Over the coming months I will be running a number of self experiments. These will generally be carried out as 30 day experiments, and will track both the physical and mental effects of intensive (and not so intense) change on on the human body.
Why 30 days? I hear you say. Well, because my concentration is pretty poor and some of these experiments are pretty tough. Also, some of these experiments actually go against everything I believe in (like when I go vegan for 30 days or try intermittent fasting for the first time). I want to provide good feedback and some great data to base your own health decisions on, but I don’t want to fuck up my entire training year. I think that 30 days is a manageable amount of time to allow for real adaptations and I am hopeful that some of these changes will continue on to become permanent life-long habits.
In the rapidly growing World of self experimentation I am a big time amateur. I have some deep rooted habits that suck and some dietary garbage that I struggle to control beyond a few days of grouchy abstinence. Of these, the worst is Caffeine! I love, LOVE coffee. I am an addict and regularly chung down up to eight cups of the dark stuff on any given day. I know this sounds bad. As a competitive Masters CrossFit athlete and advocate of healthy living I am well aware of the damage I am doing to myself. Below is a list highlighting just a snippet of the bad things that caffeine can lead to:
- More than 4 cups of coffee linked to early death. There have been studies produced which found that men who drank more than four 8 fl.oz. cups of coffee had a 21% increase in all-cause mortality. However, those that reported that they consumed excessive amounts of caffeine were also likely to smoke and have poor fitness.
- Caffeine consumption may raise blood pressure. Especially in those already suffering from hypertension and those who don’t normally consume caffeine. People with hypertension were given 250 mg of caffeine (about 2 coffees) and the data revealed that their blood pressure was elevated for about 2-3 hours after the caffeine.
- Increased risk of heart attacks among young adults. A study conducted by Dr. Lucio Mos found that young adults who were diagnosed with mild hypertension had 4 times the risk of having a heart attack if they consumed the amount of caffeine equivalent to 4 cups of coffee.
- Caffeine linked to gout attacks. This study showed that people who binge on caffeinated beverages increase their risk for a gout flare-up.
- Caffeine could cause incontinence. A study out of the University of Alabama showed that women who consume a lot of caffeine are 70% more likely to develop incontinence – which is gross!
- Caffeine may cause insomnia. Caffeine in a person’s system at bedtime can mimic the symptoms of insomnia.
This all sounds pretty shitty. I figured 30 days caffeine free would be a good way to kick off this series and also help make me way less likely to drop down dead from a major heart attack.
The plan is to diarise these 30 day life hacks. To track the good, bad and really nasty. Below is the first five days of the 30 day challenge that has seen me go from eight cups per day to a more sustainable single cup of coffee per day:
First day of the big 30 day Caffeine detox. Really missed my morning coffee today, but feel pretty good. Like I’m making a positive change. Training felt a bit tougher, but I’m putting that down to the three beers I had last night.
It’s the afternoon now and I have a killer headache. Not sure if this is related, but I can’t even move for the shocking pain in my head – like someone is grinding rocks on my frontal lobes. Also. I can’t keep my eyes open! I am incredibly tired, and have been almost narcoleptic for most of the afternoon. Tried watching a movie but I was in and out for the whole thing and my head was just too damn sore.
Feel generally tired today – way more tired than yesterday. It’s a rest day today, for which I am glad. Still have the last twinges of the headache from yesterday, but nothing to worry about. I didn’t want to sleep on the bus so I did some box breathing exercises instead – working on my Flow State! Felt pretty stupid doing these in public, but what the hell. Headache is back again, and then some!
I am seriously hungry. Not necessarily that weird for me. And again, I am not sure if this is a REAL side effect, but I am seriously craving sugar. I gave in to some toast, but I still feel hungry. I wonder how many of these side effects are psychosomatic and how many are real symptoms. I also gave it up to a protein cookie and some chocolate coins that were lying about the office #sloblife.
I am told that these are the 15 most common side effects of caffeine withdrawal – especially for a heavy caffeine user:
- Headache – Check
- Sleepiness – double check (see day one for feelings of narcolepsy)
- Irritability – Nope. Maybe this is to come, but right now I feel way too tired.
- Lethargy – Check.
- Lack of concentration – Check and CHECK.
- Constipation – Nope
- Depression – Nope
- Muscle pain, cramping – Nope
- Flu like symptoms – Check. But then again, everyone is sick right now.
- Insomnia – Nope. See comment about narcolepsy
- Nausea – Nope
- Anxiety – Nope. If anything I feel much more relaxed
- Foggy head – Check. Got into work this morning with almost no memory of what I did on Friday.
- Dizziness – Nope
- Abnormal Heart Rhythm – Nope. Actually the opposite. I have a history of weird heart rhythm. So far I haven’t experienced a single irregular beat. Coincidence?
Is it really only day 3???
Last night I experienced the worst night’s sleep I have had in ages. Lots of tossing and turning, and feeling very jealous of my partner Vicky and our dog who were both snoring away peacefully. Head is still pounding, though it’s more like a distant rumble of thunder than a close personal experience with a piece of field artillery. What else??? Oh, my back is hurting and my knees and I have started getting muscle cramps in my legs. Not sure if these are related, but they are very annoying. Again, not enough to stop me in my tracks – more annoying than anything.
It is still early in the day. Here’s hoping things will get better as the day goes on.
Afternoon. Training felt pretty average at lunch. Not sure what this has to do with Caffeine but I just feel so tired at the moment! Literally zero energy.
So this is what it feels like to be caffeine free!
The headache is now just a very distant nag. If I don’t remember it hurts then I don’t really know it’s there at all.
My back is still sore, but I really don’t think it has anything to do with the caffeine withdrawal. This seems more like an ACTUAL injury.
Here are the top three things I have noticed so far as I detox
- Sleep is a distant memory.
- Feel much more relaxed. I feel seriously chilled out compared to normal – and I haven’t had any sweat attacks which generally happen when I get a bit anxious.
- Hungry as a MOFO! And not for the good stuff. I am just craving food and I couldn’t care less if it is paleo or a cheese burger. I must resist!!
Boom! We have a breakthrough day. I have no real cravings now for coffee. I feel pretty good. I still have a headache, but still only when I think about it. I can go hours without noticing it, but then the minute I stop and think “oh, the headache has gone”, then it comes back. Boom! See, there it goes again!
I had a great night’s sleep last night – the first good one in a week. I feel pleasantly relaxed, and I am starting lose the “head wrapped in cotton wool” feeling that I had at the beginning. Training last night was good too. I definitely lacked a bit of early umph in the session, but as I got into it I was much more alert and didn’t have that drop in energy at the midpoint.
What else? Oh, I feel emotionally much more levelled. Not so up and down and my stress levels seem to have dropped, even though the actual pressures at work have increased dramatically over the last few days. Cutting coffee could have been the best thing that I ever did. Or, perhaps the second best thing after starting CrossFit!
Big question. Do I re-introduce a small amount of coffee back into my life in 25 days?
NEXT 30 DAY CHALLENGE – 30 days of natural testosterone boosters.