Do you remember how you felt after your very first cup of coffee (ever)? Excitement and a remarkable ability to focus…Sometimes, even euphoria. Compare that with the slightly less-sleepy feeling you get after the fifth cup of coffee this morning. So, what happened since that first, magical sip?
Found in tea and coffee, caffeine is the world’s most popular stimulant. We usually associate a cup of coffee with happiness, and for some of us, even relief. Unfortunately, only people who aren’t used to caffeine will experience the euphoric effects associated with that cup of liquid gold. Chances are, if you’re a coffee-lover, you’ll only experience caffeine’s anti-sleep effect, and not much else.
And before you reach for that second cup, remember, caffeine tolerance is an insurmountable tolerance. This means more, doesn’t necessarily mean better. Increasing the amount of caffeine you consume will not amplify the effects of caffeine, no matter how much coffee you drink.
So the question is, are you considered caffeine tolerant? The ‘bad news’ is, just drinking coffee more than a few times a week will increase your caffeine tolerance, which means no super-focus and no euphoria. If you want to maximize the benefits of caffeine, you may want to try weaning yourself off of it or excluding it from your diet for a month, which will allow your tolerance to fade.
How it works
Caffeine blocks a subset of adenosine receptors called A2A receptors. These receptors are normally responsible for the sleepy feeling that signals you to get ready for bed, but when caffeine blocks this receptor, that sleepy feeling disappears. Blocking this receptor also augments dopamine signaling, which results in the stimulated feeling associated with caffeine.
Caffeine tolerance prevents augmented dopamine signaling, which is why coffee veterans don’t feel true stimulation after drinking a few cups. Even the most enthusiastic coffee drinker however, will benefit from the anti-sleep effect caused by blocked adenosine receptors.
Benefits of caffeine
For many of us, grabbing that hot cup of coffee or tea in the morning, has become almost instinctual. It doesn’t just taste great, it also helps us kick off that lingering feeling of fatigue after a poor night’s sleep. But just in case you need another excuse to drink coffee, here are two more science-backed reasons to justify each sip:
Caffeine increases catecholamine signaling (adrenaline and dopamine) in the body, which doesn’t just make you feel good, but also increases motivation and improves focus. Just like how supplementing Creatine alongside exercise improves exercise performance, supplementing caffeine while studying will improve retention and focus.
A caffeine dose of 400 – 600 mg is one of the most reliable and potent ways to temporarily increase strength through supplementation. People who are caffeine naive will typically experience improved power output during strength training or anaerobic exercise.
Caffeine can also play a role in recovery post-workout, whether you’re caffeine naive or caffeine tolerant. Ingesting caffeine alongside carbohydrates can improve the rate of glycogen replenishment, which is particularly important if you work out very frequently or multiple times per day.
Getting more from less
How do you maximize the benefits of caffeine? Drink less. Or to be even more specific, less frequently. It may be difficult, but capping off your caffeine intake to once or twice a week is the best way to get more from each cup.