Time to Cut the Caffeine

I’ve been there. You’ve been there.
We're drained and we just keep going back to caffeine . . . because . . . well, it makes us feel alert and alive. It works. There's a good reason why caffeine is the most popular drug of choice in the United States.

Cafe lineup
There is always a line at the local café

We live in a culture that is overworked and over-caffeinated.

We don't have enough time for the really important things - like leisure time with friends and our families or for the basic things like sleeping and taking care of ourselves.

I was in one of those slumps. I had too much going on, my business was booming, and I was falling behind. I was constantly reaching for a caffeine fix throughout the day. I use a WHOOP strap to check my recovery and it was consistently in the gutter. It didn’t matter how many hours of sleep I got, my heart rate variability was poor and my resting heart rate was always higher than normal.

Whoop Recovery Screen Shot
My Whoop score was not pretty

It can happen to anyone

I am a professional CrossFit Athlete, Doctor, CEO, Gym Owner, and adventure enthusiast who’s top values are health and integrity. I knew something had to be done. Luckily, the gym I own was doing a challenge during the month of August. The challenge was all about sleep. We were assigned a score according to the following five questions:

  • How many hours of sleep did I get. More than 8? More than 7?, More than 6?
  • Did I have caffeine at all that day?
  • Did I have any screen time within 30 minutes of bedtime,
  • Did I do a bedtime meditation or mindfulness routine ?
  • Did I hit the snooze button on my alarm?

This was the kick in the butt that I needed to finally cut caffeine. Not only did I want to earn points in the challenge, but more importantly I wanted to be productive and healthy. I wanted to get the most out of my workouts and my life.

Sleepy koala
Often times quitting caffeine can leave you extra snoozy

Caffeine withdrawal is a real thing

Let's be honest, the first few weeks or so were rough. Really rough. We tend to reach for caffeine in our daily lives to take the place of something we are missing. That missing thing could mean water, sleep or proper nutrition. I have researched this and I teach it to my patients, but still, I felt the urge. I wanted to grab a cup of coffee on my way to work . . . but I didn’t.

In my no-caffeine month I found an all-natural alternative called Metta. It used adaptogenic herbs to help support your bodies natural levels without the use of any stimulants. I found that Metta allowed me to stay focused throughout the day in the same way caffeine did, but I could sleep well at night, something I couldn't do while consuming caffeine. This was likely due to the lack of caffeine in Metta and the adaptogens supporting my overworked adrenals.

Our resting heart rates tend to stay higher than they should when caffeine is present. When our resting heart rates don’t drop as low as they should, we are not able to recover as well as we need to. This can cause performance to plummet both physically and mentally. Caffeine also affects up our body's ability to utilize melatonin in our natural sleep cycles, so we lose out on the crucial recovery benefits of sleep.

Pill bottle
Caffeine might not need a prescription but it most definitely is a drug

How much caffeine is too much

You might ask why anyone would ever want caffeine in the first place, since we know all of these negative things about how caffeine affects the body. The reason is that caffeine is a drug. Like any other drug it lights up a portion of the reward center of the brain pressuring us to use more and more of it. This can lead to a slippery slope resulting in adrenal fatigue if we are not careful. Treat caffeine with the respect it deserves.

Kicking the caffeine habit is not easy. But it can be done. It takes motivation. Doing it with a group helps.

So when does your month of no caffeine start? I dare you to start today.

Dr. Karla Wolford
Box jumping like its my job

Karla Wolford

DC, MS, CCSP, CSCS, DABCA

Professional CrossFit Athlete