Coffee Manifesto

The Coffee Manifesto

To give this article some context, know that we are not here to either glorify or indict coffee.  We would simply like to present a balanced, rational perspective on caffeine consumption, whether it’s sourced from coffee, tea, or (gasp!) those poisonous Monster drinks.  Just because you thoroughly savor a cup of Misha’s Route 66 blend doesn’t mean that experience is automatically a healthy one, so let’s explore the subject of coffee and caffeine.

Coffee, justified

We’ve loved coffee – and its principal psychoactive compound, caffeine – since our very first sip.  And like most people with most vices, we have always found a way to justify our ongoing consumption. We’ve cited research that coffee consumption decreases the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes, and that it is inversely correlated with inflammatory markers and markers of endothelial dysfunction. Black tea (which also contains caffeine) is also associated with decreased risk of diabetes, and though it’s not clear if the caffeine itself is responsible for this effect. Caffeine also exhibits some potent ergogenic properties during endurance activities and anaerobic exercise.  We’ve even made recommendations to some of our consulting clients who are competitive athletes on how to maximize the ergogenic effects of caffeine on game day. However, our personal experiences and growing understanding of caffeine’s potent impact on our neurological and endocrine systems has led us to reexamine the role of coffee and caffeine in a healthy lifestyle.

Caffeine – the good, the bad and the adrenal fatigue

For starters, caffeine is a stimulant drug. Caffeine’s stimulatory effects can help us get through times when we need a little “pick-me-up” to stay alert, like while driving late at night or studying for a big exam. However, chronic caffeine use has also been shown to significantly decrease blood flow to the brain, which we’re pretty sure is not awesome for your exam (or driving) performance.  Though it seems like a little caffeine has some benefits, more is most certainly not better.  The same properties that make caffeine potentially useful as a pharmaceutical “tool” can be problematic when we consume significant amounts on a regular basis. And while it’s certainly not as destructive as, say, meth… the stimulatory effects of caffeine on the central nervous system and endocrine system may have some negative long-term effects.

Caffeine belongs to a group of chemical compounds called alkaloids, some of which (including nicotine, morphine, codeine, and cocaine) have potent neurological effects. Caffeine stimulates your adrenal glands to release stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which is okay… occasionally. But if, in the context of a stressful lifestyle, a poorly-designed exercise program, a lack of adequate sleep, and less-than-optimal diet, you’re already asking a lot of your adrenal glands.  If you then ask even more of your adrenals by drinking copious amounts of coffee, you could create (or worsen) an existing problem. Adrenal fatigue is a condition in which your adrenal glands are “overworked” from chronic stress and inadequate rest and recovery.

Scott Hagnas, founder of CrossFit Portland, regular contributor to The Performance Menu and Generally Smart Dude, has this to say:

“I agree that coffee isn’t as evil as some have made it out to be, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t often abused.  Quite frequently, those with some level of adrenal fatigue use caffeine as an energy source for their day.  In reality, caffeine doesn’t give you energy – it gives you stress. I see so many people that try to eat well and exercise intelligently, but have trouble making progress because of a stress filled life.  The total stress load is cumulative, so coffee becomes fuel for the fire.  I have also observed that those with damaged adrenals are more sensitive to coffee’s adverse effects than those with healthy adrenals.  As a simple rule of thumb, I you feel like you need it, then you should evaluate your habits. If you feel like you can do fine without coffee or have no problem going a few days without, then a few cups now and then should be okay for you.”

Self-examine much?  Exercising caffeine control.

“A few cups now and then…” Does that describe your coffee consumption? Note Scott’s caveat: “if… you have no problem going a few days without”. Most coffee drinkers we know can’t even get dressed for work without their coffee, much less survive a few days without.  We think that you should be in charge of what you eat and drink. Your addictions, whether they be sugar, chewing gum or caffeine, should not run the show. In fact, one of the major points of our Whole30 program is taking back control of your diet. Food (or drink) should not have power over you!   So if you’re struggling with the Sugar Demon or can’t imagine a day without coffee, we think you need to change that.

Our general recommendations on coffee are as follows:

  • If you’re not currently a caffeine user, don’t start.
  • Limit your consumption to 1-2 cups of coffee a day, always before noon to prevent sleep disruption.
  • Your coffee pot is not a cup.  Nice try.
  • If you’re using coffee as a crutch to get through your day – or just to get out of bed – reconsider whether that is a healthy relationship.
  • We don’t think the above is a healthy relationship, thanks for asking.
  • A couple times a year, give your body a Caffeine Holiday for at least 30 days. (That means NO caffeine – no black or green tea, energy drinks or even decaf.)

