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How to (Properly) Lower or Quit Your Caffeine Dependence

It’s easy to jumpstart the day or counter exhaustion with caffeine, and many people rely heavily on the stimulant as an energy source. We spoke with dietitian Ashley Koff to learn how one can lower his or her caffeine dependence—but only if it’s deemed necessary.

BB Man: What is the most effective way to lessen or eliminate caffeine from one's routine?

Koff: Decide first if you need to eliminate it totally and determine why. Are you actually using it in place of natural energy boosters? If you decide to lower your reliance, it’s important to frame it in a positive way. A lot of people react negatively to being told they can't have something, even if they are the ones telling themselves that. Instead, it should be about a choice, and it should not be a finite thing, as in, if you have caffeine you are "bad" or a "failure."

BB Man: What steps would you encourage someone to take if you thought it was right for him or her to cut back?

Koff: If you decide to cut back (after understanding your own personal needs), follow these four steps:

1. Limit yourself to two caffeine consumption occasions in your day. I recommend one coffee and one white tea (since it’s lower in caffeine).

2. Identify better energy replacements for the other stimulant occasions, like cacao nibs in yogurt or trail mix mid-morning, or an organic greens juice with nuts and a quality multivitamin/mineral for breakfast.

3. Map out your day so that you have a nutrition pit stop within 45 minutes of waking and then every three hours afterwards until three hours before bed. It’s important to never have caffeine without any nutrition.

4. Learn and practice better sleep behavior. Don't sleep next to your media devices; make your room dark and cool; set a consistent bed time; write down any thoughts or to do lists before bed; consider Natural Calm magnesium to help relax and reduce stress so you fall asleep easier.

BB Man: Why do people have such a difficult time lowering their caffeine intake?

Koff: Many people are dependent on it physiologically, which means that they have poor energy, get “backed up,” or generally feel bad without it.

BB Man: What are the benefits of caffeine, when consumed in moderation?

Koff: The benefits and risks are individualized. People range in their caffeine sensitivity depending on where their physiology is that day. Caffeine is a stimulant, so it stimulates the body into action. This can be helpful physically (speed, digestion) and mentally.

BB Man: What are the risks of caffeine—both mentally and physically?

Koff: Caffeine is not a source of energy. Energy needs to come from nutrients, so the big risk is confusing the two and having your body get stimulated without any gas in the tank. Caffeine has been shown to aid in athletic performance including fat burning in some, but in others it produces anxiety—which the body reads as stress—and may actually work against such performance and contribute to fat storage.

BB Man: If people rely on caffeine as a digestive aid, how should they go about lowering their intake?

Koff: If you have chosen to cut caffeine, you can consider other digestive aids such as magnesium, probiotics, Symbiotics, digestive enzymes, and bitters. Consult with a dietitian about how to incorporate for optimal digestion without caffeine. Moreover, I suggest first seeing a dietitian before you decide to eliminate caffeine.

BB Man: What is a healthy amount of caffeine to consume on a daily basis?

Koff: Again it will depend—for some it's "much less" than they are currently consuming and for others it’s none. But a good guide is less than 500 mg caffeine. Mayo Clinic has a good resource for this.

Ashley Koff Ashley Koff is an award-winning, internationally-renowned registered dietitian and a self-described “Qualitarian,” emphasizing the value of better quality nutrition choices to create optimal health and a happier life. Visit AshleyKoffRD for more information, and check out AKA Personal Shopper to learn about how you can create a shopping list of healthier, better quality products.

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