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Michael Wolf Hoffman
Michael Wolf Hoffman

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Quitting Coffee as a Software Engineer

Quitting Coffee as a Software Engineer

I was a big coffee drinker for a long time. Before learning to code and becoming a software engineer, I was a laboratory scientist and technician. In most surveys, this is the profession that consumes the most coffee.
However, software engineers are right up there near the top too in terms of caffeine consumption.

I knew I was addicted and thought it would be good to decrease my caffeine consumption over time. In this post, I will talk about why and how I did that and what the results were.

Why I Quit Caffeine

There are many reasons it's good to decrease your caffeine consumption. Caffeine Blues is a great book that I read that offers many reasons.

A few of the reasons mentioned in this book are that caffeine is very addictive. In terms of addiction it isn't very different from many illegal drugs. It just happens to be socially acceptable. Our society even lets children consume this drug!

The author, Stephen Cherninske, is a biochemist and he goes into detail for how ccientifically caffiene doesn't actually give you energy or help you focus.

Instead, caffeine takes advantage of the fight or flight response and forces the adrenal glands to pump out stress hormones, which makes us feel like we have energy and focus, but in reality this just taxes our adrenal glands which we need for other important physiological purposes.

Another reason to quit caffeine that he mentions is that coffee is acidic and also full of pesticides. It uses more pesticides than any other crop. While you might think that tea is safer, tea also uses a ton of pesticides and it really is not much safer. It's best to just drink water (or some other alternatives he mentions in the book).

On a more personal level, while drinking coffee I was having trouble falling and staying asleep at night. I also had trouble focusing in the afternoon if I was not actively sipping some coffee. I also lost my father to esophageal cancer and want to be more careful about what acidic things I let slide down my gullet.

Ultimately, I didn't like the feeling of being dependent on a drink to get my work done. I didn't like taxing my adrenal glands all day, or filling my body with acid and pesticides.

How I Quit Caffeine

I was addicted to coffee and quitting any addiction is no joke. Withdrawls from coffee can be very serious. In the past I had tried cold turkey and it was miserable. It is best to ween yourself off of slowly.

Caffeine Blues has a method to quit coffee, but I did not use this method. Instead, I drank a smaller amount each day for about 2 weeks. On the last day, I had basically a sip and that was it.

By doing this, I felt no withdrawl affects. I did not have the common headaches that can be absolutely brutal for some people and had destroyed my attempts to quit caffeine in the past.

One of the hardest parts of quitting an addiction, beside the physical aspect of the addiction, is the actual mental habit.

For a while I was drinking rooibos or ginseng teas instead of coffee. Neither of these contain caffeine and they have some great health benefits.

These are both great teas and they were recommend in Caffeine Blues, but they didn't provide the same deep nutty robust flavor that coffee had. Eventually, I bought some chickory root granules for this reason. They have a ton of health benefits as well, no caffeine, and a similar taste and feel to coffee. Each morning, I began drinking chickory root instead of coffee.

I also made sure to get plenty of exercise. I run most mornings, lift weights 3 days a week, and walk or hike with my dogs every day. It's important to exercise and eat well to keep your energy and focus.

Results

So what are the results? Is it worth it to quit coffee as a software engineer, entrepreneur or other creative?

If coffee provides you with the energy and focus you need to get through the day and you feel like you can't get your tasks completed without coffee, then you are probably the exact person who should consider quitting coffee.

I am going to talk about my results now, and then you can decide for yourself.

I track my sleep using the app Sleep Cycle. I was often getting scores of about 70/100, not very good. I noticed that I felt more energize when I woke up after quitting coffee and I have more energy naturally thoughout the day. My sleep cycle scores are usually in the high 80s or low 90s. I have even had a few 100/100 sleep nights! I consistenly experience more deep sleep than during my caffeine consuming days.

I also feel much more focused at work. There are days where I might be tired, and I may drink a ginseng tea to help keep me focused, but for the most part I am more focused on my work and I feel more productive after quitting coffee. If nothing else, I'm not constantly leaving my computer to pour more coffee or to piss it out.

Very importantly, I still drink coffee once or twice a week. I try not to have more than a small mug during each time.

This is a nice treat for me, since I love the smell and taste of coffee, and this method allows me not to become addicted.

I do want to warn you though. The first time I drank coffee after quitting, I had quit for about 3 months with absolutly no coffee. I drank a mug and a few minutes later I was shaking, sweaty, and very nervous. I felt like I was having a psychadelic experience. This type of account is also experienced by Michael Pollan and he writes about it in his book This is Your Mind on Plants, which is another fascinating read if you want to learn more about caffeine (and other plants).

This trip-like experience was eye-opening for me because so many people get so used to caffeine and don't understand how powerful it truly is and it's affects on their bodies and minds.

In conclusion, I am glad that I "quit" coffee (other than the once or twice per week). I recommend it and would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

Discussion (1)

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Noah

I was never a big coffee drinker and drink maybe 1 coffee a month. I 100% agree on the sleep part. I'm extremely fortunate to have great sleep. I rarely get a sleep rating under 90%. I'm convinced that this has to do with the fact that I don't drink coffee.