For those of you who “just love the taste of coffee” but swear you don’t need the caffeine, you should consider switching to decaf. Just make sure that your coffee’s decaf process doesn’t use toxic industrial solvents like dichloromethane – buying decaf labeled “organic” is your best bet. A word of caution, though… while the downsides of copious amounts of decaf are significantly less than that of regular coffee, there is still a little caffeine left after the processing, and it contains additional compounds that aren’t awesome for you if you drink it by the liter.  Exercise some restraint, and stick to the same moderate consumption as recommended above. Our apologies.



In summary, when it comes to coffee, less is generally better. Think before you drink.

Post questions, twitchy denials and fist-shaking damnations to comments.

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  1. Jeff says

    Good post! I’ll be one week into my post holidays Whole 30 tomorrow.

    I decided that I’d be cutting out coffee for this strech as it was definitely something that I was consuming on a daily basis for a long period of time. I susecpted that it’d be more difficult to function (especially in the morning) but I’ve actually felt great!

  2. says

    Twitchy denials… LOVE it. :)

    I did my Whole30 way back in September sans coffee (and all caffeine, actually). Then, woah, I got a Keurig for Christmas and my love of coffee has truly shined. Seriously, my Keurig and I are best friends.

    One problem that I have is moderation. It’s basically my biggest problem, and the Keurig helps because 1 K-cup gives you, at most, 10-12 ounces, so if you want 2 cups of coffee that’s 2 K-cups, which equals more $$$. It’s better than a Starbucks (yuck) addiction, but it’s still $ that could be saved.

    The next problem is that coffee is kinda like my gateway drug. I have a little coffee and you know what would go really good with it- coconut milk. Then I’ve got this creamy goodness in my mug and I want a Lara Bar, because, let’s face it, there’s nothing like the sweetness of a Lara Bar to go with my creamy delicious cup o’joe. Perfect balance. But then I want another Lara Bar. It’s a horrible vicious cycle.

    Additionally, coffee is a GREAT thing to have as an alternative to water. Water can get really boring. a) no tea for me because I don’t like hot tea without cream and sugar… at all, and I’m from the south so I want my diabetes with my iced tea thankyouverymuch, b) plain water gets boring, c) I’m too lazy to make my own flavored water pitchers, d) bubbly water + lime is an eat-out thing only. Coffee is available at my house and given the choice of water over coffee for breakfast I’d go with the Joe every time.

    I’m done rambling now. :)

  3. says

    Beautifully and amusingly written, as always. Thank you, giant Whole9 brains!

    I’ve been caffeine-free since, say, mid-December or so. I had to give up decaf tea and coffee, too, because it seems even that tiny bit of caffeine seems to disrupt my sleep. I’m deep into a romance with vanilla-flavored red tea and Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice (a.k.a., tiger tea in our house).

    Yesterday, without thinking, I had a decaf Americano around 3:00… my sleep was all kinds of interrupted last night.

    SO annoying.

    Caffeine is not welcome ’round here.

  4. says

    I went off caffeine a few months ago by mixing increasing amounts of decaf into my regular coffee, until (after about two months) it was straight decaf. No headaches, no screaming at my fourth graders. Now, periodically, if I want to be super-productive, I’ll have a cup.

  5. says

    Great article! I really appreciate you taking such and open stance on the coffee issue. I do drink coffee most mornings, but I’m very careful not to let it run the show. I’m careful to make sure that I don’t NEED coffee to survive or even to wake up… I have that “coffee: do stupid things faster…” sign hanging in my kitchen…thanks for all of this great information!

  6. says

    “Your Coffee Pot is not a cup. Nice Try”. <– LOVE IT! :)

    Very well written article, and a great eye-opener. I really didn't think that I had a "habit". I drink 1 cup a day. Every Day. It's only 1 cup, so that's not bad, right? Wrong. The thought of going even a single morning without my 1 cup of coffee is enough to make me want to strap myself into a straight jacket.

    I guess I may have to give this "quitting caffeine" thing a try. (Even just typing that sentence made me start having withdrawal tremors. . . . yikes !)

  7. Danielle Sigman says

    *Sigh* Just when I thought I was doing every thing right LoL. You guys are right… no addiction could possibly be good for you… I don’t know if I’m addicted to the taste, the thought of a nice cup of joe in the morning or the caffeine in the coffee but it’s been weeks since I went a day without it… Especially since school just started. I remember a time when I HATED the taste of coffee and now the stronger the better (especially Einstein’s Hazelnut Vanilla Coffee with a tiny bit of coconut milk in it… Mmmmmm)

    Re-evaluation in progress… will try to keep coffee consumption to every other day. Thanks for the great post guys!

