Caffeine Withdrawal: Symptoms and Solutions

Learn about the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, ranging from mild to severe. Also check out some tips on how to wean yourself from caffeine without the discomfort of withdrawal.

If you’ve ever had a coffee or soda habit, you may have experienced caffeine withdrawal symptoms. They’re uncomfortable, sometimes flu-like symptoms that can distract you from your work, disrupt your sleep, and make you irritable around your loved ones. Because coffee and soda are such normal beverages around the home and workplace, it can be easy to forget that caffeine, though mild, is still a drug just like any other. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association included “Caffeine Withdrawal” in a recent edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (the DSM-51), a publication for health care professionals that describes the criteria of mental disorders. Caffeine withdrawal causes real symptoms in the human body, and this article will describe some of those symptoms, and a few different methods you can use to relieve them.

Caffeine withdrawal: symptoms and solutions.

Common Symptoms of Caffeine Withdrawal

Caffeine is a stimulant to the central nervous system, and it is also the world’s most commonly used psychoactive substance. Caffeine affects your neural activity, increasing alertness and reducing fatigue. If you regularly consume caffeine your body begins to rely on it, and when you stop, you can experience withdrawal. Here is a list of some common symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.

1. Headache

One of the most commonly reported symptoms of caffeine withdrawal, headaches are caused because caffeine constricts blood vessels in the brain, slowing the blood flow. One study showed that those who consume fewer than 3 cups of coffee a day can reduce their cerebral blood flow by up to 27%. Once the blood vessels narrow, reducing your caffeine consumption allows the blood flow to increase to the brain again, which can cause painful, sometimes severe headaches as the brain readapts. The headaches will eventually subside, but read to the end of this article to find our suggested solutions for relieving the symptoms of caffeine withdrawal.

2. Difficulty Concentrating

Coffee, tea, and energy drinks with caffeine are often taken to boost concentration, so when you suddenly stop consuming them, that benefit ends. Caffeinated beverages are often used to improve focus before tests, athletic events, or presentations because caffeine causes your adrenal glands to up their production of adrenaline. Caffeine also boosts your excitatory neurotransmitters, norepinephrine and dopamine. Overall, caffeine works by raising your heart rate, your blood pressure, and stimulating your brain. Phasing out caffeine forces your body to suddenly adapt to doing without all those perks.

3. Fatigue

That feeling of tiredness you often use a cup of coffee to counteract? If you quit caffeine, that fatigue may return with a vengeance. Caffeine increases alertness by blocking adenosine receptors, a neurotransmitter that causes drowsiness. When that is removed from your body’s chemistry, the adenosine comes right back, and affects you in a way you may have become unaccustomed to dealing with on your own.

One study of 213 habitual caffeine drinkers showed that abstaining from caffeine for only 16 hours caused feelings of fatigue. Those who consumed caffeine the most had much more severe withdrawal symptoms. Because the energy caffeine provides only lasts up to 4-6 hours, it becomes easy for normal users to get into the habit of drinking multiple cups of coffee or energy drinks each day, just to maintain their desired level of alertness. It also deepens their dependency.

4. Anxiety

Because caffeine is a stimulant that increases your blood pressure, heart rate, and the stress hormones epinephrine and cortisol, just 1 cup of coffee can make some people anxious and jittery. However, suddenly stopping your caffeine consumption can cause this side effect as well, as your body has become physically and mentally dependent on a substance it’s no longer getting. Moreover if you take your caffeine in the form of soda or sweetened coffee you may be feeling the lack of sugar intake as well, which could amp up the restlessness and anxiety you feel and make your caffeine withdrawal even worse.

5. Irritability

Regular coffee drinkers are often cranky or irritable before their morning cup of java. It’s a lack of caffeine that may be the cause of that, because caffeine only lasts in your system for 4-6 hours and it’s worn off after a night’s rest. As coffee drinkers are used to the mood-altering effects of caffeine, the lack of it can bring feelings of irritability. One study of 94 caffeine drinkers who wanted to cut back on their caffeine intake showed that 89% of the participants were unsuccessful, reportedly due to the symptoms of withdrawal, which included anger and irritability.

6. Depressed Mood

Caffeine is well known for perking people up and elevating their mood because it blocks adenosine receptors. Studies have shown that those who consume caffeine regularly have a more positive mood compared to those taking a placebo. It can go so far as to reduce the risk of depression, as seen in one study on over 50,000 women which found that those who drank 4 or more cups of coffee a day had a 20% lower risk of depression. Removing those benefits by ceasing caffeine consumption can cause a depression in mood, a side effect that could be quite dangerous, as depression is a serious condition that could alter someone’s life for the worse.

7. Tremors

Another serious side effect of caffeine withdrawal: tremors. Those with a serious dependency may find their hands shake after they quit caffeine, because caffeine is a stimulant of the central nervous system. Quitting cold turkey could be ill advised for those with anxiety disorders or a long-term caffeine addiction, as these hand tremors could last between 2 and 9 days after stopping caffeine intake. Tremors lasting any longer than that may mean you need to consult a medical professional to make sure there isn’t an underlying cause beyond consuming too much caffeine.

