My 9-Day Coffee Fast

Monday, May 9, 2016 - 21:25

In the months leading up to the birth of my daughter, I vividly remember many well-meaning people telling me to sleep while I still had the chance. As someone that made it through MIT without ever needing coffee and without pulling an all-nighter for academic reasons, I scoffed at the idea that parenthood would affect me in any significant way in that department.

Boy, was I wrong.

I must preface this, as all caring parents do, by stating for the record that I absolutely love and adore my daughter. However, her sleep schedule left much to be desired. While friends would brag that their kids were no big deal and would nap for hours on end, every single nap was an outright battle waged with rocking, lullabies, and every sleep training technique you could imagine.

To make matters more challenging, I was blessed with the opportunity to rise in the ranks at my company and lead and expansion that ultimately turned into a venture capital backed startup within the organization. It's been exciting and thrilling, but it has also incredibly time-consuming on top of the sleepless nights of parenthood.

Enter Coffee

It should come as no surprise that I quickly evolved from tea, to breakfast tea, to coffee, to espressos, to multi-shot filled Americanos. On any given day I averaged two Americanos just to function. And if it was a particularly busy or stressful day, I might need one last shot near the end of the day just to keep alert enough to not feel like I was down 20 IQ points and losing my thoughts mid-sentence. And if I had it bad, my wife Emily was even worse because she bore the brunt of the sleepless days and nights.

Exit Coffee

By the time Evelyn was nearing 18 months old, I was growing tired of coffee (pun intended). Having grown up in a family where substance abuse was a problem, I never felt comfortable depending on anything, particularly a drug like caffeine, simply to be functional. Yes, it could be argued that coffee is benign and that a jolt to get the heart going is a necessary evil in the go-go world. However, I saw it as a deficiency of my body not being pushed past its limits.

To prove that I could easily separate from caffeine and still be present in all of life, I decided to attempt a complete fast from all sources of caffeine for at least a week. Knowing that this would likely cause some headaches, I did my homework to give myself the best chance possible. I planned on using water bottles to measure my intake and over hydrate. I also bought multiple containers of Garden of Life Perfect Food RAW to flood my body with nutrients and attempt to alkalize my body (whether or not there was actual scientific evidence to support such a claim, I was banking on a placebo effect).

The Results

While it's never easy to break an ingrained habit (particularly when it becomes an unconscious reflex to find oneself turning into the Starbucks' parking lot), I had almost no negative side effects. I never had a headache and, therefore, didn't require any pain killers. I did have to get a few additional hours of sleep over the week, but that was a welcome change of pace. My workouts were not as easy, but there are other factors that I can attribute to that as well.

I did ultimately break the fast today, but it was intentional as I'm gearing up to push myself to the limits again over the next few weeks. Still, it's good to know that I can choose to stop at any point in the future.

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About Rick Manelius

Quick Stats: Chief Product Officer of DRUD Tech. Author of Winning the Lottery Within. Graduated from MIT in '03 (BS) and '09 (PhD). Life hacker and peak performance enthusiast. This blog is my experiment in creative writing, self-expression, and sharing what I've learned along my journey. For more information, read my full bio here or contact me.