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I was recently went on business trip to Australia, and I was dragging. Since I can’t sleep on planes for the life of me, going 27 hours with barely any sleep along with jet-lag, was tough.
Everyone on the trip, including my boss and colleagues, were pounding cups of coffee and tea. While they were getting their caffeine boost, I was quietly sipping some ice water in the corner, hoping the jet lag would quickly pass.
I’m sure everyone thought I was crazy. But, I haven’t had a caffeinated beverage in over 12 years. Like no coffee, tea, Coca-Cola (never a fan of Pepsi– it was too sweet), or Red Bull.
For the most part, I haven’t had much difficulty avoiding caffeine since I quit.
I’ve never enjoyed coffee or tea. Red Bull smells like chemicals to me. However, giving up Coca-Cola was hard. I was straight up addicted to it.
While I was in the corner drinking my ice water, my colleagues, who were downing coffee, fit right into the nearly 54% of Americans who drink caffeine on a daily basis.
Plus, the majority of caffeine drinkers drink 3.1 cups of coffee per day, according to this study by Johns Hopkins. Furthermore, 80% of adults in the US have some sort of caffeine each day.
Can you believe that?
I’m part of the 1 out of 5 people who don’t have caffeine every day.
That’s mind boggling to me.
Clearly, people love their caffeine. And, Starbucks is benefiting as 35.2 million people, or roughly 10% of the US population, has visited a Starbucks within the last 30 days in the US. I’m sure this won’t surprise you, but the stock since Starbucks’ IPO in 1992 has gone up over 10,000%. I really wish I had had the foresight to have bought it back then.
While I never could stand coffee, I absolutely loved Coca-Cola. I drank so much Coke that I could crush any blind taste test. I could easily pinpoint the Coke compared to its lowly competitors. However, in 12 years, I haven’t had a drop of that sweet nectar. Even still, I have no doubt that I could still pass a taste test. 🙂
According to Brandon Gaille, “The average person will consume at least one Coca-Cola product once every 4 days,” and “7% say that they drink 4 or more servings of soda every day.”
Sadly I was in the 7% statistic that drank way too much Coke. If I didn’t have Coke by noon, I would start to develop a headache. And, it was an expensive “need”.
Everytime I went out to eat, I had to spend an extra $2-3 to maintain my Coca-Cola habit. Because I would go out to lunch every day at work plus at least once on the weekends, that added up to around $60 per month, or $720 per year.
On top of that, I drank a 2-liter bottle of Coke every day in addition to those restaurant purchases. Since I wasn’t a savvy shopper, I would usually spend $2 on a liter. That’s roughly another $720 per year spent to satisfy my Coca-Cola addiction.
I was spending $1,440 per year on soda alone.
That is sickening.
However, I wasn’t alone. In 1998, the average American drank 54 gallons of soda to just 42 gallons of water. I really don’t even want to think about how many gallons of Coca-Cola that I ingested.
Here is some perspective though.
The average person is suppose to drink 8 cups of water a day. Based on these stats from 1998, Americans were drinking less than 2 cups of water a day.
Thankfully, Americans have cut back on their soda habit to 44 gallons per year. Average water intake has increased to 58 gallons of water a year.
Negative Side Effects
I’m sure many of you are probably retching at my past exorbitant Coca-Cola intake. Trust me, I am too as I think about it.
As a finance blogger, I shouldn’t admit this, but the real reason that I gave up drinking Coke had nothing to do with finances.
It had to do with anxiety.
Growing up, I never drank Coke since my mom wouldn’t buy it. However, like most kids, when I got to college, I started to make my own [poor] food and drink decisions.
Besides the fact that I gained some weight due to my daily soda intake of 840 calories, I became incredibly anxious. It affected the way that I lived.
Initially, I thought the anxiety was due to typical college stress and trying to fit in. As time went on though, the anxiety became worse. I started to take it more seriously and was trying to pinpoint what was triggering it.
At first, I still just chalked it up to restlessness in my twenties. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until about 6 years after college that I figured out that there was a direct correlation between my anxiety and the soda that I was drinking.
Quitting Cold Turkey
When I decided that I needed to give up caffeine in order to get rid of the anxiety, I knew that there was only one way to do it.
At first, it was not pretty. I was incredibly sick for a couple days with night sweats, dry-heaving, and pounding headaches. My withdrawal from Coca-Cola was horrible. But then I noticed a subtle shift in my emotions. I started to feel less anxious, more energetic and less irritable.
It all made sense though when I started to do some research.
Caffeine has been found to have a 6-hour half-life. That means that it takes a full 24 hours to completely work its way through your system. So, the caffeine that I drank from my lunchtime Coke would still be in my system at 50% strength at bedtime.
According to Coffee and Health, increased caffeine results in less sleep, poorer sleep quality, and waking up more frequently during the night.
Related: Why You Probably Need More Sleep
Decreased Cognitive Performance
If you’re reading this thinking that you need caffeine for the jolt and drive you need to get through the day, think again. A recent study by the University of British Columbia actually found that excessive caffeine may actually cause you to slack off.
The Johns Hopkins study I mentioned before also found that once the morning high wears off, the residual caffeine actually reduces your cognitive performance and negatively impacts your mood, much to the chagrin of your colleagues.
Increased Stress Levels
For those who believe that caffeine helps cope with stress, according to James Lane, “The caffeine we drink enhances the effects of the stresses we experience, so if we have a stressful job, drinking coffee makes our body respond more to the ordinary stresses we experience.” He goes on to say, “Everyone accepts that stress can be unhealthy. Our results suggest that drinking coffee or other caffeinated drinks can make stress even more unhealthy.” With that amount of stress we’re all already under, why would we undertake any additional stress than we don’t have to?
Some argue that caffeine is good for you.
Interestingly enough, some studies contradict those that previously claimed that drinking caffeine in moderation was good for you.
My wife decided to give up caffeine shortly after we got married. I like to think that I convinced her to, but I’m not exactly sure. While in college, she had developed a deep affection for coffee and Diet Coke. She heavily relied on caffeinated beverages to stay up late studying.
Like me, she also experienced a bit of anxiety and also insomnia in her twenties, but she assumed it was just par for the course of life. I encouraged her to drop caffeine to see if she would experience any positive benefits. She started by switching to non-caffeinated Zevia flavors, which helped her eventually transition into drinking La Croix and Pellegrino to satisfy her carbonation fix. Now, she doesn’t even need the carbonation. Plain old water is just fine to her.
Both of us agree that eradicating caffeine from our lives has yielded amazing results. Those include: diminished anxiety, clarity of mind, better sleep, and interestingly enough for me, several promotions at work. That has been an added bonus: more money in our Personal Capital account each year.
Related: Why You Should Use Personal Capital