  8. Mrs. F says

    Love Love Love Misha’s coffee! We even made sure to have Route 66 roast for our wedding celebration!

  9. Lauren G. - Whole9 EE says

    I actually went coffee free the last time I did my Whole30 (which became quite difficult at the end with multiple trans-atlantic flights. I recommend planning accordingly for your caffeine free sabbatical!). It definitely helped me see the want vs. need relationship I had with coffee since for a while I was just making it in the morning because that’s just ‘what you do’. Nowadays since you can get benefits from coffee as well as green, black, white, and red teas I tend to mix it up a lot. Although, after doing my sans coffee Whole30 I started only having tea during the week (1 cup a day) and freshly ground coffee made on Saturday morning when I get to sleep in since it’s also a designated rest day is a treat I definitely look forward to and it also allows me to savor my coffee more. I would say I’m very much beyond ‘needing’ caffeine. Most of the time, if my stress and sleep are in check, I don’t even finish the tea I make in the morning because I neither want nor need it. I would say the most valuable lesson I’ve learned from going coffee and/or caffeine free is: Your body is ready to go as soon as you wake up when your health house is in order, and caffeine just becomes an unwelcome guest relegated to the pool house.

    Great post as always, although there was a small part of me that was ready to yell ‘Noooooooo!’ if you said we had to give up coffee completely ;)

  10. says

    Yes, yes…I’ve already decided to give myself 30 days off of coffee when it warms up. Then go to just one espresso a day max…..sniffle, sniffle…

  11. says

    If you’re thinking about giving up caffeine, I have a few suggestions for herbal teas that don’t taste like grass:

    Celestial Seasonings Roastaroma. If you squint and don’t drink coffee for 30 days, it almost tastes like coffee. It’s especially good with a little warmed coconut milk in it.

    Celestial Seasonings Bengal Spice. Caffeine-free chai-ish. Also good with coconut milk, but also very tasty plain. Slightly sweet, nice and spicy.

    Rooibos red tea is caffeine free. Bengal Spice has two flavors I like: African Orange Mango and Madagascar Vanilla. Just realized they have pomegranate — I need to find that locally!

    No. I don’t work for Celestial Seasonings — I’m just SO HAPPY to have find herbals I like because the trace caffeine in decaf tea is too much for me, and the chamomile provided at our office tastes like bland grass. YUCK.

  12. says

    Good stuff! I’m thankful every day that I never hopped on the coffee/caffeine train. My girlfriend used to go to Starbucks a couple of times a day, and has had a really hard time stopping once she found out she had adrenal fatigue. The thing that has helped her most is Peppermint Tea (which is naturally decaf). In the morning, it’s something warm with a nice flavor to wake up with. I also really like Chamomile and Spearmint Tea, and would recommend them as caffeine free substitutes to anyone out there!

  13. Jeanye says

    I recently experienced some numbness/tingling sensations in my face. Not one to run to a medical doctor for much of anything not requiring stitches, (and I’ve never had stitches) I decided to simply pay attention to some of my behaviors and take note on what helped or hindered my wish to let go of the numbness/tingling sensations. Chiropractic adjustments, massage, and rest helped relieve the symptoms, but it wasn’t until I gave up caffiene that they disappeared completely. I’ve tested the theory by having a cup or two since then and am convinced that while caffiene may not be the cause, it certainly exacerbates the symptoms. So not worth it!

    Thanks for speaking boldly! Love it.

  14. says

    I agree with Mel about Roastaroma. My coffee-drinking husband says it smells amazing, and sometimes I think that’s half the attraction of coffee, aesthetically. Personally, I gave up all caffeine while studying for my PhD quals because I didn’t want test day to go poorly because of some coffee-related unplanned disaster. Now, I’m sensitive enough to caffeine that I can’t drink more than one caffeinated beverage per day, so I usually drink green tea in the morning, but when I do have that rare cup of coffee, it tastes AMAZING.

    Oh, Bengal Spice has quite a strong cinnamon flavor, so I don’t like it. But I do like Bigelow Orange and Spice tea — not at all coffee-like, but it’s tasty and doesn’t taste like grass. I find red raspberry leaf tea tastes a lot like black tea, especially with something creamy added to it.

    Yeah, chamomile tea kind of sucks. I only drink it either in a blend with lavender or when I’m sick.

  15. says

    Thank you for a great post and an open stance on my one and only vice. I come from a long line of coffee drinkers: My father used to brew espresso beans in his regular drip coffee maker, and I have grown up to believe (firmly) that the best flavored coffee is… Having said that, I love my morning coffee and used to consider my pot my cup on the weekend. I’ve now cut back from that over the past couple of years and wish I could turn to tea. At the same time, I love the taste and “zip” that my coffee provides. However……this article makes me think stronger that I should and can start going on a period of no caffeine once in awhile. Thanks again for your sound insight and tactful way of presenting your information.

