As I mentioned in an earlier post, I chose to quit caffeine the second week of January 2019.
To say it was rough-going in the very beginning is an understatement. That crap was misery at it’s finest!
But, alas, a few weeks in and I felt much better than I had in years.
Today at about 6 weeks free from caffeine addiction and withdrawal, I feel even better. And I believe I have enough information and experience to begin talking about it all a little more.
First, I’m going to talk a bit about the role caffeine plays when it comes to intermittent fasting for weight loss.
Then, I’ll share a brief tidbit about why I chose to quit drinking caffeine in the first place.
Finally, we’ll discuss three things that you may expect when you try intermittent fasting without caffeine (especially if you’re used to drinking it).
Let’s dive in!
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Why Pair Caffeine with Intermittent Fasting?
If you spend any time reading or listening to any advice on intermittent fasting, you’ll see drinking black coffee as one of the top tips. And for good reason.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “caffeine may reduce feelings of hunger and your desire to eat for a brief time”. And it is also thermogenic, meaning it “appears to increase energy use even while you’re at rest”.
Therefore, if you take no milk or sugar with your coffee, you stand to reap all the energy-boosting, appetite-suppressing, calorie-burning benefits of caffeine without extra calories.
You’re on top of the world!
As someone who has had weight loss success with intermittent fasting, I can vouch for this.
Black coffee and sugar-free energy drinks work wonders for powering through that early morning fasting window.
With caffeine, I could easily fast for up to 20 hours – sometimes more – without even thinking about food.
Caffeine really is an incredible magic pill for intermittent fasting weight loss success.
Why Quit Drinking Caffeine?
If caffeine and intermittent fasting make such a great combo, why stop?
Well, I personally quit drinking caffeine for a plethora of reasons – a few being poor sleep, addictive behavior and an aggressive, anxious personality.
I share more about this in greater detail in How I Knew It Was Time To Quit Caffeine if you’re interested in the full run-down.
Quitting drinking caffeine was necessary for my overall physical and mental health, sure, but I was admittedly very much concerned about how it would affect my ability to continue intermittent fasting.
3 Things That Happen When Fasting Without Caffeine
I’m not going to lie – the first few weeks of quitting caffeine were really challenging over all. But as far as intermittent fasting was concerned, I remain equal parts pleasantly surprised and totally shocked at how it played out.
Here are three things you might expect if you try to quit drinking coffee while intermittent fasting.
1. You Might Experience A Decrease In Emotional Eating
First, if you drink caffeine every day and you’re anything like me, it changes the way you perceive things happening with your body a little bit.
Now, this may be hard to understand if you don’t struggle with emotional eating, yourself.
But, intermittent fasting can be tricky because if you’re an emotional eater, it’s easy to cut off all food during the fasting window but allow yourself to snack for whatever reason during your feeding window.
It’s within the rules to do so.
So when I was caffeinated I could coast through fasting, but when it was open season for feasting, if I felt anxious or irritated or bored or sleepy or whatever, instead of addressing the actual emotion I just… snacked.
Now that I’m solidly out of drinking caffeine, I have so much more control of my emotions and feel so much calmer. Things have slowed down and I’m able to acknowledge the emotion I’m experiencing and consider that I’m not really hungry.
I hope that makes sense.
So perhaps if you stop drinking caffeine, you’ll lose the slight appetite-suppressant effect that helps you get through fasting windows. BUT you gain mental and emotional clarity.
You’re able to slow down and really eat when you’re hungry, not for other reasons.
2- You May Develop A More Balanced Approach To Exercise
Another thing that seemed alarming at first but turned out to be a blessing in disguise was the effect of eliminating caffeine on my approach to exercise.
Working out caffeinated led to an unsustainable workout approach
When drinking caffeine and intermittent fasting, I experienced such insane heightened energy that I could knock out some very intense workouts (like 20,000 steps) first thing in the morning on zero food and low amounts of low-quality sleep.
While there’s nothing wrong with high step counts (some members of our Fitness Group’s Fitbit challenges regularly achieve this and it’s great to see), I’d burn ALL the way out doing this and then just… quit exercising altogether for a while.
