Should You Cycle Caffeine to Reduce Tolerance and Improve the Effects?
A cup of Espresso Coffee (Photo: Adobe Stock)
Human Window Staff
By Human Window Staff
Updated on June 13, 2019

Caffeine tolerance can build up quickly and stop you from feeling the original benefits you experienced the first time you consumed it.

Caffeine is a drug, and our tolerance to it builds over time. The more often you consume caffeine, the more tolerant to it you’re going to be.

If you enjoy your daily coffee as part of your morning ritual and nothing more, then you probably don’t have to worry too much about developing a tolerance to caffeine.

However, if you long for the positive benefits that you used to experience after consuming caffeine, then your best bet is cycle it.

In this article, we’re going to take a close look at the main things you need to know about caffeine, including how to cycle it and use it like a professional expert.

We’re going to break this article up into the following sections:

• What is Caffeine?
• Caffeine Tolerance
• Should You Cycle Caffeine?
• Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms
• What Do The Experts Say?
• Anything Else To Consider?
• Wrapping Things Up – Final Thoughts

So, with the introductions out of the way, let’s start taking a close look at caffeine and its effects.

What is Caffeine?

If you’re reading this article, the chances are that you already know all about caffeine, and perhaps you use it on a regular basis. However, let’s cover the basics quickly anyhow.

Caffeine is the most widely used psychoactive substance on the planet. It’s consumed by millions of people on a daily basis and is found in foods and drinks such as Coffee and Chocolate.

Plants use Caffeine as a natural pesticide to help ward off damaging insects and pests.

Early human societies discovered that consuming caffeine-containing plants had a stimulatory effect, and these plants were even considered to be sacred in some contexts.

Probably the most commonly used source of caffeine is coffee. The hot drink we know and love is made from roasted coffee beans.

Coffee and Caffeine
Black Coffee (Photo: Adobe Stock)

So, what about the beneficial effects of Caffeine?

Here are the main ones that you are probably familiar with:

• Improved Metal Alertness and Wakefulness
• Reduction in Fatigue
• Euphoria
• Improved Motivation and Productivity
• May Boost Endurance

So now that we’ve covered the basic facts about Caffeine, it’s time to take a look at tolerance.

Caffeine Tolerance

As we mentioned above, caffeine tolerance can build up quickly. If you are consuming caffeine every day, then you will have built up a certain tolerance to its effects.

If you’ve never consumed caffeine before, your body will have a zero tolerance to it. That means that you will feel its full effects when you do consume some.

The problem is that if you consume it too regularly, it can drastically reduce its benefits.

If you consume caffeine for the first time, you are likely to feel most of the positive effects. However, if you consume the same amount the next day, those effects will be diminished. If you continue to consume caffeine regularly, then the effects can drop down very quickly indeed.

If you’re looking to get the positive benefits of caffeine on a regular basis, then performing a ‘tolerance reset’ or cycling caffeine could be your answer.

Should You Cycle Caffeine?

Whether you should cycle caffeine or not depends on your goals. If your goal is to experience the positive benefits of caffeine as regularly as possible, then you should probably perform a tolerance reset and cycle it.

If, however, you are simply looking for a wakefulness boost to reduce tiredness and fatigue, you will probably not need to cycle it.

Performing a caffeine tolerance reset can take anything from between two weeks to two months, depending on how much caffeine is being consumed on a daily basis.

If your tolerance is at zero, then you can avoid it developing by only consuming caffeine when it is needed, rather than every day.

A pre workout supplement can get you feeling energized and focused at the gym
Caffeine is often used before periods of exercise

This means only consuming caffeine two to three times a week, with a few days off in between where possible.

Taking days off caffeine will reduce the chances of you developing a tolerance to it, meaning that if used properly, you should be able to enjoy the positive effects more often.

Caffeine Withdrawal Symptoms

Caffeine withdrawal is no joke.

You should speak to a certified medical professional before thinking about coming off caffeine altogether, so that you can plan the best way to wean yourself off it.

Some common caffeine withdrawal symptoms include:

• Headaches
• Sleepiness
• Lethargy
• Brain Fog
• Irritability
• Difficulty Concentrating

If you are consuming caffeine on a daily basis, it is not recommend to stop drinking caffeine all of a sudden.

Instead, you should speak to a certified medical professional who will help formulate a plan to help you wean off it.

What Do The Experts Say?

We spoke to two experts in the field to get their take on the best way to use caffeine and comment with their own personal experiences.

Max Lowery
Max Lowery (Photo: Tom Joy)

Max Lowery, founder of 2 Meal Day says: “I drink quite a lot of Green Tea. I like Coffee but it was always a bit much for me. It made me feel a bit anxious and jittery.

“I use it as a performance enhancer. I believe that if you really want to focus and perform at something, whether it’s at your job, as a pre workout or at work, it’s very good. It also blunts pain signals, so for workouts it’s very effective.

“But obviously there’s a danger it can be abused. Most people who I see are using it just to get to a functioning level – they cannot function without it. That’s dependence, and it is a drug. It’s very easy to happen and that’s why I’ve always been very wary of it.

“I still cycle it. I would say that I have it about half the days of the month.”

Nick Littlehales is an elite sports sleep coach (Photo: Sport Sleep Coach)
Nick Littlehales is an elite sports sleep coach (Photo: Sport Sleep Coach)

Nick Littlehales, author of Sleep: The Myth of 8 Hours says: “If you load yourself up with caffeine in the first half of the day to get you going and then stop, it’s like coming down off a hard drug.

“Caffeine has a half-life of six to seven hours. A half-life means that if I take 100mg of caffeine, in three hours’ time it’ll be 50mg in my system, and by six hours it will have gone.

“If you wake up in the morning and take on 100mg of caffeine, in three hours time it’s down to 50mg. So maybe you can top myself up again with 100mg or 150mg. In three hours’ time it’s dropped again.

“If I’ve been going through this caffeine process, then I will take on some caffeine to raise my level just before I’m being asked to do something where I know I will be put under pressure.

“It’s used in things like [cycling] time trials, where you take a little bit of caffeine on to raise alertness levels. It kicks in in around 15 minutes for most people. So you could start a time trial with a bit more focus.

“If you go through your day like that, whether it’s with 100mg or 200mg in the morning, and you keep working on that three-hour process, then you’re always just keeping it nicely in the body and nicely topped up.”

Anything Else To Consider?

Caffeine is a powerful stimulant not to be messed with.

As we mentioned above, you should always seek professional advice before thinking about starting or stopping using caffeine.

It’s probably a good idea to keep your caffeine intake in check, and not consume too much of it on a daily basis.

Wrapping Things Up – Final Thoughts

That brings us to the end of our look at how you can cycle caffeine to reduce tolerance.

Starting from a zero tolerance to caffeine, you could consume caffeine two or three times per week to get the full benefits without developing too much of a tolerance.