Ways to Reduce Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms

Here are some tips for treating caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

1. Over-the-Counter Medications

For headaches or difficulty falling asleep, over-the-counter medications like pain relievers and sleep aids can help in the short term, to get you past those first few days of caffeine withdrawal. Ibuprofen (Advil), acetaminophen (Tylenol), and aspirin (Bayer) can help a caffeine withdrawal headache, but be sure to take them as instructed on the label, as some medications can cause stomach bleeding or kidney damage if overused.

2. Reduce Slowly and Stay Hydrated

Reducing your dependence on caffeine slowly is a way to minimize withdrawal symptoms while avoiding over-the-counter drugs. If you are drinking multiple cups of coffee a day, for example, you may want to take a month and reduce your caffeine consumption by 25% each week. That means 4 cups a day on a usual week should go down to 3 cups the next week, and so on until you can experience milder withdrawal symptoms. Switching to decaf or herbal tea after that can help you keep your habits and obey your taste cravings, and staying hydrated reduces instances of headache.

3. Amino Acids for Caffeine Withdrawal

Another option you might try is supplementing with the amino acid L-tyrosine for caffeine withdrawal (also known as tyrosine). Your brain synthesizes dopamine from tyrosine, which is normally gained from either high-protein food sources (cod, eggs, spirulina, beef, poultry, pork, dairy products, avocados, nuts, and seeds), or from another amino acid, phenylalanine.

The brain overproduces dopamine when you consume caffeine, first depleting your stores of tyrosine, then phenylalanine. When you stop caffeine consumption suddenly, your body may be unable to normally produce dopamine for a short time until it replenishes its amino acid stores.

Supplementing with a comprehensive amino acid supplement that includes tyrosine or phenylalanine (which helps restore both of them), could help you quit caffeine cold turkey, but without the cravings and withdrawal symptoms.

The last facet will be to replace the behaviors around caffeine consumption: heading to a coffee shop, having a soda as a midday pick-me-up, or relying on energy drinks when you need to focus. Replacing behavioral habits with new ones, and replacing your physiological dependence with the help of an amino acid supplement, may allow you to skip the backlash of removing daily caffeine from your life (and help keep you from backsliding into a habit you no longer want to participate in).

Remove Caffeine from Your Routine

Caffeine dependence is a very common predicament in the modern world. Most people are able to kick the habit on their own eventually, but relapsing is a common occurrence too. Consider using the tips above to stick to your new caffeine-free resolution, and consult a medical professional if you notice extreme withdrawal symptoms like double vision, confusion, or nausea, especially if they persist for longer than 9 days. Other than that, quitting caffeine is definitely doable, and you know you have the strength to see it through.

5 Tips for Mixing Up the Flavor of Your Essential Amino Acid Drink

We’re all for keeping life exciting, so why shouldn’t the essential amino acids you ingest have a little variety? Shaking things up with different flavors and ingredients in your essential amino acid drink is a great way to maintain enthusiasm for your daily supplement routine.

Essential amino acids are not a medicine that you take for a little while until the condition that spurred you to seek them out has been resolved. Rather, they are called essential because we can’t live without a regular intake of these miraculous, protein-building nutrients. It is, therefore, advisable to incorporate essential amino acid supplements into your daily dietary routine.

We’re all for keeping life exciting, so why shouldn’t the essential amino acids you ingest have a little variety? Shaking things up (pun intended) with different flavors and ingredients in your essential amino acid drink is a great way to maintain enthusiasm for your daily supplement routine. Read on for five pieces of expert advice on how to tweak the flavor of your essential amino acid drink.

The Benefits of Essential Amino Acid Drinks

The draw of essential amino acid drinks, for many, has to do with their ability to support muscle mass gains and speed up muscle recovery times. Because of those benefits, it’s common for individuals to schedule their essential amino acid drink consumption around their training sessions. In fact, people often down essential amino acid drink mixes both pre-workout and post-workout because these dietary supplements can improve exercise performance as well as minimize muscle soreness capacity.

The Role of Amino Acids in the Human Body

Amino acids have earned themselves the nickname “the building blocks of protein” due to the crucial role they play in muscle growth. Three specific amino acids—leucine, isoleucine, and valine—known as branched-chain amino acids, have an especially significant impact on muscle tissue. But branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) and the entire cadre of essential amino acids (EAAs) have numerous benefits that go far beyond helping the human body build muscle and preventing muscle damage.

Take branched-chain amino acids, for example. Leucine—considered the most significant of the BCAAs—initiates muscle protein synthesis. When the rate of protein synthesis outpaces protein breakdown, muscles can recover between workouts and new muscle growth can occur. So, clearly, an adequate intake of leucine is a vital prerequisite for anyone striving to build muscle. However, the branched-chain amino acids also contribute to energy production and even fat loss. There’s evidence, too, that they stabilize balance blood sugar levels and enhance blood sugar metabolism.

To learn more about the overall health benefits of amino acids, check out this article.