  16. E.S. says

    Oh coffee. How I love/hate you.

    Despite the effects of caffeine addiction in general, coffee in particular seems to give me random tummy trouble and itching when it comes out the other end. The problem with deciding to often to your body is that sometimes it doesn’t shut up!

  17. Rob Exline Whole9EE says

    Great article!! I wish it didn’t hit so close to home:(. I love coffee, but do not feel that I can do with out it. I guess I need to read and re-read this post over and over again…..

  18. Steve says

    Another Great Read and Thanks for making me think once again. Recently, your articles seem to be more like the old stuff, more interesting and once again a must read. Keep up the good work.

  19. Amanda A. says

    A balanced and witty post, per usual. You guys rock!

    So glad to read an opinion on coffee that isn’t extreme, either for or against coffee – this actually makes sense! I stopped drinking coffee daily (was always just a one cup a day gal) when I started avoiding dairy because I couldn’t imagine coffee without my splash of cream, but now mostly just save coffee for the weekends when I can leisurely make it in my french press (I don’t know if it’s mental or what, but it definitely tastes better black from the press).

    I’m going to have to try some of the tea suggestions here, especially that Bengal Spice (is it because I want to say “tiger tea”? Maybe.) Another alternative that I had always scoffed at but now really love is simple hot water with a slice of lemon. Always sounded a bit too spa-like for me, like I should be wearing a white terrycloth robe, listening to native chants and getting a foot rub while I drink it, but it really is delicious and gives me a little “zing” on these cold, cold mornings.

    Just realized that Melissa and Dallas are coming to my neck of the woods this weekend (I live in Roanoke outside Blacksburg, VA) — hooray! I’ve got to make sure I’m at that workshop. Bring your warm clothes.

  20. Trevor says

    I kicked the coffee habit in January of 97. I guess it’s been 14 years. Just went cold turkey. For two and half weeks I had a headache every minute of the day. I decided not to take anything for the headache either. I was only drinking a cup or two a day.

    I can’t even drink the stuff now without having an allergic reaction. Strange but I don’t have the same issues with Green Tea. I only have that maybe once or twice a month. I also don’t have an allergic reaction to Green Tea and it doesn’t seem to charge me up like coffee does. Usually, I’ll drink a low charge herbal tea (mostly peppermint).

  21. says

    Good stuff!!

    i am an avid coffee consumer, but fairly often switch to decaf for a pound or two just for fun. Before ever meeting W9 i never thought coffee controlled me, but after mild (to say the least) adjustment last spring, i found i depended on it WAY TOO MUCH.

    i like the point Scott brings up about the stress factor. i often see people/clients who are stressed out of their minds constantly consuming coffee, iced tea, never really put the two together until now… makes some sense.


  22. says

    @ Everyone,

    Glad you guys are taking it so well. Most caffeine users bristle at the idea that it might not be best to drink espresso by the litre, but you guys were pretty open to modification of your behavior. That, or the only people that commented here were the ones willing to look their “problem” in the face… ;) I had a double espresso this morning pre-workout, but that’s it for the day. Hope this info helps some folks sidestep some of the detrimental effects of caffeine overuse that we’ve personally experienced. Good thing we all continue to learn, eh?

  23. ElizabethJ says

    i can’t see any comments, if anyone has some suggestions can you email me at elizajleon at g mail dot com, please

  24. Tim Hunter says

    I have been a long time coffee drinker but gave it up for my first two weeks of whole 30. I’m into my last two weeks and will have a half cup or two when I want but don’t feel like I have to have it, and I want it to stay that way. I also order a coffee substitute online called Dandy Blend, it’s really great and suppose to be good for you. The jury will be out on that pending Melissa and Dallas’ investigation I’m sure. Couldn’t agree more that we should be in control of what we eat and drink. Thanks for the great workshop in Atlanta.

  25. says


    Thanks for the suggestion. Unfortunately, Dandy Blend is made (partially) from barley and rye, and thus is not recommended. It’s categorically OUT for the Whole30. We’d recommend sticking with herbal teas (there are TONS of delicious ones) if you’re looking for a caffeine-free beverage.

  26. says


    I’m sitting here with my morning cup of ground fine as dust brewed strong really dark french roast coffee, black, reading another excellent post.

    You should’nt have said, “Though it seems like a little caffeine has some benefits, more is most certainly not better”.

    I’m going with the “little” and “some benefits part”.


  27. says

    @Dad (Captain Tom): Huh… I thought it was always the KIDS who had selective hearing, but apparently the PARENTS can have it too. Payback, right?

