wellness·4 min read

Caffeine Withdrawal Is Real — Here’s How to Cope

Two people clinking coffee mugs
Design: theSkimm | Photo: iStock
Jul 26, 2022

If the thought of getting through a regular Tuesday without your oat milk latte makes you sweat, we feel you. Caffeine withdrawal symptoms are real. But PSA for anyone looking to cut back on their caffeine intake: There’s a way to do it without the headaches, anxiety, and irritability. We caught up with Jessica Kruger, clinical assistant professor of the Department of Community Health and Health Behavior at University at Buffalo, to find out how. 

Wait…do I need to cut back on caffeine?

It depends. First, take note of how much caffeine you’re actually consuming. Because, according to Kruger, it can sneak up on you. Think: Your two cups of coffee in the morning, a caffeinated lemonade in the afternoon, and any candy that’s also packed with caffeine. “All of those things add up,” Kruger said.

Staying within 400 mg of caffeine — about four cups of coffee, five cans of Red Bull, or 10 cans of coca cola a day, according Mayo Clinic — typically doesn’t pose any caffeine-related health problems. So if you’re within that range, no need to worry about your caffeine intake. 

But you might consider cutting back on caffeine if you…

Or if you’re experiencing negative side effects from drinking too much caffeine. Like…

What are caffeine withdrawal symptoms?

Although caffeine isn’t considered an “addictive” drug, according to Kruger, it can still cause withdrawal symptoms. Like:

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Brain fog

  • Irritability

  • Trouble concentrating

  • Nausea 

  • Muscle pain

How long does caffeine withdrawal last?

Withdrawal symptoms can start 24 hours after your last caffeine intake, Kruger said, and can last two to nine days. But everyone’s different. It depends how long you’ve been consuming coffee and how much you're consuming daily, according to Kruger. (Think: are you more of a Lorelai or a Luke? Lorelais may be closer to nine days, while a Lukes’ symptoms could subside by day two). 

How can I deal with caffeine withdrawal symptoms?

Experts recommend cutting back on caffeine slowly. Read: Not going cold-turkey. “You need to titrate down, or you're going to get some of those negative side effects,” Kruger said. Meaning gradually reduce the amount you consume. 

How to cut back on caffeine without going into withdrawal:

If you’re ready to curb your Starbucks addiction, there are several ways you can avoid withdrawal symptoms (or at least minimize them). 

  • Take stock of how much caffeine you’re actually consuming.

  • Watch out for other drinks, snacks, or medications that have caffeine in them (see: mints, chocolate, certain lemonades or refreshers, and some pain relievers), according to Kruger.

  • Cut back slowly. Reminder: Don’t cut yourself off completely. 

  • Integrate decaf coffee into your routine.

  • Switch to drinks with a lower caffeine content, like tea. 

  • Shake up your routine. If you're always used to going to a coffee shop in the morning on your way to work, take a different route so you're not getting that “environmental trigger,” Kruger said.

  • Exercise. It will help boost your energy levels naturally.

  • Stay hydrated. To help reduce your caffeine cravings.

theSkimm

Caffeine can be hard to quit, especially when it comes to dealing with withdrawal symptoms. But there are ways to cut back while mitigating them. Like taking it slowly, drinking a lot of water, and being patient with yourself. 

This content is for informational and educational purposes only. It does not constitute a medical opinion, medical advice, or diagnosis or treatment of any particular condition. 


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