Understanding the Link Between Taste and Smell

We all have certain foods or drinks that we love. Some of us scream for chocolate ice cream while others crush on freshly squeezed orange juice. To some degree, these preferences for certain tastes and textures may be innate. Familiarity also plays a role in shaping our palates. Plus, some tastes can be acquired. This process often transpires naturally as we grow older. Children often find strong flavors like liver or blue cheese to be off-putting, but as we age, our tastes mature. Sometimes the very foods you disliked strongly when you were young become favorites in adulthood.

The way we respond to a food’s flavor is informed by its aroma. The smells of foods originate from their chemical components and can be enhanced and even altered with cooking. Interestingly, the individual molecules of food can have a very different smell than the intact food. Whole grains, for instance, contain rich stores of vitamin B yet have a far more appealing aroma than a jar of B vitamins does! This is because food is a mixture of ingredients that are chemically bound together, changing the characteristics of each molecule.

How Does This Relate to Essential Amino Acid Drinks?

Amino acids derived from intact proteins provide a very good example of this phenomenon. High-quality dietary protein sources such as milk or fresh uncooked meat typically give off very little odor. Go ahead, take a whiff…we’ll wait for you…

Once you break that protein down into its constituent amino acids, however, it begins to emit a different and quite distinct aroma, one that may not be considered pleasant by everyone. Free amino acids also have a distinct taste that may include some bitterness depending upon the particular amino acid.

Each amino acid contains nitrogen paired with a unique side chain. For example, methionine and cysteine are two of the sulfurous amino acids, therefore, their side chains contain sulfur. Sulfur has a very strong taste and smell, as anyone who likes hard-boiled eggs can attest to.

The branched-chain amino acids—leucine, isoleucine, and valine, which we discussed earlier—get their name from the somewhat large, branched structure of their side chains. This structure makes them hydrophobic, a fancy way of saying they do not mix well in water. So if you are trying to blend pure leucine crystals into a beverage, it’s going to require some shaking!

If you have previously tried a commercially available essential amino acid blend, you may have thought it tasted just fine, or you may have found it to be somewhat bitter. Individuals vary genetically in their sensitivity to bitter tastes and those with strong responses often dislike foods with bitter notes, such as cruciferous vegetables or coffee. Regardless of where you fall on the taste spectrum, there are a number of strategies to enhance the flavor of an amino acid drink.

Expert Advice on Mixing Up the Flavor of Your Essential Amino Acid Drink

The biggest taste issue most individuals run into with amino acid products is finding them to be overly bitter. Fortunately, there are a number of tactics you can try to balance out the innate flavor of essential amino acid drinks so that amino acid supplementation can be an enjoyable part of your day. Here are five tips for turning your essential amino acid drink into a concoction you look forward to.

1. Chill It Out

The temperature of a food or beverage influences the intensity of the flavor. Hot cocoa tastes very chocolatey and sweet, while ice cold milk with the same amount of cocoa tastes a bit bland. Ice cream requires a fair amount of sugar and flavoring for the taste to be intense once it is frozen solid. It follows that if you want to diminish a flavor, you should consume it ice cold. For this reason, amino acid drinks taste best with lots of ice.

2.  Blend It Up

Even the most hydrophobic amino acids are no match for the power of a blender. Simply add your essential amino acid blend, the liquid of your choosing, and plenty of ice.

You can add essential amino acids to your favorite smoothie or slushy recipe, or even treat yourself to a good-for-you virgin margarita, salted rim optional.

3. Pour in Some Sweetness

Balancing components of taste is a common strategy used by food scientists and chefs. If something is bitter, add something sweet and just like that, you’ve offset the bitterness.

Natural fruit juice is one of the healthiest options for sweetening up an essential amino acid drink. Keep in mind that certain flavors are stronger than others. Grape, pomegranate, and cherry juice are very rich in color and have a bold taste that can mask less desirable flavors. Apple juice, on the other hand, is rather neutral and adds just a hint of sweetness.

4. Make It Mouth-Puckering

Adding tart or tangy notes also effectively diminishes a bitter taste. Splashing in some fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice can dramatically change the final taste of an amino acid drink.

Even a small amount of citrus—roughly half a lime or lemon, or a full orange since the flavor is more mild—can temper bitterness.

5. Tweak the Ratios

Most amino acid supplements come pre-flavored, usually with a natural low-calorie or non-calorie sweetener. The manufacturer usually suggests a ratio of powder mix to water but this is by no means a hard and fast requirement. Using different volumes of water, or water and juice combinations, allows you to create a whole spectrum of concentrations. As long as you stick to the recommended serving size, you will get the same effective dose of essential amino acids regardless of the concentration.

For those who find the taste of essential amino acid drinks simply do not agree with your palate, the best strategy could be to mix the powder in a very small volume of water. While this “shot” of essential amino acids will be intensely flavored, it can be consumed in one gulp.

I should note, too, that it’s possible to take some essential amino acid supplements in capsule form. If you would prefer to swallow pills (the dose is usually five or six fairly large capsules), then you can skip the culinary creativity altogether.

Hopefully these tips—which you should feel free to mix and match—will show you that there are endless options you can use to create your favorite essential amino acid drink. The idea is not just to love the benefits of a daily essential amino acid supplement, but also to love the taste of your essential amino acid drink.