    @All: I’ve been caffeine-free for 90 days now, and am working on a post talking about my personal experiences with giving up coffee. Look for that in another week or so.

    As for herbal teas, anything Rooibus based is delicious, but I’m loving a series of “throat care” teas right now. They’ve got some licorice and other spicy flavors, which is a nice change from the fruity or flowery teas. The one I like the best is by Traditional Medicinals, and it’s called, “Throat Coat”, And yes, your husband/boyfriend will revert back into a 12 year old boy when you bring a box home… but it’s so delicious, it’s totally worth it.


  28. says

    I’ll give up coffee the day I give up dark chocolate and bacon and primal eating in general. :) I look, feel, and perform pretty awesome these days compared to my pre-primal life, so I can’t complain (but would if I gave up my coffee!).

  29. Kevin G says

    I am one of the, “I drink decaf because I really like the taste” kind of guys. I have had a caffeine addiction and I didn’t like it at all. I don’t like the idea of some food or drug controlling me. My first Whole30 has just solidified that point.

    I had full intentions to be angry with you guys when I finished the post but yet again it was a thoughtful, well balanced post that gave information and guidance but didn’t cross into the preachy category. Thanks for the info.


  30. says

    Great post indeed! I am actually a coffee-lover so I tend to indulge myself for coffee cravings every morning. I have known that it has vital effect in our body just as what you’ve said, it decreases your risk of diabetes. But I was not aware of its effect to our adrenal gland. Thanks for sharing.

  31. Preston says

    Apologies if I missed, and am therefore repeating commentary that addresses coffee and Alzheimer’s, cancer, and cardio-vascular health issues.

    My drug of choice is caffeine. Recent good science shows that unfiltered coffee contains the oil “cafestol,” which may be a preventative against Alzheimer’s (which is in my family) and cancer (which is also in my family). But, cafestol is also a serious cholesterol elevating substance that clogs up one’s plumbing.

    So, will it be for me Alzheimer’s and/or cancer, or will it be a heart attack or stroke?

    I’m dead if I do, and dead if I don’t. So, I think–which I do much better after having coffee–I’m going to exercise a lot, and enjoy the good stuff I get from my grinder and coffee press–which also gives me more energy for exercise ;>)

  32. ElizabethJ says

    this is day 2 with no caffeine. on Saturday i had a few sips of green tea but no coffee then yesterday was day 1. i did get headaches on Saturday night but over the past few weeks i’ve been cutting down on my caffefine. i went from 3 cups a day to 1/2 a cup in the morning, of coffee.

    Right now i’m sad because i forgot my lunch bag which contained my yummy breakfast, a veggie and avocado snack and my delicious lunch :( looks like today will be a day of fasting. i thought there was a 30 day no caffeine challenge somewhere but this must be it.

  33. Sandy says

    I’ve been avoiding this Manifesto for about 6 weeks. Finally forced myself to read it! I knew I wouldn’t like it, but the truth hurts, right? I have 8 days left in my Whole 30 (started on Ash Wednesday), and I’ve just started the coffee weaning process. Even though I’ve been eating clean, I hit a wall around 3 pm every day and want to sleep! I’m suspecting it’s linked to excessive caffeine consumption.

    I had gone 7 years caffeine free when I was having babies. I wish I’d never gone back!

  34. Mike says

    I just realized I need cut out the caffeine because I do not want to cut out the caffeine.. Now that is some cruel irony!

    I plan to start by dialing back to one cup (after I eat breakfast) and then maybe one cup of decaf. If that works and i don’t get arrested then i will go to only decaf, and then to nothing….

    My adrenals would thank me but they are too busy right now…

  35. Heather says

    Although I’m a few months late for the party, I’d like to thank you for including decaf in your discussion. I haven’t had caffeinated coffee since I got pregnant almost 3 years ago. Still I’ve been kicking around the idea of giving up my beloved decaf because although I gave up the caffeine I did not give up the addiction. Will be getting off my butt and doing that one now.

  36. Nikki Maier says

    I usually drink at least one cup of coffee in the morning and a few times a week I’ll follow that with another 1-2 cups throughout the day. 9 days ago I decided to give it up altogether. I used my 4 days at the beach to initiate the cessation so I didn’t have a meltdown at work. I had a headache and some sluggishness for the first day and a half or so, but then I was fine. I expected to feel tired and depressed and unable to concentrate without my coffee, but after that first day and a half I experienced the exact opposite. I’ve really been enjoying the balance of my moods since then, as well as the general feeling of stability and mental clarity. These results shocked me!!

