Are you tired of feeling like a sluggish sloth in the morning? Do you find yourself guzzling coffee or energy drinks, hoping for that magical jolt of energy that never seems to arrive? Are you double scooping your pre-workout but it’s still not hitting the right spot?
If you’ve answered yes, you are probably experiencing caffeine resistance.
Stressful life events, weight gain and over consumption of stimulants can lead to the resistance of stimulants. However, there are ways you can overcome this and get back to feeling the buzz from your daily brew or pre-workout.
You might think ‘no biggy… I’ll just increase the dose’. The problem is, the more caffeine (stimulants) you consume, the more adrenaline and cortisol you produce through your adrenal glads. This can have some negative side effects on many bodily processes.
Adrenal glands are endocrine glands, located on the top of your kidneys. They are vital for several bodily processes as they produce hormones including cortisol, aldosterone, and adrenaline. The adrenal hormones help regulate your metabolism, blood pressure and your body’s response to stress1.
When we have increased caffeine in our body, this can put a negative strain on our adrenals. Caffeine causes neural excitation in the brain, which the pituitary gland perceives as an emergency and thus stimulates the adrenal glands to release adrenaline and cortisol1. While adrenaline and cortisol can increase energy and performance, the more you produce, the higher the chance of adrenal fatigue1.
Let’s rewind for a second and look at how caffeine (stimulants) works…
1) Caffeine blocks adenosine binding to receptors in the brain and makes you tired. This delays fatigue.
2) Caffeine increases the release of catecholamines (adrenaline, dopamine & Cortisol) which then bind to receptors to boost alertness, mood and motivation.
3) Caffeine stimulates calcium ion channel activation resulting in more forceful contractions and increased strength.
4) Caffeine and the catecholamines it releases (adrenaline and noradrenaline from the adrenal glands) binds to receptors on adipocytes and break down fat for fuel therefore preserving muscle.
However, if you become caffeine resistant and increase your caffeine dose, you reduce these benefits whilst increasing the side effects…
1) Increased blood pressure (vasoconstriction)
2) Increased fatigue
4) Poor quality sleep
5) Increased muscle loss
6) Increased fat storage
7) Loss of mental focus and performance
Think of caffeine resistance like you would insulin resistance (type 2 diabetes). The best treatment to improve insulin sensitivity is to not eat sugar. The same is true for caffeine resistance, cut out caffeine short term to improve caffeine sensitivity long term.
1) You’re not going to like this one… Have a break from caffeine. 2-4 weeks is enough but taper down.
2) Consume adaptogens… this will significantly help the performance of your adrenal glands!
3) Consume B Vitamins, Magnesium & Zinc as caffeine depletes the body of these vital energy nutrients.
4) Consume a pre-workout that contains Alpinia galanga as this rhizome improves adrenal sensitivity by 30-50%.
5) Reduce stress and get better sleep. Stress is another stimulant that will increase adrenal resistance.
If you are needing more and more caffeine to feel it there is a good chance it has lost the benefits (fat burning, strength enhancement and energy production) but the side effects are continuing to mount.
This is because you are still producing adrenaline and cortisol in response to your caffeine consumption, but your brain, muscles and fat cells are no longer responding to your adrenaline and cortisol (your receptors are desensitised).
Take a look at some good adaptogenic supplements; to support and aid the sensitivity and performance of your adrenal glands. Make sure your pre or fat burner has Alpinia Galanga in it as well, this will also improve your adrenal sensitivity significantly!
Disclaimer: The above article is merely a guide and is in no way a recommendation or a treatment protocol for any health conditions or diseases. You should always consult with a qualified healthcare provider before changing your supplement, training or nutritional strategy. Supplementation should not be attempted by pregnant or breastfeeding women, anyone on prescription medication or children under the age of 15 unless advised by your qualified health care provider.
1Brown University (no date) What are the effects of caffeine? | Health Promotion | Brown University. Available at: https://www.brown.edu/campus-life/health/services/promotion/content/what-are-effects-caffeine#:~:text=Caffeine%20causes%20neural%20excitation%20in,adrenal%20glands%20to%20release%20adrenaline. (Accessed: 09 June 2023).