Instagram convinced me to give up my morning cup of coffee. For weeks, my FYP and Instagram feed was full of wellness influencers, dieticians, and even hormone experts advising that coffee can cause stress, anxiety, headaches, insomnia, irritability, digestive upset, acne, or imbalanced hormones (we even have an article diving into these claims on The Everygirl, but BTW–because we’re all about #balance–we also have an article about the health benefits of coffee). I was convinced enough to give up my morning latte for 30 days to see if I would reap the benefits I saw promised on social media.
30 days later, I didn’t see benefits. I would try just about anything for health, but I realized quitting coffee may not be the answer. In fact, I felt less energized and more likely to procrastinate, and my daily afternoon crash was worse than before. Even though I didn’t feel better, I thought maybe I would eventually reap those long-term benefits (i.e. hormonal balance, better digestion, etc.). Do I continue 30 more days without coffee, or do I listen to my body and go back to my coffee-girl era? I made a Rory Gilmore-esque pros and cons list, and the coffee girl in me won. For me, the benefits of having coffee as a part of my routine outweighed the potential benefits of quitting.
To be clear, I’m not saying that quitting coffee wouldn’t completely transform your health or that everyone should drink coffee. Instead, I’m making the point that we should all listen to our bodies; what works for one person may not work for you. Since we see a lot of reasons on social media to give up coffee, read on for the reasons why I decided to stay in my coffee-girl era.
1. Coffee helps me establish a morning routine I enjoy.
Having a cup of coffee in the morning is an essential part of helping me establish a routine that I look forward to when I wake up in the morning. I generally wake up at the same time every morning and look forward to snuggling up on the couch with my dog on my lap and my favorite book in hand. A cup of coffee always seems to take my comfy morning routine to the next level, and I’ve always looked forward to my mornings because of it. “A strong morning routine is essential for starting our day off on the right foot and helps us create habits that trickle into how we operate throughout the day,” said Dr. Kate Ferguson, Naturopathic Doctor and Founder of The PCOS Confidence Code. A morning cup of coffee is a key moment of joy for me, as I build my morning routine around it. When I drink coffee, I feel in a better headspace emotionally throughout the day.
2. I still had afternoon energy slumps without caffeine.
One of the main reasons I wanted to experiment with giving up coffee was to eliminate the persistent afternoon crash I experience every day around 2 p.m., as I had heard caffeine can cause a cortisol spike which then can lead to a crash. 30 days later, my afternoon slump still hit like clockwork. When I asked Dr. Ferguson if I should take it as a sign that caffeine wasn’t the culprit, she explained “It’s easier to blame the coffee, but we usually need a deeper dive into our health habits to reduce the crash…The afternoon crash is most often caused by other lifestyle factors such as not enough morning sunlight, a lack of protein intake for breakfast or lunch (or skipping breakfast or lunch altogether), and a lack of movement. It could also be a sign of an underlying health condition like hypothyroidism or nutrient deficiency like low iron, B12, or vitamin D.”
Her recommendations? Eat 30 grams of protein before 10 a.m. to set up your body for sustained energy throughout the day, expose yourself to sunlight, get up and move through frequent intervals throughout the day, and talk to your doctor about testing hormones and vitamin levels. If you also experience afternoon slumps or crashes, it may be from caffeine, but it also may be from a lot of other factors too. It’s important to get to know what’s right for your body.
3. My mood was worse without coffee…
When I didn’t have a cup of coffee every morning, I noticed mood changes such as increased irritability, difficulty concentrating, and a mild increase in my anxiety. I don’t exactly know the science to back this one (especially because research suggests coffee can increase anxiety or stress). Maybe it’s due to that joy piece; because coffee was such a big part of my morning routine, I felt less inclined to pop out of bed to start my morning without it. As a result, I was less motivated to work out, journal, or read in the mornings–all things I know majorly impact my mood. It’s also important to note that negative mood states such as anxiousness or irritability can also be a sign of caffeine withdrawal, which could’ve been at play. But either way, I listened to my body and decided that I just felt happier and had better energy with less anxiety when I had a cup of coffee in the morning, even if I didn’t have the science to prove it.
4. …And so was my digestion.
An unexpected result of my break with coffee was changes in my digestion. I experienced a lot more bloating and constipation during my coffee hiatus than I had ever felt before. Once I re-entered my coffee girl era, it took less than two days for the painful bloating to go away and get back on track (if you know what I mean). The research on coffee and digestion is divided. On one hand, coffee has been shown to help with regularity; coffee contains acids that can stimulate muscle contractions in the colon to get the bowels moving. Coffee is also considered a positive digestive aid by stimulating beneficial stomach acid. On the other hand, various studies have indicated that coffee can contribute to heartburn and indigestion. Coffee is also a diuretic, which can cause dehydration, constipation, or diarrhea. So bottom line: Listen to how your body responds with and without coffee. For me, my digestion feels overall better with my morning coffee, and I make sure to drink plenty of water to counteract any potential diuretic effects.
5. Coffee is beneficial for brain health.
Brain health is a huge priority for me; I purposefully take supplements and eat foods that help promote brain health so I can be as focused and productive as possible, as well as for long-term preventative effects. After forgoing coffee, I noticed an immediate decline in focus. Although the effects of drinking coffee may not happen overnight or even within 30 days, more and more research shows that regularly drinking coffee can promote brain health. Nutritional psychiatrist, faculty member at Harvard Medical School, and author of “This Is Your Brain on Food,” Dr. Uma Naidoo wrote for CNBC that coffee has many benefits for brain health, such as increasing serotonin and acetylcholine which may stimulate the brain, and the polyphenol micronutrients in coffee may prevent damage. Coffee has also been shown to promote neuroplasticity, which can help improve the function and adaptability of the brain, making learning and retaining information easier.
6. My workouts weren’t as good without my morning latte.
I typically fit in a workout in the morning (after my cup of coffee and taking a moment to read and snuggle my dog on the couch). After half an hour of quiet morning time, I get excited and energized for my morning workouts. When I gave up coffee, I noticed my performance during exercise was less than optimal; I was more prone to postpone my morning workout or neglect it altogether. When I did work out, I just wasn’t challenging myself as much, feeling more fatigued and less motivated. Coffee has been shown to potentially boost strength, power, and endurance during workouts, and caffeine is commonly used as a pre-workout. In addition to the physical effects, Dr. Ferguson explained that a dopamine hit first thing in the morning (which for me was coffee), is so important to prioritize pleasure in our lives and can make all the difference in your physical performance.