    This morning I got a small cup of coffee from Starbucks. I’m not even sure why I got it – I got a good night’s sleep and I didn’t really feel sleepy. I think I just miss my morning cup o’ joe. I figured one small cup wouldn’t hurt; however, my ENTIRE body is now jittering uncontrollably (I’m having trouble typing and a lot of trouble controlling the mouse!), I’m ridiculously thirsty, I’m having trouble concentrating and I can feel my heart pounding. I’m also experiencing periodic shortness of breath while I’m sitting still (which is freaking me out a little). Wow!!! I had no idea that caffeine could affect my body so drastically. I haven’t gone for this long without coffee in… years?? I am so shocked… and I am not enjoying this feeling at all. What’s sick is I am still reluctant to give it up because I “enjoy” my coffee. I have to ask myself, what part of this is enjoyable??? My plan is to start drinking some hot herbal tea in the mornings in place of it. Whatever I think I “enjoy” about coffee is not worth this feeling.

    I’m just blown away by this whole experience. I had no idea caffeine could affect me so strongly! Thanks for this great post and for not being afraid to speak the truth, as unpopular as it may be!

  37. ElizabethJ says

    I’m at it again. I’ve decided tomorrow will be my 2nd time this year giving up coffee for 30 days. wish me luck.

  38. Nikki Maier says

    Coffee update: following the day I detailed above, I quit coffee again and I think I may have quit permanently this time. It’s been 10 days and I can honestly say I don’t miss it at all. I don’t miss the taste, the habit, that caffeinated high… my craving for it altogether has completely vanished.

    I may still enjoy a cup of coffee (probably decaf) every now and then in a social setting, but other than than, I’m over it. :) thanks again :)

  39. says

    Thanks for all of your contributions, folks. I’m happy to see people are keeping this post alive – and that many of you are learning things about your own caffeine consumption, too.

    MY UPDATE: I’ve been caffeine-clean since October 2010, so it’s closing in on a year now. I’ve had one cup of decaf coffee since then (with a decent amount of grass-fed, organic heavy cream) – and the smell and taste was heavenly. I experienced no effects from the caffeine, but I decided it was too close to the real deal for my comfort, so I’m going to limit my decaf excursions to very special occasions. I’m still not doing any tea besides herbal – I learned today that decaf only contains 3-5 mg of caffeine (while a typical cup of black tea contains anywhere from 25 – 110 mg) – that’s a big enough difference that I’m not willing to take the risk. Plus there are such a wide variety of herbal teas that I love, I’m not feeling deprived in any way.

    To those of you giving this “no caffeine” thing a shot – best of luck to you, and keep us posted as to how things are going!


  40. says

    Hey stumbled onto to your coffee manifesto while searching for specifics on caffiene withdrawal

    simply because after 3 weeks I am still struggling psychologically. I am bitchy with my husband and kids and have insomnia. I went cold turkey and with a headache and vomiting I had an initial rush of well being when that was over. The headache was a monster. Now the entrails of the old addition is setting in and I feel like I lost my best friend. I am unhinged but manage the house, kids, dinner and even in-laws for a week when they visited but just feel there is something off. I look much better when I look in the mirror. I look brighter and my perception is so clear.

    I feel more authentic in the way I speak and listen to people. I intend to stay the course, no decaf

    just herbal jasmine and ribloos and peppermint. My sister who is a high powered exec has stayed the course and told me it takes a month. She got off sugar, refined foods and alcohol and said she functioned at such a high mental level it was amazing. I am inspired by her and your website.

    So many thanks you for helping me beat the coffee addiction – which is really quite amazing when you see how different you can feel.

  41. says

    Mary, I’m glad to hear your caffeine-free experiment is going so well. I can totally relate to your struggles, too – for the first three months or so, my journey was pretty rocky. Unfortunately, it took me about six months to realize the full benefits of my new caffeine-free lifestyle, but don’t despair – things got MUCH better after the first month or so, and continued to improve at a steady pace thereafter.

    Be patient with your progress, and know that you’re on the right track. Things will even out soon enough, and when you think about how terrible the caffeine makes you feel, it will get easier and easier to abstain. I don’t miss it much at all these days, I promise.

    I also agree with your strategy of stocking up on a wide variety of herbal teas, so you can always have a hot cup of something in your hands when the cravings arise.



  42. Mel says

    Great post, I just re-read it after today’s blog post link.

    I drink a lot of fluids during the day – there is always a glass of ice water at my desk, in addition to some sort of tea. Often it is herbal or white (minimal caffeine impact), but about maybe 4x a week I enjoy a breve latte. Just one. More coffee hurts my stomach, as does excessive dairy. Sometimes I switch it up and get an Americano with room for cream.

