How To Handle Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms While Intermittent Fasting: 8 Effective Strategies

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How To Handle Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms While Intermittent Fasting

Many people consume caffeine regularly, with coffee, tea, and energy drinks serving as staples to boost energy and alertness.

Meanwhile, intermittent fasting has become increasingly popular for weight management and improving overall health. However, combining these two habits can pose a unique challenge.

If you’re used to regular caffeine consumption, starting intermittent fasting might lead to uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms.

Understanding how to handle caffeine withdrawal symptoms while intermittent fasting is crucial for maintaining your well-being and successfully adhering to your fasting routine.

By managing these symptoms effectively, you can enjoy the benefits of intermittent fasting without the added strain of caffeine withdrawal.

What Is Caffeine Withdrawal?

Caffeine withdrawal occurs when someone who regularly consumes caffeine suddenly reduces their intake or stops altogether.

This can happen whether you consume coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks. Regular caffeine intake leads to dependence, and the body becomes accustomed to its stimulating effects.

When you stop consuming caffeine, your body reacts to the absence of the substance, leading to withdrawal symptoms1.

Symptoms Of Caffeine Withdrawal

The symptoms of caffeine withdrawal can vary in intensity but commonly include:


These are among the most frequently reported symptoms, as caffeine has a vasoconstrictive effect, and its sudden absence can cause blood vessels in the brain to dilate, leading to headaches1,2.

A 2009 study discovered that as little as 250 milligrams of caffeine (equivalent to less than three cups of coffee) can decrease cerebral blood flow by up to 27%3.

This sudden change in blood flow can cause painful withdrawal headaches that can vary in length and severity as the brain adapts. However, these headaches will subside as the brain adjusts to the increased blood flow.


Without caffeine’s stimulant properties, many people experience a significant drop in energy levels, resulting in lethargy and drowsiness.

Caffeine boosts alertness and reduces fatigue by blocking adenosine receptors, a neurotransmitter that typically induces drowsiness4.

A 2012 study involving 213 habitual caffeine consumers showed that abstaining from caffeine for 16 hours resulted in increased feelings of fatigue5.

Moreover, daily caffeine users experienced more severe withdrawal symptoms, including fatigue, compared to those who consumed it only a few times a week4.

Additionally, caffeine’s energizing effects last only about 4 to 6 hours in your system. This limited duration often leads people to consume multiple cups of coffee or energy drinks throughout the day to maintain alertness4.


Coffee drinkers are accustomed to the mood-boosting effects of caffeine, as well as the burst of energy it provides.

For heavy caffeine users, reducing their usual intake can be challenging and may adversely affect their mood.

In a 2012 study involving 94 adults dependent on caffeine, 89% of participants indicated that, despite wanting to reduce their caffeine consumption, they were unsuccessful due to withdrawal symptoms such as irritability and anger6.

Difficulty Concentrating

One of the reasons why people opt to consume caffeine through coffee, tea, or energy drinks is to enhance their concentration. 

Caffeine raises adrenaline levels, also called epinephrine, a hormone naturally produced by the adrenal glands in response to stress7. Additionally, it enhances the activity of excitatory neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine8.

This set of responses elevates heart rate and blood pressure while stimulating the brain, leading to heightened alertness and better focus.

Eliminating caffeine can impair concentration as your body adjusts to functioning without it.

Depressed Mood

Some individuals may feel a sense of low mood or mild depression during withdrawal.

A study from 2008 discovered that caffeine can make you feel more energetic and in a better mood. However, these effects go away when you stop drinking caffeine9.

Headache And Intermittent Fasting

Practicing intermittent fasting can put you at risk of experiencing headaches.

Typically, the likelihood of fasting headaches rises with the length of the fast. You may begin to feel a mild to moderate headache after fasting for at least 14-16 hours10.

The discomfort of a fasting headache usually manifests in the frontal region of the head. If you have migraine, you will also experience migraine headaches11.

However, the discomfort diminishes as you replenish your brain and body with a nutritious meal and balanced diet.

As you get used to this new way of living, you’ll likely feel more energetic and active while fasting.

Causes Of Intermittent Fasting Headaches

There are some possible causes of intermittent fasting headaches, such as:

Caffeine withdrawal.

Caffeine withdrawal headaches occur when you stop drinking coffee. The blood resumes regular flow to the brain, causing short-term withdrawal headaches. Such headaches will subside when your brain gets used to increased blood flow1,2.

Low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia).

Low blood sugar levels, known as hypoglycemia, occur when glucose levels fall below 70 mg/dL12.

This condition can induce headache pain, often accompanied by hypoglycemic symptoms such as blurred vision, fatigue, nervousness, and an elevated heart rate.


As your brain loses water, it contracts and shifts away from the skull, leading to headaches when dehydrated13.

While fasting, the loss of fluids through sweating and excretion depletes essential minerals and electrolytes, known as “natural diuresis.”14

Your body’s organs require various minerals to function properly; losing these minerals can disrupt normal bodily functions.

How To Handle Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms While Intermittent Fasting

To manage caffeine withdrawal effectively and prevent discomfort while still benefiting from intermittent fasting, consider these tips:

1. Gradual reduction of caffeine intake.

Before starting your intermittent fasting schedule, consider gradually tapering off caffeine consumption. This approach can help mitigate symptoms like intermittent fasting headaches and facilitate a smoother transition.

