Caffeine-Free 30 Day Challenge

I'm Going Caffeine-Free!

It almost feels sacrilegious. How, oh how, can I put a poison sign on a cup of joe? A tasty morning delight? A pick-me-upper without compare? You see, I love my morning coffee. I’m really being unfaithful by calling it out like this.

It’s not like I drink gallons of coffee or soda. I hardly even average a cup a day. And yet…

Ever since I started drinking coffee again a few months ago, I’ve noticed some alarming changes in my overall health and wellness. What began as an innocent desire to enjoy a warm, nutty, flavorful cup of something creamy and mildly sweet turned into something downright disastrous.

The first noticeable negative? I stopped eating breakfast. Caffeine is a known appetite suppressant. I’d wake up, make a cup of coffee, drink it, and not be hungry until 11am. That’s practically lunch time!

Breakfast is arguably the most important meal of the day. If you want to keep your hormones balanced, you need to eat breakfast within 30 minutes to an hour of waking up. If you don’t, you’ll stress out your adrenals as they pump out adrenaline and cortisol to keep you going. Messing with your hormones is like playing Russian Roulette with your metabolism, not to mention your other bodily systems. You just don’t want them getting out of whack!

The second noticeable negative? I started hitting an energy wall. By afternoon, my energy levels would plummet and I’d be ready for a nap. Again, this is largely explained by the hormonal imbalance created by skipping breakfast.

The third noticeable negative? I’ve gotten sick TWICE in the last three months, after years of not even having a cold! Caffeine weakens the immune system, so this isn’t really a surprise.

So, for New Year’s I’m giving up caffeine.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still not convinced that caffeine is evil, despite the fountains of research contained in books like Caffeine Blues: Wake Up to the Hidden Dangers of America’s #1 Drug. I don’t think drinking an occasional cup of coffee will have long-term deleterious effects on my health.

But I can’t deny that making a habit of consuming caffeine is bad. Since caffeine is addictive, it takes an iron will to not allow a habit to form — an iron will I don’t seem to have.

Will You Join Me?

For the first 30 days of the New Year, I’ll be kicking the caffeine habit. Will you join me? Each Monday, we’ll host a little link-up here where those of you with blogs can share a post about something relevant to your own Caffeine-Free 30 Day Challenge. I’ll also be posting updates here on how my own personal journey is going.

And, to top it all off, I’ll be sending out emails to those of you who join the challenge with goals, tips, and ideas for how we can quit. The content of these emails will be exclusive to those who’ve officially signed up for the challenge — not posted here at Food Renegade or anywhere else.

Click here to join the Caffeine-Free 30 Day Challenge!

Use These Badges

To help you spread the word about the Caffeine-Free 30 Day Challenge, I’ve created the badges below. Feel free to use them in your sidebars, blog posts, or anywhere!

I'm going Caffeine Free!

I'm going Caffeine Free!


  1. says

    Oh, I’ll so do this! I totally have the ability to stay away from coffee (thanks to dlpa) but I still drink it occasionally anyway. The pot brewing every morning for someone else in my family does not help 😉 I have yummy herbal teas that I can switch to, looking forward to the challenge!

  2. says

    I stopped drinking all but the occasional cup a few weeks ago. It just started tasting like nasty cigarettes to me. (and I am NOT, nor was ever a smoker…just a few times in my teens) Once in a while I might have a small, say 6oz, cup with a splash of heavy cream. But that’s it. I haven’t noticed any physical changes, but then again, I never had more than one cup a day.

  3. says

    Seems like the sweeteners that most people add to their morning coffee are likely to be more dangerous than the caffeine. Cutting coffee and cutting out some sugar is a win-win.

  4. Cristina says

    I wish I could join you on this, but I’ve already been caffeine-free since July! (Inspired by Cheeseslave’s article on melasma and the caffeine connection…)

    DLPA helped tremendously to ward of the headaches.

    I’ll cheer along for you!

  5. says

    Count me in – my eldest son and I are both huge coffee drinkers and have been batting around the idea of kicking the caffeine habit for some time now. A challenge like this is just the venue we’ve been looking for to actually do it.