    If I really “want” more coffee flavor, I’ll have a cup of Teeccino – have you guys ever tried it? It’s an herbal-and-nut-based-coffee-alternative, and it is actually pretty tasty (chicory provides the bitter note many associate with coffee), and they have relatively natural ingredients in their “flavored” line. You can get it either loose in a bag or in teabag portions, which I find convenient for work as we don’t have a sink where I can wash out my French press.

    I actually have quit coffee for long periods of time with no deleterious effects to myself (e.g. caffeine headaches). I do not “need” it, but I do enjoy the flavor from a good barista (this does not mean Starbucks usually. I do live in Seattle, where a plethora of great baristas practice their coffee skills)….

    Anyway, just wanted to throw my two cents in there. Thanks for a great blog!

  43. Suzanne H says

    I tested above normal for the anti-TPO Hashimoto’s test. I’ve started the Whole30 (60 probably) and I’ve also cut out nightshades and nuts. Should I cut out coffee? I only drink a cup or two a day.

  44. says


    I mean, the answer is always “give up coffee.” I know very few people with a truly healthy relationship with caffeine. While coffee is not a standard part of our autoimmune protocol, caffeine plays into hormones that all impact thyroid, so if you’re up for it, ditching coffee might be a smart move. (It’s not as high priority as the other stuff, however.)

    If you have our Whole30 Success Guide, we’ve got an autoimmune protocol in the FAQ that might be helpful.


  45. Linda says

    Melissa mentioned in a previous post that Celestial Seasonings’ Roastaroma tea was OK for the Whole30. Ingredients include roasted barley, roasted chicory, roasted carob. In another post, Dallas mentioned that Dandy Blend coffee substitute is NOT OK. Dandy Blend includes the same ingredients but also rye. Is rye the offender? Teecino is another delicious coffee substitute…does it past the Whole 30 test? Thanks.

  46. says


    Melissa never said those teas were Whole30 approved, only that they were some of her favorites. Anything with roasted barley or rye (both grains) would be out for your Whole30.

    I’m not familiar with Teecino, but if you read your labels and all the ingredients are approved, then the tea would be okay on your Whole30.


  47. says

    I got off caffeine few months back. I just didn’t want to start a off a day wrecked by my constant cravings for a cup. It was hard, but I managed and I survived!

  48. says

    I agree with Freya, caffeine’s bad for me (well that’s just for me) and I really need to break that habit. It’s never ending process of chasing and craving and I can never seem to see the end of the tunnel!

  49. michijo says

    I have been off caffeine after reading about cortisol extensively. Strangely, I have been waking up very early in the morning now that I quit caffeine, so it’s use as morning stimulate is completely over-rated. Ive never woken up so early now that I quit that poison.

  50. Madeleine says

    I was forced to go coffee-free when I started my Whole30 — even with coconut milk, coffee without cream and sweetener is just too bitter for me. I suffered a 3-day headache and barely managed to teach my 6th graders as a result. I found it really disturbing just how much of my morning personality depended on my coffee and the creamy sweetness I added to it.

    Now I’m 17 days into my W30 and am doing just fine without the caffeine. I do miss being able to grab a cuppa’ with my friends, but I’m enjoying herbal tea just fine. Now, I admit, I love the flavor and do plan on enjoying coffee when I begin reintroduction. But this time, it’s going to be a real treat I savor on weekends, not a morning habit.

  51. Trailrunner says

    I broke down in tears today during a cranial sacral session because I knew I had to give up coffee. I have given it up a few times, but this time, it’s going to be so difficult, because it has become an emotional and energy crutch. I had no problem at all giving up wheat or grains, but the thought of giving up coffee was overwhelming. I was probably suffering from adrenal fatigue ;p

  52. Sahil says

    One more negative about coffee/tea/caffeine is that it will make you appear older than what you are. However if that’s not a big deal for you, remember that coffee is infinitely more healthy and beneficial than alcohol and cigarettes. A life without alcohol, cigarettes, tea and coffee, gluten foods…maybe vegan…well you have to draw the line somewhere. Avoid things that absolutely don’t suit you, for me cigarettes although I was a heavy smoker for 7 years. Do other things in moderation, don’t form a habit. I avoid spirits like whisky, gin and vodka and beer which pack calories but still enjoy an occasional glass of wine or rum. I have gluten allergy so most bready foods are off the menu: pies, pastries, sandwiches. Giving up coffee will be hard for me as what do I really have left now.

