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Resetting your caffeine (coffee) tolerance

Having been a longtime coffee drinker, I've come to the conclusion that the same exact brew of Joe simply doesn't have the same caffeine kick it used to have for me.

I'm thinking about going cold turkey from all (or nearly all) caffeinated products (coffee included) to reset my body's internal caffeine reservoir and tolerance.

My thinking is 7 days.

My understanding is that caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours. So I figure 7 days should be plenty.

Anyone else try this?

If so, does it work?

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  1. Ipsy whipsy,

    I went cold turkey on 20 cups a day, and I swear it was worse than giving up cigarettes. The headaches, the mood swings, the jones.


    I gradually cut down over a year to 1 morning java, the only caffeinated bevvie I drink. But on the rare occasion I don't have it, I feel think-headed and stupid by mid-afternoon.

    1. Purple goddes is right. Only do this gradually.

      I was your proverbial caffeine addict until I had the wreck and broke by back. I was in the hospital for a looooong time and they didn't allow me as much coffee as I was used to. I thought I was going to have a nervous break down. The withdrawal was terrible.

      1. It should take you a week. That week is not going to be a fun time. Once the withdrawl is over you should, in theory, be as alert off caffine as you were on. Don't know how long it will take to build the tolerance back up once you start drinking it again. My guess is not very long.

        1. I once quit cold turkey and had no ill-effects - I had previously begun my daily coffee drinking ritual before leaving the house for work in the a.m. and continued throughout the day until 5 p.m. quitting time. But! I think I'm an extreme rarity in that regard. All others that I've known have experienced headaches, slugginess, etc.

          After about 3 years, I began to drink coffee again, and depending on the coffee blend, grind, and other nuances, I generally have to limit myself to 2, maybe 3 cups or suffer shakiness and sometimes an upset stomach. So Yes, I think you can "reset" your tolerance. Don't know if 7 day's would do it.

          1. cafeine withdrawl headaches are the worst. Don't do it cold turkey. A couple times over the last 20 years I've forgotten to have my coffee for one reason or another. About 12 hours after waking up, I have the worst headache.It often takes me a little while to figure out why. A couple TB of instant coffee in cold water (need to get it QUICK) and 20 minutes later I'm all better.

            1. As others have said, the headaches are a killer if you go cold turkey. I've had better success switching to tea, then green tea, then water. It still sucks; I've been using the drug (caffeine) for more than 20 years, with only short breaks, and the last time I went off it, for about 3 weeks, I found that I really was NOT as awake and alert without my coffee as I was with it, even after the withdrawal period was over; so I just decided I like my coffee too much to give it up. That said, what you're doing, i.e. resetting your tolerance, does work; you give the stuff up for a week or so, and when you go back a nice cup of coffee will get you going like, maybe, two or three would now, when your tolerance is higher.

              But when I had to give up caffeine for some research study one time, they said it takes 3 days for the caffeine to totally leave your system - not 5 hours.

              1. I had a cracking headache once. I used to drink instant coffee in a huge mug, layering the granules about 1/2 cm deep. Strong stuff. I just poured it in. So anyway, after about two or three a day, I felt this headache come on, and I realised I hadn't had a cup of coffee that day.

                Had coffee, headache went, I never drank so much again.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Soop

                  Stopped drinking (except for last week in LV)last Nov.; a piece of cake. Told by MD last month to quit coffee; man it's killing me. I withdrew gradually and still make a pot for my wife every morning, but boy do I miss that morning java.

                2. It's not just the caffeine that needs to clear from your body-- you need to wait for your enzyme levels to return to baseline. Constistent exposure to caffeine will induce the expression of the enzyme that metabolizes caffeine (CYP 1A2) in your liver, so you'll also need to wait until the elevated levels of enzyme decrease in order for your caffeine tolerance to subside. I'm not exactly sure how long that takes (probably a couple of days) but I will ask one of my colleagues when I see him later today.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: chococat

                    I was thinking of resetting my caffeine tolerance as well, mostly just because I don't want to feel like I am dependent or need it to function, I just love the taste. Therefore I really only drink decaf and at most 4 cups/day. Can you build up a dependancy or tolerance from drinking decaf?

                    1. re: forzagto

                      Yes! Frozagto, my frickin doctor even told me to give up decaf because it still contains caffeine. I miss my morning cuo a joe. Peppermint tea just doesn't hack it.

                      1. re: forzagto

                        Whether or not you will get enzyme induction from decaf coffee depends on how much caffeine the "decaf" has and how your body responds to it. There is a lot of inter-individual variability in metabolism. And there's not necessarily anything wrong with having more liver enzymes.

