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The Caffeine-free diaries: Week One

chloe Nichols caffeine free diary

Healthista writer Chloe Nichols has gone from one strong latte and at least seven cups of tea a day to drinking NOTHING but water for the next 30 days (Is she mad?). Stay tuned for what happens

After years of copious amounts of tea, coffee and energy drinks, I never really noticed the effects of caffeine on my body until now. My life has changed considerably as I’ve just finished my degree and my dissertation was a huge part of it. I don’t think I’ve gone a day without a cup of tea since I was about 18.

Pre-university, I wasn’t the biggest fan of anything like that as I didn’t really feel any need to drink it, and then after a few years of all-nighter library sessions and Starbucks study sessions, I realised how hooked I was on my morning cup of Yorkshire Tea and my skinny caramel latte from the coffee shop to see me through my classes.

Pouring Hot Tea From Restaurant Style Cattle

I’m also a bit of a tea hoarder; green tea, black tea, bush tea, any tea. You name it, I’ve probably tried it. Surprisingly, there is a fair amount of caffeine in tea. According to a study by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA), a cup tea has around 30mg of caffeine per 100g and the average cup of shop-bought coffee has about 64mg (that’s with only one shot).

My average caffeine day used to look a little like this:

7am – Cup of tea while getting ready

8am – Cup of tea with my breakfast

10/11am – Usually a skinny caramel latte with two shots

2pm – Cup of tea after lunch

4pm – Cup of tea when I get home

7pm – Cup of tea while doing work or watching TV

So added up, that’s about 278 mg of caffeine a day, just through HOT drinks. This isn’t even including the alcohol I drink, copious amounts of Diet Coke I get through and the food I eat. (Yes there’s caffeine in things like chocolate too!)

According to the MayoClinic, heavy daily caffeine use – more than 500 to 600 mg a day – may cause side effects such as:

  • Insomnia
  • Nervousness
  • Restlessness
  • Irritability
  • Stomach upset
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Muscle tremors

Don’t I know that already. Even after one cup of coffee, my heart rate increases a little. I suffer from mild irritable bowel syndrome anyway so the amount of caffeine I’m taking in has definitely affected my digestive health too. My friends and I call it ‘tea belly’ which is when we drink so much caffeine, we feel sick, bloated and cramping (and usually know when to stop). So why do we do it to ourselves?

Coffee BackgroundI guess it’s a social thing, a bit like drinking alcohol. I go to Starbucks and wind up drinking something containing caffeine. Most of our social gatherings involve drinking tea, even including nights in watching Netflix. My friend’s greeting when he would come over to my house was ‘Is the kettle on?’ so it’s a lifestyle as much as a hot beverage. I was also partial to the odd vodka red bull on a boozy night so that’s just pumping even more caffeine in to my body.

On one of our many boozy nights - note me clutching a bottle of Cava!
On one of our many boozy nights – note me clutching a bottle of Cava!

Why am I giving it up?  I was cranky, tired, run down, bloated and just not feeling too good. My skin, which is usually pretty okay despite the odd blemish, was paler than usual and my eyes looked dull. My weight had creeped up about half a stone. My hair was lifeless. A health kick was definitely needed.

The decision to cut caffeine also tied in with my decision to take on the H2only challenge, which involves drinking nothing but water for two weeks, so I am really giving my body a bit of a detox.

This week has been a rollercoaster. Going from being a caffeine-fiend to drinking absolutely nothing but water has been so difficult. As well as my caffeine cull, I’ve been drinking only water for the H2Only challenge so it’s been pretty much a big detox for me.

h2only app
Seeing as will power is not my strong point, this is fabulous

I don’t really call myself a water drinker as it is. The H2Only challenge seemed like a great start to the caffeine-free month as you can download an app which helps you along the way and sends little encouragements (definitely has helped me during my shaky days)

Day 1 – Tuesday: I don’t feel too terrible right now. A little tired I guess. I have turned down approximately ten cups of tea today which has been painful as I LOVE a good strong cup of tea. Drinking water with breakfast was bizarre as I usually have a juice and/or tea, so I feel a little out of sorts.

I felt myself craving chocolate today (which has caffeine in it!) which made sense, but then who doesn’t crave chocolate every day? But in terms of my actual health, I didn’t really feel too rubbish. Perhaps I’m not addicted to caffeine? Perhaps I’m just a creature of habit. I went to bed early but that was mainly because I had to be up early the next day for my train to work. All in all, I didn’t fall off the wagon today.

Day 2 – Wednesday: Oh. My. God. Scratch what I said before about not being a caffeine addict. I have the headache from hell, right behind my forehead. My hands are shaking. I feel like I’ve run a marathon. I don’t even want to eat today! Blech. Get me a double-shot latte now. It can’t get any worse than this right? I didn’t even fancy my morning bagel.

As the day went on however, the headache eventually subsided. The shakes, however, did not subside. Walking up the three flights of stairs to the office was much harder than it was yesterday (They’re not an easy task but doable). Crikey. I could really go for a peach green tea right now.

This bottle is possibly the reason I didn't fall off the wagon
This bottle is possibly the reason I didn’t fall off the wagon

Day 3 – Thursday: Today is the day of my huge water delivery! This is exciting stuff. I’m still feeling groggy but I’ve managed to pick up a cold (it’s got to be the commuting germs) so perhaps this could explain why I felt rubbish yesterday, although I never usually get the shakes with a common cold.

I received a cool bottle from the RNLI today to help me along the journey which really helps when I’m out walking about or if I want to enjoy tap water a little more. I’m one of those people that has to drink filtered water or bottled water, and this bottle has a little mini-filter in the cap. Super great for me.

The delivery arrived at 7pm and this was very exciting. A huge selection of different types of waters came, with handy little bottles to just pop in the fridge. I think having it freezing cold out of the fridge has helped with my cravings for cold Diet Coke. So a successful day really.

week one slider
I’m in total water heaven right now!

Day 4 – Friday: I woke up feeling pretty rubbish again today. Shakier than I was yesterday which is odd. It’s certainly not over yet. I don’t recommend completely cutting out caffeine if you have a long week to get through. Perhaps weaning off it might be less dramatic on your body.

Day 5 – Saturday: I had to move out of my flat in Southampton today but despite the stress/worry/lack of sleep (and thanks to my mum and her friends), I didn’t crumble. Hurrah! Health-wise, I felt terrible as my cold had reached new levels of congestion. All I wanted was one teeny cup of tea.

My mum commented on how well I looked which was nice. Looks like it’s starting to work its magic on me. I’ve dropped a couple of pounds in the last week too which is such a bonus. Maybe cutting out the tea and therefore the milk has helped me.

Day 6 – Sunday: Not much to report here. I actually started to feel better and my cravings have started to subside. I even went to the pub and had to witness my friend drinking a whopping great glass of Coke without having a cheeky sip. That was not much of a challenge all in all. I just kept a bottle of freezing cold water in my handbag all day. It’s not actually too bad when you can just chug water on the go all day, and it’s especially handy when you’re in central London on a hot day. I definitely will be keeping water in my handbag from now on. It makes you feel less hungry too.

Day 7 – Monday: I managed to get eight hours of sleep and I jumped out of bed in the morning all bright-eyed and bushy tailed (which if you know me, is an absolute shocker). What’s going on? Am I finally beating it? I hope so. I had a little slumpy moment in the afternoon and really fancied a cup of tea but I ate a banana instead. Go me!

I’m very happy with the results by the end of the week and hope the next week of just drinking water will help me get in better shape for my holiday to Berlin the week after. Here’s hoping!

Follow Chloe on Twitter at @Chloe_MNichols

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