High energy and awareness are practically in my job description as a strength coach. I have done my share of self-experimentation to formulate this caffeine protocol, enjoy! (This article is intended for working professionals and college students. The research is unclear in regards to youth and caffeine consumption)
Caffeine is the drug of choice for most Americans, a result of our high-pressure society and “The Grind” mentality. As I sit here with 6-ounces of coffee running through my veins, I can assure you that less is more when it comes to your caffeine intake. I will tell you the most effective times and doses to make your caffeine work for you. Use these 5 tips to take advantage of that buzz!
1) The Cold Hard Facts
The average American consumes an average of 300 mg per day. Caffeine has numerous effects on the body and brain, but primarily imitates adenosine, the natural brain chemical responsible for tiredness. As a result, the brain produces less adenosine and instead increases neuronal firing which improves focus and concentration.
However, caffeine tolerance builds up quickly (~2 weeks) and overtime, regular caffeine consumption will cause the brain to compensate by producing additional adenosine. Without the presence of adenosine imitators (caffeine), the body begins to feel drowsy even after a good night’s sleep. This war between the two chemicals is how addiction and dependence form. Fortunately, adenosine levels return to normal conditions in 5-7 days, but quitting cold turkey is difficult for most and often comes with a host of negative side-effects.
2) Paradigm Shift: What's Your Purpose?
Most people know all too well how strong of an addiction caffeine can create. To avoid overuse and addiction to caffeine, you must have a paradigm shift in regards to the purpose of your caffeine intake. From now on, think of using caffeine as a source of productivity, instead of energy. When used the right way, it can increase cognitive function and allow you to conquer task after task. Limit your consumption to times when you need to be productive such as: work, physical exercise, or social events.
3) Sleep to Increase Effectiveness
If you only consume caffeine when you're tired, it will simply bring you from drowsy back to a normal state. On the flip side, if you consume caffeine when you are awake and alert, it will take you from normal to heightened brain function and productivity.
The most tempting time to consume caffeine is when you are tired. My advice is to listen to your body and sleep! A short 10-minute nap will bring cognitive function back and make you feel like a human again. (nap times are encouraged in the workplace of other countries because of the positive effects on brain function. C'mon America). After your cat nap, slam a small coffee and you'll be off to the races!
While we're on sleep, don't consume caffeine within 4-hours of bedtime. Caffeine has a half-life of around four hours which means the physiological effects will be at maximum during those first few hours. If you still have caffeine in your system while trying to sleep your body will have a hard time shutting down brain functions and going into deep slumber.
4) Caffeine for Strength
The obvious reason people consume caffeine before exercise is for energy. The amount of energy that caffeine gives can be the difference between sitting on the couch or getting to the gym. Performing exercise will increase endorphin levels and keep that energy buzz going long after you leave the gym.
The lesser known benefit of caffeine before exercise, is its ability to relieve pain. This trait will give you a higher pain tolerance, allowing you to push for one or two more reps. Please excuse my bias as a strength coach, but I do believe pre-exercise is the most beneficial time to consume caffeine.
5) The Perfect Consumption
This would be my idea of the perfect caffeine schedule.
When you arrive to work - 6oz coffee (70 mg)
Post small lunch & nap - 6oz coffee (70 mg)
Pre-exercise - 80 mg of your choice
No exercise = No third dose of caffeine
This schedule will give you over 200 mg of caffeine and will keep you in prime productivity mode throughout the day. I would love for you all to try this daily intake, and let me know how you feel!