2. Maintain proper hydration.

Ensuring adequate hydration is essential during fasting period, especially when managing caffeine withdrawal. Drink plenty of water throughout the day to support your health improvement goals and alleviate withdrawal symptoms.

3. Exercise and physical activity.

Incorporate light exercise into your routine to boost mood, energy, and weight loss efforts. Consistent physical activity complements intermittent fasting schedules and helps achieve health goals.

4. Adequate sleep quality.

Prioritize sufficient rest to combat fatigue and irritability, common during caffeine withdrawal and intermittent fasting. Quality sleep supports weight loss efforts and overall health improvement.

5. Nutrient-dense foods.

Consume foods rich in healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals during eating windows to support energy levels and blood sugar control. These foods aid in weight loss and contribute to overall health benefits.

6. Plan caffeine intake.

Be mindful of when you consume your last dose of caffeine before starting intermittent fasting. Adjust your intake accordingly to minimize caffeine withdrawal symptoms during fasting periods.

7. Alternative beverages.

Explore non-caffeinated herbal teas or decaffeinated options to supplement your fluid intake. These beverages support hydration and assist in managing caffeine withdrawal symptoms during intermittent fasting.

8. Healthcare professional guidance.

Consult a healthcare professional before intermittent fasting, especially if you have underlying health conditions. Their guidance can ensure a safe and effective approach to intermittent fasting and health improvement.

Final Thoughts

Keep in mind that being patient and staying persistent will help you deal with caffeine withdrawal while you’re doing intermittent fasting.

By gradually reducing caffeine intake, staying hydrated, prioritizing rest, and nourishing your body with nutrient-rich foods, you can effectively manage withdrawal symptoms and optimize the benefits of intermittent fasting.

Don’t hesitate to seek guidance from a healthcare professional, and stay committed to your health journey.

With time and effort, you’ll adjust to this new routine and enjoy the benefits of better well-being and energy.


1 Sajadi-Ernazarova KR, Anderson J, Dhakal A, et al. Caffeine Withdrawal. [Updated 2023 Aug 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK430790/

2 Nowaczewska M, Wiciński M, Kaźmierczak W. The Ambiguous Role of Caffeine in Migraine Headache: From Trigger to Treatment. Nutrients. 2020 Jul 28;12(8):2259. doi: 10.3390/nu12082259. PMID: 32731623; PMCID: PMC7468766.

3 Addicott MA, Yang LL, Peiffer AM, Burnett LR, Burdette JH, Chen MY, Hayasaka S, Kraft RA, Maldjian JA, Laurienti PJ. The effect of daily caffeine use on cerebral blood flow: How much caffeine can we tolerate? Hum Brain Mapp. 2009 Oct;30(10):3102-14. doi: 10.1002/hbm.20732. PMID: 19219847; PMCID: PMC2748160.

4 Evans J, Richards JR, Battisti AS. Caffeine. [Updated 2023 Jun 8]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2024 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK519490/

5 Juliano LM, Huntley ED, Harrell PT, Westerman AT. Development of the caffeine withdrawal symptom questionnaire: caffeine withdrawal symptoms cluster into 7 factors. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2012 Aug 1;124(3):229-34. doi: 10.1016/j.drugalcdep.2012.01.009. Epub 2012 Feb 15. PMID: 22341956.

6 Juliano LM, Evatt DP, Richards BD, Griffiths RR. Characterization of individuals seeking treatment for caffeine dependence. Psychol Addict Behav. 2012 Dec;26(4):948-54. doi: 10.1037/a0027246. Epub 2012 Feb 27. PMID: 22369218; PMCID: PMC3642245.

7 Rodak, K., Kokot, I., & Kratz, E. M. (2021). Caffeine as a Factor Influencing the Functioning of the Human Body—Friend or Foe? Nutrients, 13(9), 3088. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu13093088

8 Volkow, N. D., Wang, J., Logan, J., Alexoff, D., Fowler, J. S., Thanos, P. K., Wong, C., Casado, V., Ferre, S., & Tomasi, D. (2015). Caffeine increases striatal dopamine D2/D3 receptor availability in the human brain. Translational Psychiatry, 5(4), e549. https://doi.org/10.1038/tp.2015.46

9 Adan A, Prat G, Fabbri M, Sànchez-Turet M. Early effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee on subjective state and gender differences. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2008 Oct 1;32(7):1698-703. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2008.07.005. Epub 2008 Jul 15. PMID: 18675877.

10 Maideen P, Mohamed N. (2018). Islamic fasting associated adverse health effects-A review. 10.22038/jfh.2017.25419.1095.

11 Torelli P, Manzoni GC. Fasting headache. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2010 Aug;14(4):284-91. doi: 10.1007/s11916-010-0119-5. PMID: 20490742.

12 Nakhleh A, Shehadeh N. Hypoglycemia in diabetes: An update on pathophysiology, treatment, and prevention. World J Diabetes. 2021 Dec 15;12(12):2036-2049. doi: 10.4239/wjd.v12.i12.2036. PMID: 35047118; PMCID: PMC8696639.

13 Giuliani C, Peri A. Effects of Hyponatremia on the Brain. J Clin Med. 2014 Oct 28;3(4):1163-77. doi: 10.3390/jcm3041163. PMID: 26237597; PMCID: PMC4470176.

14 National Research Council (US) Subcommittee on the Tenth Edition of the Recommended Dietary Allowances. Recommended Dietary Allowances: 10th Edition. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 1989. 11, Water and Electrolytes. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK234935/


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