                      2. re: chococat

                        My colleague says that on average, the half-life of a CYP enzyme is around 24 hours (it's hard to measure, so we really don't know) so if you believe the rule of 5 half-lives, your enzymes will be back to normal in ~5 days. But he also cautions that we are not considering whether or not the "caffeine" receptors are also altered with extended exposure and will undergo some adjustment. So the short answer is "We have no idea".

                        1. re: chococat

                          Hey, this is very interesting. Thanks for info chococat.

                      3. Here's my story.
                        I've been a quadruple shot espresso/cappucino/latte drinker fro 40 years.
                        I decided it was time to do the necessary, preventive tests for my age group....stress test, etc. No caffeine allowed for two days prior...for obvious reasons.
                        Went cold turkey 2 months ago and I've never looked back.
                        I never had the headaches people talk about or anything else, for that matter.
                        I think caffeine, definately, is physically addictive but there's an emotional, psychological component to this for sure.
                        I wanted good health and letting go of this very huge part of my life was part of the equation.

                        1. I used to be a Coke drinker, years ago. I would drink them all day, every day. I don't think caffeine ever gave me any kind of noticeable buzz back then. Nowadays I'm more healthy and don't really drink soda. I'll occasionally give in to a Dr. Pepper and if I were to have 2 cans or 2 cups of coffee in a row, I'll feel it. I feel a little jittery and have the need to drink water to alleviate it. The first time I gave up caffeine cold turkey, I had all the symptoms everyone else spoke of, but the 5 or so times I have done it since, nothing. So, just experiment with how long you deny yourself the caffeine. Personally, I'd go 2 weeks, since they say that's about the amount of time it takes to form/break a habit.

                          1. I used to be addicted to coffee many years ago. When you get home from work at around 11P and have to wake up at 5A, it's easy to understand how one can get addicted. I replaced my coffee gradually with tea (and still drink tea regularly as I don't get the nasty side effects that I did with coffee -- butterflies in stomach, soft stool, etc.). But the main reason I quit coffee was not because of what it did to my body but because I hated the fact that I was dependent on a substance. So I started drinking tea instead. I don't feel an addiction to tea as I did with coffee. If I go without it for a few days, it doesn't really matter. I have coffee every once in a while, but it's not a habit. I treat coffee like a treat.

                            5 Replies
                            1. re: Miss Needle

                              That's an interesting perspective you have Miss Needle.

                              I find it a bit curious that you consider coffee to be a dependency, but the same does not hold true for tea.

                              In any event, I'm not trying to quit coffee -- not long-term anyway. And I have no problems wit my addiction or dependency on caffeine, or coffee. I just want to do a "re-boot" of my system so that I can the same buzz from 1 cup of coffee that I now get after only 4 cups. Not only is drinking 4 cups of coffee time-consuming, but a person can only take so many bathroom breaks before co-workers start whispering ...

                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                It depends on the person... the only way you will know is to try it. I worked in a coffeehouse and was drinking 16-20 shots of espresso a day (I was 18, so my body just put up with it.)

                                Even after multiple attempts to reset my caffeine tolerance, I still have to drink a lot more than I expect to get the effect I want.

                                1. re: Das Ubergeek

                                  I feel you. I drank a lot of caffeinated beverages when I was very little and since then caffeine really does nothing for me a lot of the time. There are times where I can drink a coffee and then I'll still be asleep an hour later. If something keeps me up, it's not coffee. It's either tea or one of those vitamin waters that has caffeine in it.

                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                  I did a "reboot" a few years back when I stopped drinking it when I got pregnant. (Unfortunately, there was no bathroom relief due to the pregnancy itself!) Due to headaches, I took myself off of it slowly, cutting back by a half cup every few days.

                                  I definitely did seem to appreciate the effect of the coffee more once I began drinking it again, though I'm not certain if the satisfying sensation was physical or psychological (nothing beats a hot steaming mug in the morning). So, when you say 'reboot', I know exactly what you mean. I definitely appreciated coffee more during that period after I just started drinking it again, since I was not at saturation levels (which, as I was trying to finish writing a book last year, I unfortunately reached once again). Perhaps it's time for me to reboot my system once again!

                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                    I apologize for not reading your original post and understanding what you've intended as the topic of conversation.
                                    What you're undertaking is interesting....I'd actually never thought about it before you brought this up.
                                    Your curiosity about tea dependency vs. coffee dependency is a valid....
                                    I've actually had better jolts with certain teas than I did with the espressos I'd consumed.

                                3. Hey ipsedixit, this is exactly my problem (and I've only been drinking regular coffee for 2 weeks). What have you found since then, about this? What advice would you have for me? Thanks!