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The New Caffeine Plan

You've Lost That Buzzing Feeling

When was the last time you felt your caffeine buzz? Like... really felt it? You remember the early days, your first few mugs of coffee? That boost of brain power and energy that had you talking big ideas with your friends and feeling like you could take on the world?

You probably still consume caffeine, so what changed?

In a word, you. You changed. Your body's chemistry changed. It got used to that early AM caffeine boost, and it reduced its output of cortisol.

The Body's Energy Solution

What's cortisol you ask? Cortisol is the stuff your body uses to wake you up and make you alert for the day, among other important functions. These include healing wounds, balancing the metabolism, and helping with short term memory. Sounds like cortisol is good stuff, right? Seems like maybe you want your body to keep making it.

But you're not making as much of it as you should, because you're subjecting your adrenal glands to caffeine before they've finished producing the cortisol you need. Over time, your body adjusts to the early morning caffeine intake, and limits its cortisol production. So instead of waking up feeling like awake and alert, you wake up "needing" an immediate boost. You're fiending for something you've stopped your body from producing.

This is why we talk about caffeine addiction.

A Smarter Way

The good news is, there are plenty of times during the day where your body is not naturally producing cortisol. If you wake up around 8 AM, cortisol production will drop off around roughly 9:30 AM. It will then return from roughly noon to 1:00 PM, and again between 5:30 and 6:30 PM. What this means is that you have two windows during the day to get your daily dose of caffeine, so you can actually feel it and make it count. You want to supplement, not replace your body's ability to be alert and wakeful.

Timing and Dosage

Using this knowledge from Steven L. Miller, Ph.D. via his blog, we worked up an ideal daily cycle of caffeine to help you get the most of your mental boost.

We wanted to use an ideal dosage of caffeine, so we decided on 40 mg per serving, roughly half a red bull or a half of a weak coffee. It might not sound like much considering Five Hour Energy contains five times that amount, but according to LiveScience it is the ideal dosage to increase reaction speeds and alertness. Small regular doses were also found to be the most effective in cognitive boost according to this 2004 study.

The New Caffeine Plan

Alright: We've got our dosage, we know when to avoid caffeine. Let's map our attack.

8:00 AM: Wake up. Your body is producing cortisol, and you need to get moving to get it working. I'm as much a slave to my morning coffee as anyone, so I had a hard time swallowing this at first:

 

Don't. Drink. Coffee. 

 

I know. You 'need' it. 'It's ritual.' We're not here for excuses, we're here to get the most of our caffeine. We're here to fight impulse and use science to get the most of our day. So just be calm. We know what we're doing here.

 

9:30 AM: Cortisol is dropping. Now's the time to strike. You're surely twitching with desire at this point, so go ahead and get yourself 40mg of caffeine. Don't overdo it. Remember, going beyond approximately this amount (it will vary person-to-person) will reduce your reaction speeds and overstimulate you and your body. Productive focus. We've got this.

 

10:30 AM: Another 40mg of caffeine. Remember: low and frequent. A big burst of energy with a crash is no good during any workday.

 

11:30 AM: Your body is going to wake itself up again on its own right about now. Take a break from the caffeine and eat something nutritious.

 

1:30 PM: You should be losing natural energy again by this point, grab yourself another dose of caffeine, and get back to reaping the benefits.

 

2:30, 3:30, & 4:30 PM: Repeat the dosage, and take note of your energy levels.

 

5:30 PM: Cortisol is rising again. Ease off the caffeine intake, and find another balanced meal. 

 

6:30 PM: Cortisol is dropping, but we've also reached a point where you should stop consuming caffeine, in order to get a good night's sleep. If you absolutely need the boost or are going to have a long night and don't need to worry about getting to sleep, then this would be the time to take one more dose and try to get through the rest of the evening without.

 

12:00 AM: Get to sleep. Your body needs rest and caffeine is not a shortcut to replacing that, it's a way to enhance it.

 

Now you're equipped to tackle your day the smart way, backed by science, and optimized for use with the way your body naturally prepares itself. Get out there and try the plan, and let us know how it treats you! 

Comments

Amber Wildhaber

Great article! I’ll give this schedule a try and start “Micro-dosing” my caffeine in-take.


Pat

I totally Appreciate the information Tyler! My going to bed and rising times are different than 8:00am up and 12:00am to bed. I go to sleep at 9:45pm and rise at 5:44am. Would my Cortisol production times thus be different than the times stated in the study ? Do you have any information on that consideration?


richard v dillenbeck

Not sure how to word this but the above article somehow made me question its wisdom. Somehow recommending five doses of caffeine a day on a regular basis seems too much. I have read other research on coffee, certainly one of the main sources in a typical American’s life, and most caution about excess intake of such a stimulant. I suppose one can interpret research in different ways but it still seems too much. Nowadays huge numbers of our citizens are using power drinks and those products add to the intake. I am doubtful at this point. On a side note, I ordered the Neurogum and after trying it a few times, I felt a zero boost in energy or memory, wonder why not? Moderation is best.


Dan

I’ve been using the gum for about 2 weeks now and haven’t noticed a difference. I thought it would be cool if it worked but not today


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