Observations From 30 Days Without Booze, Caffeine, Or Gluten

I was curious.

What would happen if I intentionally eliminated alcohol, caffeine, and gluten from my diet, and stuck with it for 30 days?

What would I learn?

How would I feel?

What new insights could I share with my clients and fitness community?

See, one of my main goals as a health coach is to get guys out of their comfort zones. By changing these little default habits of ours, we start to see patterns we were blinded to.

We can then start to build real awareness around how foods and drugs impact our minds, bodies, moods, energy, cravings, and sleep.

This awareness ultimately gives us the power to go out and build a body, mind, and life we can finally point to with pride.

So here we go:

My 30 days sans booze, caffeine, and gluten. This oughta be fun.

Booze

Just to give you some context on my drinking habits these days — I’m not a big drinker right now. Fifteen or twenty years ago would be a different story 🙂 but right now, I don’t drink much. I normally average about five drinks a week, while some weeks I might only have a couple. My wettest weeks, I might have ten or so, but no more.

So this puts me squarely in the light-to-moderate drinking camp.

More to the point though: over the last 20 years, I haven’t had more than a few weeks’ break from booze. Maybe two weeks here and there, but I haven’t gone more than 30 days without booze since I could legally chug it.

I wanted to hit that benchmark, to see if there would be a difference in how I felt, how my energy levels changed if any, and how it impacted my body composition/body fat percentage.

Major Observations After 30 Booze-Free Days:

I quickly learned environments are everything!

At home without beers in the fridge or wine in stock, it was no problem.

But when out at a party or social dinner with friends, it was much, much harder to abstain. It was classic FOMO: the Feeling Of Missing Out.

I know it’s a silly thing, but booze has become such a normalized part of our social contract. That’s for good reason — getting buzzed is nice, the dopamine feels good, it’s fun! Especially when you add the group element.

No booze a month meant I had way more calories to work with. I don’t count calories, but I’m still roughly aware of what I consume every day. Ten drinks a week over the course of a month is around 6,000 calories! Even five a week is 3,000 calories.

Doesn’t it make way more sense to spend those calories on healthy foodstuffs, rather than the emptiness of booze?

I saved a little cash. OK, a lot of cash.

Craft beer and wine, which are my drinks of choice, run about $5-8 each. At a drink or two a day, that’s about $250-$300 extra cash in my pocket every month.

I finally noticed how prevalent booze is in our culture. When you’re walking around sober, you realize how many people have serious problems with alcohol.

How many people depend on nightly drinking as a coping mechanism.

Binge drinking to escape their unpleasant reality.

No judgments here, but my booze-free perspective really helped turn me onto this truth.

The Big Takeaway From No Booze for 30 Days:

I honestly didn’t notice a huge change in how I felt. My energy stayed pretty good and my sleep and mood were unaffected. I did drop a few pounds, which I expected, but I think that was more to do with a slight drop in calories and making better choices, as opposed to the direct impact of less alcohol in and of itself.

That said — and I don’t care what biased, cherry-picked “study: says otherwise:

From a pure physiological perspective, there is absolutely nothing about alcohol that is good for you. Full stop. End of story.

Honestly, the one “healthy” element of alcohol is psychological: its ability to connect us human beings to each other.

If you are lonely, sharing a good laugh or deep conversation with friends over a beer or wine is powerful medicine. We are social animals with an innate, hardwired need for connection.

If booze facilitates this connection — which I firmly believe it does — then this is the best argument I’ve seen for drinking moderately.

So go and have your drinks and connect with friends, family, and loved ones, but please don’t spew the healthy benefits of alcohol. Also, keep the word “moderation in mind.”

If you enter the heavy drinking range (over 14 drinks a week for men and over seven for women), you’ll offset any potential social benefits of drinking and put yourself at a much higher risk for addiction and other diseases.

Caffeine

I knew this would be a tough one. Come morning time, coffee is my best friend. I’ve been averaging 2-3 cups per day for as long as I can remember. I love everything about coffee. The smell, the taste, the ritual, the effects on my brain … I am all in on my buddy Joe.

But for this 30-day period, it was zero coffee for me. And while many friends advised me to slowly wean myself off the stuff, I decided to jump in head-first and go cold turkey.

