Four Ways To Optimize Your Caffeine Experience
By Ari Snaevarsson, Features Editor
1.How to take caffeine every day
You have likely heard that regularly taking caffeine will lead to the development of a caffeine dependence. According to Eric Helms, doses of 0.45-1.40 mg/lb/day can suppress tiredness without being affected by tolerance. This is also then a proper dose to avoid the development of a serious caffeine dependence.
If you are a 130 pound female, this amounts to around 60-180 mg/day, which is anywhere from one diet soda to one small coffee per day. For a 180 pound male, this would come to 80-250 mg/day, so maybe anywhere from one light home-brewed coffee to a strong coffee.
So now you are left with this: Take roughly one serving of caffeine a day so that you can take it daily without deleterious effects. How can we then get the most out of this one dose?
2. Take it on an empty stomach
You will not find this advice elsewhere, and in fact most sources will adamantly caution against taking in caffeine on an empty stomach. The concerns range from inappropriate stimulation of gastric emptying to excessive hydrochloric acid production (which I suspect go hand in hand). However, this would only really be a concern at chronically, seriously high intakes. So, if you are looking at three espresso shots a morning, then yes, I would have to agree and caution you against doing so on an empty stomach (and certainly against doing so daily).
However, it is pretty undisputed that caffeine is maximally absorbed when other nutrients are not simultaneously taking up a lot of the body’s metabolic demands. This is true for any nutrient, really, although not all of them are ideal for sole absorption (for example, the fat-soluble vitamins are more effectively absorbed when taken with fat-containing meals).
3. Do not take it first thing in the morning but rather second
This is most applicable if you are undergoing intermittent periods of fasting throughout the morning (aka skipping breakfast). Intermittent fasting advocates tend to advise you go a few hours in the morning first without caffeine, because you already have sympathetic stimulation and the raising of blood glucose naturally (growth hormone, cortisol, glucagon, epinephrine [adrenaline], and some others are all peaked around 4am).
“But I feel groggy and dead if I do not get my morning coffee,” you might contest. I am right there with you. However, it is likely that most of that grogginess is actually coming from dehydration more than anything. So, make sure you fully hydrate and then give yourself at least an hour before getting that first dose of caffeine.
4. Pair it with a synergistic compound
A synergistic compound would be any drug that has amplified benefits when taken alongside caffeine, and that amplifies caffeine’s benefits in the same single stroke.
Some options are listed here (word of caution: I am not advocating drug abuse or self-medication, and I only recommend taking the drugs listed below that are fully legal to obtain in your state):
- L-Theanine: This is one of the most interesting compounds to pair with caffeine. It is an amino acid analogous to l-glutamate and l-glutamine commonly found in green tea.
Whereas caffeine comes with a list of adverse effects seen with larger dosages, such as elevated heart rate and anxiety, theanine is a relaxant and promotes the calming alpha brain waves. These are famously taken together to get the concentration benefits of caffeine without the anxiety-inducing side effects.
- Ephedrine: While there are no legal restrictions on ephedrine in the state of Pennsylvania (you must show a driver’s license to purchase it), it is illegal to purchase in some states, for reasons I will let you do your own research into. Note this is on WADA’s Prohibited List, so student athletes should practice caution here.
At any rate, this is an extremely potent stimulant and thermogenic. I rarely write about it in any of my articles and for good reason. It is shown to increase basal metabolic rate by up to 5-10% when taken in its normal “EC stack” form (75 mg ephedrine with 200 mg caffeine, three times a day; I do not advocate this protocol). It enhances the effects of caffeine more so than any other compound on this list.
Some other options, which I will not be exploring in as great depth, are listed below. Do some research for yourself and experiment to see which works best for you:
Hopefully I have left you with some usable tips to get the most out of your morning cappuccino. Remember that no amount of caffeine is enough to counter bad sleep habits or stress management and, in fact, using it to fix a serious deficit in those areas will only dig you into a deeper hole. Always practice caution and moderation when dealing with a drug as strong as caffeine. I have been on the [legal] stimulant abuse train before in dieting for bodybuilding contests and it is hell to recover from.