  53. Laura says

    I sure like my coffee – I like it because my coffee pot has a timer, so it’s hot and ready for me when I get up pre-dawn. I especially love the mouth-feel of coffee with (delicious local pastured) cream in it. It’s just such a nice morning ritual, I think the routine creates a Pavlovian response which helps me wake up, more than just the caffiene. I have tried to give it up before, not so much for the coffee but for the cream, in attempts to go completely dairy-free. Each time, I have found that I have problems not with headaches, but with regularity – everything just locks up solid. Most unpleasant. I am pretty sure the caffiene is not a crutch for me otherwise. I am now on day 3 of my first whole 30, and I have replaced the coffee with a cup of hot broth in the morning, for a similar mouth-feel. I am also eating lacto-fermented carrots daily, as I have found that they support my regularity. I’m not functioning at my best, but it’s not nearly so bad as other times I have tried, so this may be a successful attempt. I would appreciate any input on keeping the digestive system happy if anyone else has had this experience!

  54. says

    @Laura, once you get further into your Whole30, the addition of extra fruits and veggies should do the trick. Your body should regulate nicely as it gets used to your new eating style.

  55. Laura says

    Hi Erin, That seems like a logical solution for most people but I feel pretty strongly that it will not work for me. I am highly sensitive to FODMAP’s and so there is a limited selection of fruits and veggies I can eat that don’t cause additional havoc of their own. I do eat copious amounts of lettuce (a head a day!), a short list of cooked veggies, and occasionally bananas or grapefruit. I have the cultured carrots every day, as well as kombucha, and both are helpful. I know the lettuce/probiotics routine keeps things moving along, as long as I avoid FODMAP’s, but the coffee seems to be an integral part of the process as well. I gave my Whole30 a week, and when I couldn’t get my body into a new groove, I reintroduced the coffee (and cream, I will admit). (Yes, I know the point of a Whole30 is to not give up after a week, but there you have it. I’m sticking with the rest of the plan for the duration.) There is no need to live like that, and I will continue to fine-tune and see if I can give it another go some time in the future.

  56. says

    I love the healthy, balanced (and humorous) approach in your writing. I take the same tack with weight loss in my blog. Thanks for the encouragement to give up the black beast. I know I need to.

  57. Debbie says

    Well now you have me thinking. I drink only coffee every day all day. Once in a while I consume a glass of water here and there, but I typically just have coffee . I stop about 5:00 pm and then I don’t usually drink after that. I don’t think I get a buzz from it, and I’m not a jittery person. Pretty laid back and relaxed. I don’t know what I would drink if I didn’t drink coffee. I don’t really care for water. I drink iced tea some in the summer when it gets real hot, but I don’t know any other way. Been this way for about 30 years I guess.

  58. Genevieve says

    This is the first time I’ve tried the Whole30. I’ve had a lot of various food, salt, caffeine issues in my life & one of the reasons I’m doing this (besides to break addictions & feel mistress of myself again) is because of some recent blood sugar issues. Diabetes runs very high on both sides of my family & I had recently developed some alarming symptoms. I don’t feel like departing this world at 30 years old, the way my grandfather did, half blind, half mobile because he couldn’t put down his massive dish of pasta. Hence, the Whole30.

    During this experiment, I decided NOT to give up coffee in addition to everything else. (One addiction at a time, I thought). But what amazed me was that– only 4 days in!!!– I woke up, went to work & it wasn’t until noon that I realized I hadn’t had any coffee at all! Normally I would be repeating myself & unable to focus, with no energy at all for my work if I hadn’t had at least 2-3 shots if espresso RIGHT when I got up. Instead, I was clear headed & a little tired from a shirt night of sleep & in the best mood I’ve been in in months! Now I have 1 shot/day– only on workdays & only before noon. And I try to skip when I can.

    Thank you for creating this. We all must tackle our own demons & they are all different. I can’t believe all the wonderful changes taking place in my body from doing this. This month is sugar & learning to know when I’m flu & what I really want. (Ending week 3…think I may continue for a few more…or maybe never stop). NEXT month…caffeine. :)

  59. says

    Consider this my “fist shaking damnation”! :) This hit way too close to home and I’m sad at how convicted I am after reading it… I did cut back to 2 cups of 1/2 caff when I started my whole 30 (today) but I’m definitely not ready to give it up for any length of time yet. (Which means I definitely need to. Dang it.)

  60. Joni says

    I am curious if anyone is drinking Ganoderma (instant) coffee? I have been drinking it for years and I feel less jittery and not dehydrated afterwards. I love it, but of course I am always looking for “the next best thing” :) TIA for any insite!

  61. Stephanie says

    I read somewhere that the best times to drink coffee are between 9:30 & 11am, then between 1:30pm & 3pm. These are the times that your body doesn’t naturally produce caffeine. Fact or fiction? Also, a friend of mine suggested using a little bit of date paste with canned coconut cream in coffee. Yay or nay to that?