10 Things That Happen to Your Body When You Quit Coffee

Updated: Mar. 11, 2021

First of all, no one’s saying you SHOULD quit drinking coffee—your daily java habit is probably healthier than you think. But if you suspect you’re drinking too much coffee or caffeine and want to cut back, here’s what could happen.

coffee topped with whipped cream, chocolate drizzle, and caramel
iStock/john shepherd

You could lose weight

Depending on how you like your coffee, your regular Starbucks run could be doing a number on your waistline; giving up those cups of joe could save you money as well as calories. A study published in 2017 in Public Health found that roughly two-thirds of coffee drinkers load their cup of joe with sugar, cream, flavorings, or other calorie-rich additives. Not surprisingly, the researchers discovered that those who drink their coffee black consume about 69 fewer total calories per day, on average, than those who add sweeteners, cream or other additives to their coffee. Here are some signs you’re drinking too much coffee.

colorfully decorated doughnuts topped with sprinkles and drizzles

You could gain weight

Have you ever experienced strange cravings if you happen to forgo your caffeine dose one morning? Since coffee can temporarily suppress your appetite, you might find yourself reaching for fat- or sugar-loaded replacements more often than usual once you stop drinking your daily cup of joe. This is especially true when your caffeine withdrawal kicks in and your body starts searching for a quick sugar fix, boosting your blood sugar and daily caloric consumption. Here’s what happens to your body when you drink coffee every day.

young woman sleeping in bed
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You could sleep better

Even though you’ll feel tired as your body adjusts to the lack of stimulants it’s become used to, in the long run, you could get a better night’s sleep once you start living caffeine-free, especially if you were an afternoon or evening coffee drinker.  A study published in 2013 in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine found that caffeine intake even six hours before bedtime can disrupt a person’s sleep cycle that night. Try out these ways to wake up in the morning without coffee.

woman massaging her temple with eyes closed

You could have more frequent headaches

Every coffee lover recognizes the telltale signs of the dreaded caffeine headache that hits when your body doesn’t get its morning jolt. When you stop drinking coffee, you deprive your body of adrenaline and dopamine, hormones that act as natural stimulants and keep you awake. Instead, a flood of adenosine—a hormone responsible for rest and tiredness—rushes to your head, causing a change to your brain chemistry that results in a headache. To minimize the pain, don’t quit cold turkey. Instead, cut your intake just a little bit every two or three days. Eliminating a half cup of coffee, replacing coffee with tea, or even mixing normal coffee with decaf can help to avoid withdrawal symptoms, and you’ll be well on your way to weaning off your caffeine dependency. Here are some things that happen to your body when you switch from coffee to tea.

woman sitting in chair, looking down and holding forehead

You could feel sick (but not for long)

Headaches aren’t the only painful symptom of quitting coffee. Those who stop consuming coffee have reported side effects like depression, anxiety, dizziness, flu-like symptoms, insomnia, irritability, mood swings, and sluggishness. Here’s the good news: you won’t feel this way forever. Experts say that most of the physical symptoms of caffeine withdrawal will pass after the first two days, while the rest of the side effects won’t last beyond a week or two.

close-up of woman's smile

You could have a healthier smile

Coffee is highly acidic, which means it erodes your tooth enamel and stains your teeth with every sip. Cut the caffeine and you’ll protect your teeth from a lifetime of erosion, leading to pearlier whites. “Your teeth won’t get stained as much, which people often don’t think about,” says Angelone. Try one of these alternatives to your morning cup of coffee.

glass mug of tea next to pile of dried tea

You could miss out on antioxidants

Plenty of research, including a study published in 2015 in PLoS One, found that coffee can act as an antioxidant. And other studies point to the potential for a reduced risk of certain diseases seen in coffee drinkers. One published in 2018 in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, for instance, suggests that coffee drinkers have a lower risk for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s than non coffee drinkers. So, unfortunately, if you’re cutting back on coffee, you’ll be losing the health benefits, too. Thankfully, it’s not hard to make up for your regular coffee intake by replacing it with antioxidant-rich tea, fruits, and veggies.

woman sitting at desk typing into smartphone

You could have difficulty concentrating

Quitting coffee can make you feel fatigued and irritable, which can contribute to a lack of concentration, thanks to caffeine withdrawal. Blame it on the lack of stimulants you get from a dose of coffee, as well as the increase in adenosine, that pesky hormone that makes you feel tired. To counteract the loss of concentration, try chewing minty gum to keep your brain alert and on task. When participants did so in a study published in 2014 in the British Journal of Psychology, they had quicker reaction times and more accurate results on their tasks, especially toward the end of the session. Plus, after just a week without caffeine, you’ll find that your productivity has increased because you no longer experience the inevitable afternoon crash after a morning cup of coffee. Here are some other myths and facts about how coffee affects your body.

man on a trail drinking from water bottle

You could become constipated

Caffeine keeps things moving through your intestines, which is why you may feel backed up when you stop drinking your usual cup of java. But never fear, there are plenty of other ways to help prevent constipation: eat lots of fiber (found in whole grains, vegetables, and beans), drink plenty of water, and exercise regularly. Your digestive system will thank you.

smiling woman sitting at desk with feet propped up on chair

You could feel calmer

If too much caffeine has ever left you squirming in your chair or jiggling your leg, it’s time to say goodbye to your double espresso shots. Since caffeine is a stimulant, it naturally raises levels of adrenaline and stress hormones in your body. No wonder drinking too much joe can make you jittery and irritable, especially if you’re sensitive to caffeine, says Sonya Angelone, RDN, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, in San Francisco..  If you find you just can’t quit your coffee fix, here are some ways to make your coffee habit healthier.