  6. valerie says

    I stopped coffe now and then but always seem to go back to it. In fact, I stopped again 2 weeks ago!! I was up to 3 cups in the morning (I measured my mug) and sometimes 12 more ounces after lunch. Wow. Thats a lot of coffe. My personal physical affects on and off coffee are:

    1. ON COFFEE: BMs with undigested food in it, falls apart, or soft pile, dark brown, sinks. Nice huh? But poop evaluation is the number one way indicator of digestive health! We should each be having at least one but optimally 2 healthy bms per day that are firm, well formed and stays that way, tan colored, floating and with no undigested food. Anything else is an idicator that something is not right. OFF COFFEE: within 1 week my BMs are much improved, almost perfect everyday.
    2. ON COFFEE: Bumps on the back of my arms, tiny little white heads. OFF COFFEE: these are gone completly gone in just 2 weeks.
    3. ON COFFEE: my appetite is destroyed in the mornings and I have a hard time eating before lunch time. NOT GOOD! OFF COFFEE, back to a normal appetite and eating habit in the morning.

    These are my findings. I have gone on and off coffee for years and these are consistently the affects on my body that go away within 2 weeks of quitting.

    • KristenM says

      Interesting! I’ve noticed the BM issue, too. When I’m pregnant and slightly constipated anyway, it’s not really an issue. One cup of coffee actually helped keep me regular when other things were failing. But now that I’m not pregnant I have noticed that my stools are a lot looser.

  7. says

    I’m in. I’ve been off coffee since May (except for when I fell off the wagon in November).

    I’m drinking decaf but I’ll pledge going off decaf daily and drink DandyBlend and Teecchnio. I’ll allow myself the decaf only on special occasions (like when I’m out for breakfast or something).

    (Please delete the post above)

  8. says

    I want to concur on the lack of appetite and fatigue. When I drink coffee, I never want breakfast. Not only does it negatively impact my sleep, but I’m also more tired in the morning (which makes me want the coffee even more) and tired throughout the day.

  9. Allison says

    You’re on you own! I love my morning cup of coffee and the preponderance of evidence says that it’s good for me. Among other benefits, it’s a natural decongestant, improves fatty acid metabolism (something athletes have taken advantage of for years), and is high in antioxidants. Maybe you should just eat breakfast again. :-)

  10. says

    Oh my! I need this!!! Unlike most people, caffeiene CRANKS up my appetite and I can’t stop eating!!!! It zaps the adrenals. It is a security blanket that I NEED to give up!!!!!
    Count me in!!!

  11. Rick says

    I’ve been working in specialty coffee for about five years now, and at times it is a requirment of my job to taste and evaluate coffees. As such have developed a pretty decent list of ways to still enjoy coffee while not getting hook.

    1: Don’t use coffee for “energy”. Using coffee is a pick me up is pretty much the best way to find yourself addicted to it, and to eventually destroy your adrenal health.
    2: Stay nourished. I’m sure I don’t have to say that to anyone reading this blog, but this has so much to do with not resorting to coffee for energy. Have something else available that is healthier.
    3: Don’t drink coffee before breakfast. As mentioned above.
    4: Try to avoid dark roasts. It’s my suspicion (based on personal observation, though I’d love to see a study on this) that dark roast coffee (coffee with oils on the bean) is bad for health. The oils that sit on the outside of the roasted bean are oxidized and rancid. Many people associate this with quality, but the association is false.
    5: Buy better coffee. Find a reputable independent roaster or cafe and don’t balk at paying more for coffee. The entire supply chain will thank you. Though the relationship is complicated, more expensive coffee tends to taste better and be sourced from farms using sustainable and fair practices. In many cases, high grown specialty coffees will have a bit less caffeine too. If you are buying coffee from a multinational conglomerate, or out of a can from a box store, why? You wouldn’t buy industrial meat, why industrial coffee? Also, these coffees will taste better, and you might find you drink less to be satisfied.
    6: Keep yourself to small quantities. You might find that a small cup does the job just as well as an entire pot. Learn how to make coffee with a manual method, by the cup. This will slow you down and make coffee take more work, but taste better.

    You might find that these are great ways to kick a coffee habit, and maybe you’ll find you don’t even want coffee at some point. However, if you love the taste of coffee, or do it for a living, then these are good ways to make sure you don’t brutalize your health over it.

