Caffeine: Balancing the Most Popular Drug in the World

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Caffeine is consumed by over 90% of Americans and over half of adults consume about 300 milligrams per day. Caffeine comes with many benefits but also has downsides as well. I believe there is a proper balance to be maintained with caffeine consumption if you really want to reap the benefits from it. In this article I will talk about what caffeine is and how it works as well as how to get the most out of it!

How Does Caffeine Work?

Caffeine is sometimes referred to as a stimulant or nootropic. It is a chemical compound that stimulates the central nervous system and brain. It works by blocking a molecule known as Adenosine. Adenosine makes us feel more and more tired as it accumulates. Caffeine and Adenosine have similar molecular structures. Caffeine is able to bind to Adenosine receptors and prevent them from being activated. This blocks the effects of Adenosine and prevents you from being tired. Caffeine can also increase levels of dopamine and norepinephrine. This gives us a distinct feeling of alertness and energy.


We all know that caffeine makes us feel good, but what exactly are all the benefits of consuming it? The first and most obvious benefit is the increase in energy levels. This allows you to be more productive, get more out of your workouts, etc.. Another common benefit is an improved mood. As stated earlier, when caffeine is consumed there is an increase in the number of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine. So, while you might just enjoy your morning ritual of drinking a cup of coffee, there is a reason you feel so good after drinking it.

There are also many performance benefits to caffeine. These include improved reaction time, memory, metabolic rate(burn more fat), and energy levels. Consuming caffeine can improve performance by up to 12%! This explains why pre-workouts have become increasingly popular over the years. Caffeine also may be linked to a decreased risk of diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and liver disease. These are some of the main benefits of consuming caffeine but there are many others!


The problem with caffeine is that although it is blocking Adenosine from binding with it’s receptors, we are still producing Adenosine. Our body wants rest so it will continue to produce Adenosine and create more receptors in an attempt to make us tired. As caffeine begins to wear off, all that accumulated Adenosine rushes to the Adenosine receptors and gives us that “crash” feeling where we get extremely tired. To make matters worse, most people continuously increase their caffeine intake to get the same effects as their tolerance goes up. Not only are they digging themselves into a deeper hole, they are damaging their brains receptors by constantly flooding the brain with excitatory neurotransmitters. This is a vicious cycle that many people find themselves in. They keep drinking caffeine but only get more and more worn down. They don’t want to stop because then they will be even more tired.

Many people report that drinking too much caffeine causes them to be overly anxious and jittery. This could be from an overabundance of stimulation and energy. Often times, people consume caffeine later in the day. The problem with this is that it keeps you up late and even when you do go to sleep, you are not able to sleep as well because of the caffeine. Some people, who usually have a high tolerance, will say that they have no problem drinking caffeine and falling asleep. The problem is that they are not reaching a deep sleep. This only further contributes to them feeling tired.

On top of all this, the sources of caffeine can often be harmful as well. Many energy drinks and coffee beverages have crazy amounts of chemicals and are also high in sugar. There are many other physiological responses to overconsuming caffeine such as rapid heart rate, increased blood pressure, digestive issues, and overall fatigue. These are all reasons why it is so important to balance your caffeine intake.

How to Balance Caffeine

I have a few different suggestions on how to balance your caffeine intake. But first, how much caffeine do you consume? If your caffeine consumption is at or around 70-100mg per day, I believe you have good balance. Even if you are consuming 200-300 milligrams, a few times a week, I believe you still have good balance. The problems begin when you are consistently consuming increasing amounts of caffeine every day. I find myself guilty of this often. I will reach for the caffeine even when I don’t need it. So, I suggest that you ask yourself “Do I really need this?” before you go for that coffee or energy drink. If you do need it, I suggest starting your day with at least 24 ounces of water before consuming caffeine. Overnight, you aren’t drinking water and therefore your body will likely be dehydrated in the morning. Starting your day with water first will help you to feel much better.

If you are already consuming a large amount of caffeine and you are having trouble quitting, I suggest slowly tapering your caffeine intake. If you currently drink 3-4 cups of coffee, try to cut back to 2-3 cups. You can also substitute regular coffee for decaf or tea. Once your intake is relatively low, try to cut out all caffeine for 10-14 days. This may be quite difficult at first, but by the end you will realize that you are not as dependent on caffeine as you previously thought. Also, you will have sensitized your body so that when you return to caffeine you will only need a small amount to feel the effects!

There are a few other techniques that can provide you with energy when you are cutting back on caffeine. First, if coffee is the only thing you consume in the morning, I suggest eating a nutritious breakfast that will give you energy to start the day. If you can, try working out in the morning as well. This usually gets my day off to a great start and helps me feel more energized. Another way to give yourself more energy is through cold showers. I guarantee these will wake you up and get you moving! Finally, make sure your diet is in check to ensure that you are getting enough calories from good sources to provide you with energy.

Caffeine is a powerful tool that can be used to increase your productivity and mood but it needs to be balanced carefully. If you can understand how caffeine works and how to balance it, you will be able to get the most out of it and keep your body feeling healthy!

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