A month without caffeine

Towards the end of October I attended and spoke at the MKGN Mental Help event, as part of the inaugural Geek Mental Help week. The evening was fantastic, full of extremely brave and honest talks about mental health related subjects. The reason for this post is that one talk in particular from Cole Henley made me think a lot about how I treat my own health and specifically what I consume each day and what sort of affect that could have on me – mentally and physically. So for the month of November this year I decided to avoid all caffeine completely.

With the MKGN event just a few days before the start of November I didn’t really have much time to prepare for the month without caffeine, I just decided to jump in at the deep end and see how it went. They say the initial period of adjustment can be quite tough, lots of people mentioned headaches and generally feeling unwell throughout the first few days without caffeine. On the second and third days I had a fairly dull headache throughout the day but nothing too debilitating. I had a weird experience with pain in my legs, but unsure whether this was caffeine or cycling related. The pain certainly started on the second day of the month then eased three or four days later and I’ve never experienced pain like that from cycling before but I couldn’t completely justify saying this was down to coming off of caffeine.

The rest of the month went fairly smoothly. I don’t think I ever found myself craving a coffee or feeling extremely tired from the lack of it. I found that I missed having a warming cup of tea in the evening at times, I did try some herbal caffeine-free teas but they’re really not the same as a good cup of the regular stuff!

The main thing I did find is that I slept a hell of a lot better. At times this year I’ve struggled getting to sleep at night and found that I’m sleeping a lot lighter, easily waking up in the early hours once or twice a week. But throughout November I think I’ve had some of the deepest sleep I can remember, barely any dreams, just head on pillow and wake up the next morning feeling extremely refreshed.

Yesterday was the start of a new month and the end to my little experiment, so I decided test one last little test to see what would happen if I dived straight back in and had a regular amount of caffeine that I would on any other day. I was curious as to how it would affect me after a spell away from it for a period of time. I found myself a little more energised than I have been for most of November. I hear people saying that after a while of no caffeine their energy levels tend to stay more consistently high than when being manipulated by caffeine, but I found myself rather tired most days – maybe that’s related to not enough sleep and not necessarily the effects of caffeine. I’ve also heard people say that after an extended period away from caffeine that having a coffee made them feel quite unwell, but I didn’t really experience anything along those lines, I felt perfectly fine.

Finally I found that my sleep last night wasn’t as affected as it had been before the start of November either. Perhaps it was because I was more tired than usual and stayed up a little longer than I’d anticipated, but I still got to sleep relatively quickly and slept pretty deep throughout the night. But maybe that will change after a few more days back on caffeine again, I’ll update this again if I find anything else out.

I’m glad that I took the time to try out this little experiment. I think it’s about time I really start considering what I’m putting into my body. Caffeine was a fairly easy one for me to give up for a short period, I missed drinking a coffee in the morning and did get a bit bored of just having water most of the time. I think in the new year I’m going to be even more conscious of what I’m consuming though. From alcohol to sugar, and caffeine again I need to be more aware of what’s going on. Not only for my physical health but for my mental health as well.

My goal for next year is to lose about 20Kg of weight by the end of the year, hopefully taking me to under 100Kg for the first time in nearly 10 years. I think I can do it, I exercise a lot more regularly now and will start to take that even more seriously next year, which shouldn’t be too hard. The hardest thing will be watching what I eat, and making an effort to eat more healthily and cut down on the levels of alcohol, caffeine, and sugar I’m consuming too. Fingers crossed I can do it.

But for now I’m going to enjoy the brownie sat on my desk!