And yup… gain back some of the weight!
First quitting caffeine was a death-blow to ALL exercise…
When I first quit drinking caffeine I found it nearly impossible to get a decent workout in. The first week or so, even walking was too much.
I gave myself those days to just take it easy and see if things would improve. And they did in some very important ways.
Now, when I try to work out without food, a few things happen…
- The workout sucks
- I’m REALLY tired and sore after – way more than ever before
- I make the worst of the worst food choices later on
But a moderate approach to exercise without caffeine is full of win!
At first when I quit caffeine and noticed that I wasn’t working out nearly as hard, and sometimes not as frequently, I thought this would be bad news.
But the moderation and balance has proven to do me some good!
Not only is my weight loss pace starting to pick up, but the exercise itself is more intentional. It’s just a better overall experience and a sustainable outcome. No burn out is a win!
If you quit drinking caffeine and are intermittent fasting, you might need to readjust when you work out. You may need to make sure you eat first, and your workouts also may not be as intense initially. But over time things will even out and you’ll find balance that makes everything sustainable for the long-haul, which is the most important thing.
3- Better sleep may lead to balanced energy
One of my biggest issues with caffeine was that it messed up my sleep. Yet I didn’t really even grasp this until I quit.
I was the type who could drink coffee at like 6 or 7pm and still go to bed at 10 or so, and I thought this was fine.
But the quality of that sleep was poor.
AND I’d wake up early the next day, grab a coffee or sugar-free energy drink almost right away, and that gave a false sense of energy that I now know wasn’t doing me any favors.
There’s a difference between caffeine energy and natural energy
Since quitting caffeine my quality of sleep has improved and there’s a huge difference between being truly energetic because I’ve slept and eaten well and being energetic because I’m caffeinated.
Dealing with real energy levels is so important because you can see the true effect of your actions on your body.
I am embarrassed to admit the one blatantly obvious fact that had completely escaped me until I quit drinking caffeine…
Food is supposed to be fuel
Drinking caffeine all day and then taking in food later after the caffeine wore off would end my physical hunger for sure, but I wouldn’t feel or experience any difference in my body’s energy whatsoever.
I was using caffeine for energy, and food to feel full, because it tasted good, and for social reasons mostly.
I never got any energy from my meals!
Like if I was amped up on caffeine all day, crashed around 3pm, then ate a late lunch and dinner later on? I’d still feel sluggish, tired and worn out the rest of the day. No energy even after eating.
This didn’t feel strange to me at all. It felt normal.
But now if I fast through the morning naturally without caffeine, I may eat my first meal around 11am or noon. But I notice a really clean energy boost that feels good within my body. It feels right. It makes me want to eat quality foods that feed my cells with nutrition.
Are you chronically exhausted?
If you’ve been drinking lots of caffeine for a while, chances are your sleep quality isn’t what it should be, and you’re probably chronically exhausted!
If you quit drinking caffeine you can potentially reset your energy balance. Sleep well for physical rest and then eat nutritious food for fuel. Caffeine disturbs your perception of both.
So maybe you won’t be fasting 20 hours or even 16, but the 14 hours you DO fast, combined with better sleep and conscious food choices mean you are just more energetically balanced as a whole.
Intermittent Fasting Caffeine-Free IS Harder At First
So yes, intermittent fasting without caffeine really IS harder at first. But I think it’s because EVERYTHING is harder when you first quit drinking caffeine and go through withdrawal.
If you’re willing to go through the mucky beginning, intermittent fasting and weight loss actually become easier without caffeine.
There are so many benefits to clearing your mind and body from the extra stimulation and seeing how you truly feel both on a physical and mental level, so you can make the best decisions based on what’s real.
There’s nothing wrong with caffeine if you choose to use it. It really does help so many people make it through their day.
But if you suspect you’re going a little too overboard and might benefit in some areas of your life by cutting back or quitting, know that quitting caffeine can also benefit your intermittent fasting weight loss goals too.
You just might have to give it a little time to see the result.
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