  12. Nick says

    Breakfast is overrated, and your claim that to keep your hormones balanced you need breakfast within 30 mins is horribly misrepresented. Short term fasts (like skipping breakfast) can do wonders for your hormonal profile – the human body did not evolve to eat all day every day. Caffeine will increase your cortisol which can have harmful effects, so if that is your concern by all means give it up, but please don’t reinforce the misrepresentations of the media by supporting the lie that breakfast is all important and that skipping it will harm you or your metabolism.

    • KristenM says

      Nick, I’m all for the occasional intermittent fast. I’ve recommended and used those with great success. The problem comes when skipping a meal like breakfast turns into something routine instead of intermittent. Of all the meals of the day, breakfast is probably the one that it’s most important to NOT skip. That’s not some main stream media myth. It’s the truth, backed up not only by science, but also traditional eating patterns around the world.

      • says

        See, I just can’t see how that is. Wouldn’t hunter-gatherers have to, you know, get out and gather up a meal? I can’t see how waiting until 11 a.m. to eat is somehow harmful.

  13. Brittany says

    Oh, I want to…but I’m going to have to think about it before I can commit! The fact that I’m holding on so tightly to my daily cup (it’s just one cup!) of coffee is probably a good indicator that I’m addicted and should quit. :(

  14. says

    I’m up for the challenge… if Kombucha doesn’t have caffeine. I know the sweet tea I make the kombucha from has caffeine, so I’m guessing kombucha has caffeine. I wonder if you can make kombucha with un-caffeinated tea? I’m still a beginner brewer so I’d love to know what anyone thinks!

    I’m so glad I FINALLY kicked my soda habit a couple of months ago. I was seriously addicted. Today I was out to lunch and I stared longingly at the soda machine but I know I don’t even like the taste of it anymore! So I drank my water and felt so great afterwords!

    • Joshua says

      I feel that, compared to the average cup of coffee, Kombucha has much less caffeine. I seem to remember reading somewhere that some of the caffeine is digested by the SCOBY during brewing, but I can’t remember the source, so please don’t quote me on it =P A caveat about the decaf process: some beans (especially industrially produced ones) are decaffeinated with harsh, toxic chemicals. There are products that are decaffeinated with a more natural solvent, for example super-critical carbon dioxide, but know your source so you don’t let nasty bad into your beverage.

      Anyways, Kombucha is definitely helping me in my current struggle to kick soda, as I found that the fizzy feeling is what I crave more than the actual sickly-sweet soda. It really helps to have something, as in the past I have found myself sitting down at the table in the cafeteria with my soda half consumed before I realized I had even bought it. Sounds like an addiction to me!!!

      • Pippi says

        Kombucha gave me the worst insomnia of my life this summer when I was pregnant. The baby just went wild, too. So i suspect it has caffeine. I’m very sensitive to caffeine, though, so it might not affect other people as much.

  15. says

    I’m scared!! I didn’t drink coffee through my pregnancy and early nursing and was so pleased and proud of myself. Then one day I drank some, and I haven’t wanted to stop! I don’t drink much at all, not even a cup a day, and never before breakfast, but knowing as much as I do about nutrition, and being so “good” with my other food choices, I am amazed at how powerful a relationship coffee can form! I know I should. Let me think on it…
    At least you’re gentle enough on us to start the 30 days AFTER the holidays! Lol!!

    Thanks for the kick in the pants. :-) that’s why we’re all here for each other, right? :-)

  16. says

    I’m up for it! I need to do this and I think a group effort will give me the motivation I need. I have just been feeling gross lately and I’m sure the increase in coffee lately isn’t helping.

  17. fred says

    Did it about 5 years ago. Nothing but good came from that.

    My arthritis mostly cleared up within three weeks. Coffee reduces the size of capillaries around joints; hence, reduced blood flow at joints. My hands, fingers actually quit hurting and loosened up to where they bend without pain.

    Coffee causes a rise in adrenalin, which in turn, causes effects in insulin and other hormones.

    Coffee is an evil product which we will do well to avoid.

  18. Betsy says

    I’m in. It’s not so much that I want to give up coffee, although perhaps I should. But I’m giving up dairy, and I can’t stand coffee without milk in it. At least I shouldn’t have any caffeine issues as I’ve been decaf only since the first of the year.

    I love Teeccino, but I’m not sure it loves me. I hope I can drink it now and then, though.

  19. Karen C. says

    I have given it up a few times in the past and not seen much difference in how I felt except tired. I did sleep SLIGHTLY better at night without it.

  20. says

    I gave up coffee a few months ago. I haven’t noticed very many, if any, changes. I’m still drinking green tea and kombucha. I have zero interest in giving those up.

  21. says

    Well. I may be in now that I saw in the comments that it aggravates joint pain. Have a garden injury that won’t go away. Could my beloved be responsible? Not my beloved! Oh, the unfairness of it all. Will reflect on this huge step before I say more. Thanks for putting it out there.

  22. says

    I gave up coffee last week unintentionally–but I don’t recommend my method. I was really sick with a bad flu, so did not have caffeine all week. I had a horrible headache that wouldn’t quit, not sure if it was the illness or the lack of caffeine! In anycase, I’m off it now and intend to stay off, I’m going to do the challenge anyway, because it is so hard not to go back to it!
    I would agree about appetite and breakfast–throws my whole day off when i skip breakfast, and coffee before food definitely takes away my appetite.

  23. says

    My biggest nutritional downfall is my inability to look food in the face before noon. I rarely drink “high test” but will have a small cup of decaf every morning with raw cream. As a kid I always ate a huge breakfast, but when I hit 40, I just couldn’t do it anymore. It’s like morning sickness every morning! Because it happens on and off coffee, real and decaf, I think there’s something else afoot. I dislike hot tea immensely, have tried coffee substitutes like Teechino without success, but really need some warm beverage in the morning to clear the throat. I really didn’t want to go the sugary hot cocoa route and get the insulin going full blast so early.

    I’d LOVE some more options, though.

  24. says

    I muscle-tested off of coffee, even decal organic, but OK for caffinated tea. Coffee has always been problematical, I went in and out of addiction for years. Can’t stand it with out cream, though, and I’m off dairy. There is something in the coffee itself that is more troublesome than the caffeine, I think. Maybe something in the acid/alkaline balence category. It’s high acid.

  25. Cool Beans says

    I do half-caf, about one large cup per day. Sometimes I skip days, and notice no ill effect, other times I’ll skip and get a big headache. It’s very inconsistent…is it the caffeine, or isn’t it?

    When I switched from regular to half-caf, I noticed that I sweated a LOT less. That may also be because I’ve eliminated soy, though, so who knows for sure.

    But…I can’t stand the thought of eating first thing in the morning. Makes me want to puke. I don’t start drinking my coffee till I’ve been up for at least an hour, usually longer. Eating within 30 minutes of waking? Not happening here – with or without the coffee.

    I’ll have to think about this challenge…I just found a local organic/fair trade half-caf roast that I love. I wouldn’t want to deprive a local business! :o)

    • s says

      Did you know that the change in hormones related to your menstrual cycle can affect how your body metabolizes drugs?Studies show that before our periods women become more susceptable to addiction if they try a new drug.This is because the pleasure receptors in our brains are more easily stimulated this time of the month .If you’re trying to give up a chemicle addiction like caffeine it would be better to try it after your period,that way you may experience less withdrawal symptoms.Cool Beans,if your female,i think this may explain why you sometimes feel ok,sometimes feel cruddy when you don’t get your joe.Of course a lot of other factors could be in play-stress,diet,sleep,and especially how hydrated you are.

  26. James Trundy Verrill via Facebook says

    Decaf is a chemical based process the last I knew… and why bother?? Drink COFFEE.. full octane:):)

  27. Pamela Barrow Hannam via Facebook says

    I’m one who likes the TASTE of coffee. So I coldbrew several varieties of decaf, freeze the resulting concentrate in ice cube trays, reconstitute a cube with boiling water, add some rich heavy cream, and indulge guilt-free. Decaf life is more than possible!

  28. Laura Timbrook via Facebook says

    my coffee is just something I love, but I dont have much or even every day. But I do love a nice relaxing cup of coffee with alittle raw milk and cinnamon

  29. Pamela Barrow Hannam via Facebook says

    Well, I must be doing something right — low cholesterol, no GERD, never caffeine withdrawal, two or three cups of water-processed decaf a week, sometimes iced sometimes not, but always made at home. Still get the occasional pleasure of coffee with none of the drawbacks. Like so much else, the key is homemade with quality ingredients, and indulged with moderation. :)

  30. Purenergy Healing via Facebook says

    I gave up caffeine for 9 months while I was preggo and while I nursed. It was the hardest thing I have ever done. I love my morning coffee, herbal teas are nice, but….

  31. Anna Stolz Wilson via Facebook says

    I’m drinking as much as I can now before the challenge starts. Same with sugar! Come January it’s no sugar, no caffeine for me!!

  32. says

    I could totally do that if it wasn’t for chocolate having caffiene. Is it excused? Actually, I don’t really need to though because after three pregnancies of giving up Caffiene I never really went back. Now I only have it in teas and a rare, rare, soft drink (usually at a party). That and chocholate. I have one small piece of chocolate every day and I love that little indulgence. Right now it is chocholate covered pomegranate seeds. YUM! :-)

  33. Jennifer Hawn Matlock via Facebook says

    My son is taking your nutrition course right now. I indulged in some Starbucks today (sans milk so I could add my own raw when I got home). As soon as I got home, he said “I hope you aren’t planning on making a habit of this, because coffee can mess up your adrenals!” I weasled out by telling him it was decaf (it was), but I was impressed that he seems to be making some real-life changes and observations due to your course!

  34. says

    This may sound odd but I recently started “oil pulling” in the morning (an Ayurvedic practice to remove toxins from the system) and noticed that after a few weeks of doing so I no longer needed coffee, which I used to drink religiously in both the morning and afternoon.

    I didn’t start oil-pulling intending to give up coffee — and I’m not sure how or why it’s had such an energizing effect on me — but I’m still coffee free (it’s been about a month and half now) with none of the expected side-effects like headaches and irritability.

  35. Alice says

    Okay, I’ve finally decided that I’m in. I work in a bakery, and I’m up at about 2am every work day, so it’ll be pretty difficult without my kick-start cup of coffee! On the other hand, I’m looking forward to forgoing coffee and caffeinated tea for a month for a few reasons:

    I find that I’m very, Very easily addicted to coffee. I’ll go through week-long or two-week periods without it, but, as soon as I have one cup, I’m hooked. I often end up in a pattern of drinking 6 or so cups a day. Recently, I’ve been sticking to one or two cups a day, but my addictive tendency always makes me uncomfortable.

    I have poor circulation and have read that it’s best to avoid caffeine when this is the case. When I’ve been caffeine-free for a week or two in the past, I’ve noticed an improvement in my circulation. Reading fred‘s post, I can see why.

    Like Lisa, coffee actually increases my appetite significantly–to the point that I’m uncomfortable with the amount and frequency I end up eating! I suspect it’s a false hunger, but could it be possible that caffeine throws my metabolic system into an unnatural overdrive? Either way, I suspect that whatever’s going on is really unhealthy!

    I think my natural tendency is to be slightly nervous, fast-paced, and high-strung. I’ve done a lot in my life the last few years to work on this–to great success–but coffee is probably not the drug of choice for someone like me. I often drink coffee thinking that it’ll help me work more efficiently and stay more alert, and I end up moving Too fast, feeling anxious for no reason, and getting tired very easily.

    I hope that, after a month without coffee or caffeinated tea, I’ll be able to press the reset button on my relationships with coffee and with caffeine. I’d love to be able to meet an old friend over a good cup of coffee and enjoy it for what it is (a comforting, flavorful drink with a few potentially negative side effects) without getting hooked on it as an energy crutch. I really appreciate Rick‘s suggestions, and I’ll take them to heart in February.

    For now, I’ve just finished my last cup of coffee for a month! I’m sure my biggest comfort will be vast quantities of very strong ginger tea, which I make from freshly peeled and sliced ginger root!

  36. Meg L says

    I’m going to do this too. Coffee is my big vice and I know it’s not good for me. I eat a really good diet otherwise. The problem I was having to committing is that I’m prone to bad headaches. Previous attempts to quit have been unsuccessful. I’m pleased to say that I now have been off coffee for 3 1/2 days and haven’t needed any painkillers either. So I’m excited and think I can really do this, this time.

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