The Low Down on Caffiene

Caffiene Tolerance

Found notably in tea and coffee, caffeine is the world’s most popular stimulant. In some people, it can promote anxiety, but 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 truly euphoric effects. Chances are, if you’re a coffee lover, you’ll mostly experience caffeine’s awakening effect, not much else.

Drinking coffee just once a day is enough to increase your caffeine tolerance. And before you reach for that second cup, remember, caffeine tolerance is an insurmountable tolerance: At some point, taking more will just stop working. If you want to maximize the benefits of caffeine, you may want to try weaning yourself off it, to allow your tolerance to fade.

How it Works

Caffeine can block different adenosine receptors in the brain, with varying effects. By blocking the A1 receptor, which promotes sleepiness when activated, caffeine can increase alertness. By blocking the A2A receptor, caffeine can increase dopamine levels, which has stimulating and mood-enhancing effects.

The A1 receptor doesn’t seem to get desensitized, which may be why caffeine doesn’t lose its awakening effect. The A2A receptor does get desensitized, however, which is why coffee veterans don’t feel true stimulation even after drinking several cups.

Benefits of Caffiene

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 three more science-backed benefits to justify each sip:

1. Caffiene Can Enhance Cognition

By increasing catecholamine signalling (adrenaline and dopamine), caffeine can benefit mood and focus. When you drink coffee regularly, however, your dopamine production downregulates, so that you need caffeine just to regain normal levels — at this point, the increase in focus you feel may just be withdrawal reversal.

Furthermore, caffeine can reduce the working memory even of people who don’t usually drink coffee, perhaps because of overstimulation. On the whole, however, caffeine can help “caffeine navies” perform better than normal and is needed by “caffeine veterans” to perform normally.

2. Caffiene Can Enhance Power Output

Caffeine is one of the most reliable and potent ways to temporarily increase strength through supplementation. People who seldom consume caffeine will typically experience improved power output during anaerobic exercise, including resistance training.

Caffeine can also play a role in recovery post-workout, whether you’re caffeine naïve 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.

3. Caffiene Can Help Burn Fat

Two distinct effects contribute to caffeine’s fat-burning properties: a thermogenic effect (in the short term, caffeine increases heat production) and a weaker lipolytic effect (in the long term, caffeine causes triglycerides to release fatty acids, which the body can then use for fuel).

More precisely, caffeine can increase the body’s levels of cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP). Elevated cAMP levels are associated with lower triglyceride levels in fat cells and improved protein synthesis in muscle cells.

Getting More From Less

How do you maximize the benefits of caffeine? Use less of it. Or to be more specific, use it 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.

Caffeine has a wide variety of effects in the body. Mechanistically, some of the effects are direct (such as Caffeine acting as an Adenosine Antagonist, the molecule literally blocks the receptor) and others are indirect (any effects on dopamine are 'downstream' of the reaction with adenosine, like the latter aspects of a Domino cascade). When tolerance develops to caffeine

When Cycling is Not Needed

If consuming caffeine for disease prevention, it is not required for risk reduction of Parkinson's Disease nor is it required for risk reduction of Type II Diabetes. Actually, it is probably recommended to keep chronic coffee or tea (not just caffeine) intake for diabetes risk reduction, as the negative effects on glucose metabolism by caffeine are reduced with tolerance.

Caffeine is also used at times for sports. While the short-term stimulation of caffeine is something that will need to be cycled to preserve, the general benefit of caffeine seems to persist when it comes to cardiovascular exercise regardless of whether or not you are tolerant to its stimulation.

If using caffeine to combat headaches (by reducing cerebral blood flow), cycling is not needed as the degree of blood pressure reduction does not differ between naive and tolerant users.

When Cycling is Reccomended

Usually, reactions mediated by adrenaline are those that it is recommended to cycle caffeine. The effects of adrenaline from caffeine are reduced during tolerance, but they do not fully disappear. This is due in part to a reduced secretion of adrenaline in response to caffeine, but also due to a reduced amount of adrenergic receptors in a state of caffeine tolerance.

Reactions that are mediated by adrenaline are increased focus, fat burning, and appetite suppression. 'Increased Focus' should not be confused with wakefullness, which is an adenosine receptor reaction and not attenuated with tolerance.

It should also be noted that the adverse effects of adrenaline, the increases in blood pressure and heart rate, will be preserved if one successfully cycles to keep caffeine's adrenergic effects pristine.

When Cycling is Needed

Cycling is needed for anything pertaining to dopamine signalling in the striatum. When tolerance develops with prolonged caffeine usage, these effects quite literally disappear. It is known as an 'insurmountable' tolerance, in which rather than a dose-response curve shifting to the right it instead gets flattened.

The effects that are mediated via dopaminergic signalling are locomotion (have caffeine, start to run around in circles) and euphoria. Euphoria should not be confused with a mere 'greater well being', which can still happen in the absence of euphoria.


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