And I made it! Here’s what I learned:

Major Observations After 30 Caffeine-Free Days:

Caffeine is PO. TENT. Holy HELL.

If you’re a regular coffee drinker and go cold turkey, then godspeed. The withdrawal headaches were brutal. Days 2-4 were, by far, the worst.

It dramatically impacted my focus, and not for the better. I felt motivation wane, and felt it more difficult to get into productive work blocks without coffee

My sleep habits weren’t impacted too much. I did take a few afternoon naps on Days 3 and 4 to combat the headaches.

I really missed my early-morning ritual of sitting quietly, having my coffee, and doing some writing or other caffeine-fueled task. I tried to keep the ritual going with tea or (after a couple weeks) decaf coffee, but it simply wasn’t the same.

I tried an energetic breathing protocol — the “step-up breathing” method from Brian McKenzie and Robb Wolf from the Art of Breath — that helped stimulate the body and mind. Check it out here, it may help you too!

The Big Takeaway From No Caffeine for 30 Days:

I missed my morning coffee routine big time and it’s back in full force now.

BUT, I can now go without it if need be and be okay, instead of every morning being all, “don’t talk to me until I’ve had my coffee.”

I’ve come to realize there are other ways to wake the body. Specific breathing protocols and exercise are two key alternatives that got me going without coffee.

Gluten

I don’t eat a lot of gluten, but I do love bread. On an average week, I’ve been known to indulge in a few servings of bread when eating out. I’m also a sucker for fresh pastries, so many post-surfing sessions might involve a tasty chocolate croissant.

So I figured I’d go gluten-free for a month, mostly for the sake of curiosity:

Would it change my body fat?

Up my energy levels?

Curb my cravings?

Major Observations After 30 Gluten-Free Days:

My biggest insight was that when you eliminate gluten, you automatically get rid of so many refined carbs (cookies, pastries, crackers, pizza, etc.)

With less refined carbs, I did indeed experience fewer cravings. It’s not specifically about the gluten itself, but it’s about how many gluten foods are also high carb/sugar, which can disrupt blood sugar and create cravings.

I realized my body handles gluten just fine, but the “no gluten” rule was a simple way to avoid many of these trouble junk foods.

I was still eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and other carb sources. Because of this, while my overall carb consumption went down slightly, there wasn’t a huge noticeable impact on my energy or body fat percentage.

The Big Takeaway From No Gluten for 30 Days:

The “no gluten” rule made it super-simple to avoid the vast majority of the high-calorie, easy-to-overeat junk foods out there. This simplified my eating and, while I still ate desserts or had some sweets, it made decisions much easier and I didn’t indulge as much as I would have if I was eating gluten.

I think “no gluten” is a good idea for most people who want to prioritize fat loss. When you replace these high-calorie, low-nutrient foods (baked goods, pizzas, crackers, and cookies) with more nutrient-dense foods like fruits and veggies, you will most likely eat less, control your blood sugar better, and create a more productive environment for losing body fat.

In Conclusion:

One of the most powerful takeaways from this was the simple act of setting out to do something slightly uncomfortable and sticking with it for 30 days. It’s unbelievably rewarding. It gives you an incredible amount of confidence knowing that you can achieve what you set out to achieve.

Yes, some of the days sucked, and there were plenty of temptations over the course of 30 days. ”Oh what will one drink do?” “It’s just one piece of cake!”

But by holding strong, I built resilience, and so can you.

That, my friends, is a powerful skill to possess.

Remember, true vitality and health comes from knowing your body, your mind, and how all this stuff affects YOUR biology.

By doing these kinds of mini-experiments, you can start to tune into all this stuff.

Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what I see so many people doing. Many people simply hop on the newest diet trend, follow orders to EAT THIS, NOT THAT, listen to those who label foods good or bad, and allow themselves to feel guilty for eating certain foods.

Screw that.

Run these little experiments on yourself. Tune into these innate signals your body gives you daily, taking the path to true health and wellness. It may be the path less traveled, and you may encounter some bumps along the way, but it will be completely worth it in the end.

If you want a tour guide on that road less taken, I can show you the way. Start now.

Let’s chat on the phone about how we’re getting you to the next level. You can schedule a call here.

If you have any questions, you can reach out to me here: nick@nickholtfit.com

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