderation.