Why Reduce Your Caffeine Intake?
If your caffeine intake has been creeping up over the past year, it may be time to scale back. My daily average caffeine intake was well past the 400 mg recommended by the FDA. Granted, it’s less harmful when spread throughout the day (rather than downing that much caffeine at once), but my intake was sometimes exceeding 700 mg daily and my sleep quality was suffering.
If this sounds like your situation, then it’s time to reduce your caffeine consumption. Thankfully there are ways to make it less painful. With these tips, you won’t be constantly yawning, with brain fog, jonesing for your next hit of caffeine.[toc]
Set a Target and Record your Usage
What’s a healthy daily caffeine target? It depends. My target was below 200 mg daily and sometimes I went as low as 100 mg when getting enough sleep. Try to reduce your current levels by at least half.
Record your caffeine usage as you consume anything with caffeine. Google sheets works fine for this, but there are also apps available. Check a caffeine database or this list for amounts in caffeinated drinks and food items.
Reduce your Caffeine Doses
Taking caffeine under your tongue sublingually may increase its perceived effects. I find it works best if I’ve recently eaten. This is because swallowed caffeine has to compete with food for absorption. I’m down to just 10 mg of caffeine sublingually to feel the effects. This keeps the daily milligram count low and eliminates the jitters you feel from larger doses.
If you’re fortunate enough to have access to caffeine powder, this works best for sublingual dosing. Otherwise, crush some caffeine tablets with a mortar and pestle or by crushing tablets between two spoons facing the same way.
Splitting tablets is one way to reduce dosage. Pill splitters are a few dollars and can be found in most stores. Or if you have capsules, open the capsule and take only some per dose. Scoops make for easy dosing of caffeine powder. These 1/32 tsp scoops measure roughly 50 mg per level scoop, and the mg micro scoops are about 10 mg per rounded scoop. But these may not be the same as your caffeine powder since powder densities vary, especially if you are crushing caffeine tablets. Use a 0.001 gram (milligram) scale to measure the volumetric conversion of your particular powder.
Premade Caffeine Reduction Products
If you’d rather not crush caffeine tablets or eyeball the amount after opening a caffeine capsule, there are premade, but more expensive solutions.
Caffeine Cleanse is a bottle of 20 mg caffeine pills with instructions on how many pills to take daily. It provides a way to gradually reduce intake without measuring or weighing. There’s also a more expensive option called Wean Caffeine
Another options is to try finding caffeine pills with smaller doses. There are 50 mg caffeine pills available online, but I had a hard time finding smaller doses.
Increase Your Sleep Quality
Sleep Quality Supplements
Melatonin reduces the time it takes to fall asleep. The most important aspect of taking melatonin is the dosage. Start small, 500 mcg (a half milligram) if possible. I find this amount to be more than enough most nights and sometimes break open a capsule to take only 250 mcg. The effective dosage varies greatly by individual. Some brands offer up to 10 mg tablets.
Overshoot your melatonin dosage and you can feel groggy in the morning. If you don’t take enough, then you could be up past your desired bedtime staring at the clock wondering why it’s not working.
Clif High’s Pure Sleep Powder
Clif High’s sleep powder increases sleep quality, at least in my experience. I never would have thought this supplement worked so well. The ingredients are GABA, magnesium, glycine, nutmeg, red dragon fruit, and monk fruit.
It didn’t help me fall asleep faster like melatonin does. Instead, it increased my quality of sleep. The instructions state to take it with milk, likely for the melatonin. Being lactose intolerant, I take a small dose of melatonin instead. The next morning, I don’t need as much caffeine to get my day started.
Sleep Quality Habits
Give yourself at least an extra half hour of sleep to account for your reduced caffeine intake come morning. Keeping a consistent sleep schedule helps. And even with a reduced caffeine intake, try not to take any caffeine within six hours of bedtime. If you still need an energy boost in the evening, try some short-acting energy supplements such as dimethylglycine (DMG) or some carbs–with some sugar–if you need energy right away.
Maintain a bedroom temperature of around 65 degrees Fahrenheit. And don’t bring screens to bed or watch TV in bed. If you must bring a phone to bed, then use a night mode setting, such as the grayscale setting on Android.
Energize with Food
If you’re a caffeine junkie, you probably don’t notice an energy boost after eating food. In fact, you may become tired after eating. One of the pleasant surprises I found when cutting back on caffeine was that I noticed an energy increase after eating food. Carbs provide energy when on a normal diet and fat when on a keto diet.
Eat a carb-rich (or fat-rich for keto) breakfast soon after waking up. Without as much caffeine, you’ll need the energy provided by food. This means stopping intermittent fasting until you’re able to stay below your target caffeine level for at least two weeks. After this period, you shouldn’t feel as sluggish without eating early as your body adapts to less caffeine.
Pre Workout and Post Workout Carbs
Replace or supplement your caffeine intake around workouts with simple carbs. Take simple carbs like fruit, white bread, or sugary drinks along with some slower acting, complex carbs like oats or beans. The simple carbs provide the initial boost for starting your workout and the complex carbs prevent the sugar crash.
The same applies for post workout. Your body needs to replenish glucose stores fast, and simple carbs like sugar are efficient for this. Then the complex carbs will keep you going without relying on caffeine after the sugar wears off.
Ditch the L-Theanine
Caffeine and L-Theanine are usually a great combo. However, you won’t need the theanine with lower doses, especially if taking caffeine under the tongue.
If you start to feel caffeine jitters without theanine, then just cut back on the amount of caffeine. The fatigue should naturally reduce the jitters.
Once you’re consistently hitting your caffeine target for a few weeks, then reintroduce L-theanine as needed. Try L-Theanine powder if you need a smaller dose than what’s available encapsulated.
Caffeine Free Energy Supplements
There are plenty of herbal alternatives to caffeine. Rhodiola Rosea with 3% salidrosides provides both energy and focus. The rhodiola versions standardized for higher salidrosides (3%) are preferable for energy compared to the versions with higher Rosavins.
Start with one 500 mg capsule to gauge the effect and wait at least two hours before taking a second dose if needed. Cycle off rhodiola after a few days if you start to feel irritable. I’ve found this was necessary to keep the positive effects while minimizing the negative effects that set in after a several days or weeks of consecutive use. A rule of thumb is to take 1/3 of the time off. So if you take rhodiola for 9 days straight, take 3 days off.
Quality panax ginseng standardized for ginsenosides is a potent caffeine replacement. Serving sizes are usually 1000 mg but start with 500 mg. You may be surprised at the amount of energy you feel from just 500 mg if you use a quality brand.
When reducing caffeine, I was able to go almost an entire day on just panax ginseng. The only thing I missed was that ginseng didn’t provide as much of a “feel good” dopamine release as caffeine.
If you happen to still need caffeine when taking ginseng, do not take them together. Instead, wait at least 3 hours after your ginseng dosage. Ginseng and caffeine have similar CNS stimulant side effect which can be amplified when combined.
B vitamins support healthy metabolism so it’s no wonder they’re combined with energy drinks for an added boost. Vitamin B12 and B6 are best for energy. You can buy them individually, but it’s easier to buy a combined B-complex pill and take it in the morning and afternoon.
ALCAR and Alpha Lipoic Acid
Acetyl L-Carnitine, or ALCAR, by itself is an energy supplement and seems to kick in after about an hour. Combining ALCAR with ALA (Alpha-lipoic acid) supports healthy energy production. This combo is commonly used so some supplement companies include this stack in a combined powder.
You can also include caffeine with your ALA/ALCAR stack for increased benefits. One study showed an increased endurance from this combination over caffeine or ALA/ALCAR alone.
Add Taurine to your Caffeine
Taurine can help make the most of your smaller caffeine doses. We’re not sure of the exact reasons why energy drinks include taurine, but it seems to provide additional energy when paired with caffeine. I take two to three 1 gram taurine powder doses per day spread several hours apart.
Helping Your Mood
You’re not going to be happy when scaling back caffeine. The worst is in the afternoon. When you get that “blah” feeling, try one of these fixes.
Uridine Stack (Mr Happy Stack)
Also called the Mr Happy Stack, the uridine stack consists of several supplements targeted at supporting a healthy mood. Here’s the recommended dosing regimin from the original longecity thread:
First 2 weeks:
150 to 250 mg of uridine monophosphate
DHA fish oil with at least 700 mg of DHA and at least 300 mg of EPA
500IU of vitamin E (optional from experience)
After 2 weeks:
The above supplements from the first 2 weeks
50 mg of either CDP choline (citicoline) or Alpha-GPC, with a gradual progression up to 300 mg
Tyrosine and Phenlylalanine
Caffeine usage depletes your body’s natural stores of tyrosine and phenylalanine to create dopamine and produce that feel-good caffeine kick. Normal L-tyrosine works, but the N-Acetyl-L-Tyrosine (NALT) form is arguably more potent.
Here’s a dosing regimen recommended by spartan.com for someone trying to quit caffeine:
Days 1-2: 1000 mg of DLPA in the morning and another 1000 mg at noon
Days 3-4: 1000 mg of DLPA in the morning and 500 mg at noon
Days 5-6: 500 mg of DLPA in the morning and 500 mg at noon
Days 7-10: 500 mg of DLPA in the morning only
If You Need Coffee
If you’re used to the aroma and taste of coffee in the morning then switch to decaf. Decaf contains around 7 mg per cup so you will feel the slight energy boost once you adjust to a lower daily caffeine intake. If the decaf coffee doesn’t provide the energy you need, then add a minimum necessary amount of caffeine powder (10 mg recommended) when the coffee is hot so the caffeine dissolves.
Chicory coffee and teas are other substitutes. Be sure to check the caffeine content if you switch to tea. Although not as high in caffeine content as coffee, some black teas can reach 45 mg of caffeine per cup.
Reverting to Your Former Caffeine Usage
We’ve all done it with other habits. We stick with something for a few days or a few weeks and then revert to old patterns. This is easy to do with reduced caffeine usage. However, unless you’re reverting to a very high daily caffeine dosage, going back to a higher caffeine intake isn’t always bad. In fact, a temporary reduction is necessary if only to make our usual, higher caffeine intake more effective. And don’t beat yourself up if you go over your limit during your reduction period. Look at your daily average over time.
After three weeks of averaging around 200 mg of caffeine daily–about a third of my former daily intake–I went back to an intake of 300 – 400 mg. This is 30% less than my original intake but it feels like more. For the next few months after your caffeine dosage refresh, your daily intake may rise again. Then plan for a week to start another reduction cycle where you can get over eight hours of sleep per night.