Day after day, cup after cup, we pour coffee into our bodies and hope for the revival of our energy levels (and maybe even our souls). We’ve got a lot riding on our cup of Joe, and when it leaves us feeling less than energized, we feel conned.
At L’Evate You, we’ve experienced the same phenomenon. We started diving into what causes a caffeine crash and looked for ways to combat it. We’ll share what you need to know about how caffeine works, why it can make you tired, and what you can do to get your energy back.
What Is the Science Behind Caffeine and Energy?
Caffeine is the go-to solution for people who want to wake up, feel focused, and not go to jail for using illegal drugs. We expect caffeinated beverages to stimulate us because, as stimulants, that’s pretty much their sole job, right? Yes, but also no.
Let’s take a look at how caffeine works in the brain.
Caffeine's Role as a Stimulant
Stimulants, like caffeine, work by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for causing sleepiness and suppressing arousal. In other words, it makes you tired and less focused.
By blocking adenosine receptors, caffeine effectively blocks adenosine’s ability to make you tired.
The neuron interference doesn’t stop there. Caffeine causes the alarm system in the brain to go off, triggering the pituitary gland to tell the adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline, which causes you to feel alert, quickens your pulse, and elevates your blood pressure. It also causes the brain to release dopamine, a neurotransmitter that causes you to feel motivated and helps you experience pleasure.
All this excitement and stimulation, plus it’s legal? It sounds too good to be true, and it partially is. The rush of energy you feel from caffeine can quickly dissipate into a crash, but other factors play into how caffeine will affect you.
What Factors Influence Caffeine's Effects on the Body?
Your own body chemistry plays a role in how any amount of caffeine will affect you. A person’s weight, for instance, will be a factor in how much caffeine consumption is required for them to feel the effects of the caffeine.
A small child weighing 40 pounds would obviously react differently to 20 mg of caffeine compared with a 250-pound adult.
In addition to weight, other factors determine how you will react to caffeine.
Your own reaction to caffeine may rest in your DNA. Studies have linked the way caffeine affects certain people to differences in the enzymes and receptors that break down and bind to caffeine when it is consumed.
While we may not be able to personally point to differences in our brain receptors as the reason why caffeine makes us tired or not, we can look to our closest relatives for evidence of how caffeine might affect us. If your parents become tired after consuming coffee drinks, there’s a higher chance you might become tired post-coffee, too.
Caffeine is a drug that can produce a tolerance. That means the more frequently you use it, the less effect it will have on your body. If you started with one energy drink, you might find yourself reaching for another to achieve the same effect you felt from just one energy drink a short time ago.
Caffeine tolerance is common and affects almost everyone who drinks caffeine or uses caffeine products regularly.
Symptoms of caffeine tolerance include:
- Feeling less stimulated after intaking the same amount of caffeine
- Needing more caffeine to feel the desired effect (like more energy or higher concentration levels)
- Feeling side effects like increased heart rate and irritability after caffeine consumption
If you feel like you’ve built up a tolerance, try cutting caffeine out of your daily routine for two weeks, but be careful; you may experience unpleasant caffeine withdrawal, which can cause withdrawal symptoms like headaches, irritability, restlessness, and brain fog.
Caffeine stimulates metabolism, which can help some coffee drinkers experience a surge in their resting metabolic rate up to three hours after consuming it. That might sound like the perfect solution for stimulating your mind, feeling more alert, and losing those extra pounds you’ve been meaning to.
Not so fast — studies show that even though there is an increase, it’s not enough of an increase to merit weight loss.
Another interesting facet of metabolism and caffeine is how caffeine is metabolized in the body. Caffeine has a half-life of about five hours, meaning five hours after consuming a caffeinated drink, half of the caffeine is still hanging out in your bloodstream.
Why Might You Feel Tired After Drinking Coffee?
If coffee is a stimulant, speeds up your metabolism, and gives you the jitters, why does it seem to have the opposite effect on some people, causing drowsiness and leaving them feeling wiped?
It’s not just anecdotal; it’s science.
The caffeine crash you experience after drinking your morning pick-me-up is real. Similar to the way eating a pastry can spike your blood sugar levels and then produce a sugar crash, the stimulant effects of caffeine, though promising, can let you down hard.
Adenosine Build Up
The adenosine neurotransmitter is an important part of your sleep-wake cycle. We naturally feel the effects of adenosine throughout the day. It works with our sleep drive to help prepare us for eventual sleep.
As we expend energy, adenosine levels rise so that we’re sleepy and ready for rest by bedtime.
Caffeine, however, suppresses adenosine. The higher amount of caffeine we drink, the more adenosine is suppressed. This can lead to a build-up of adenosine that is released once the caffeine wears off. The release of more adenosine than normal into our brains can cause us to feel extremely tired.
Timing of Caffeine Intake
The time when you drink your coffee may be the key to helping you avoid a caffeine crash. If you wake up to a freshly brewed pot of coffee and immediately begin taking in caffeine, you could be self-sabotaging.
Waiting an hour and a half before you drink coffee can allow your body's energy levels to rise naturally and helps prevent issues with your circadian rhythm. Likewise, drinking coffee too close to bedtime can also cause you to miss sleep, leaving you tired.
Having Too Much Caffeine
If you’ve built a caffeine tolerance, consuming more than normal can be tempting. Consuming large amounts of caffeine isn’t healthy and can lead to a caffeine crash that makes you feel tired.
Generally, it's safe for adults to consume 400 mg of caffeine per day without experiencing side effects. That’s the amount of caffeine you’d get from consuming about seven shots of espresso or four cups of coffee.
Duration of the Crash
Typically, a caffeine crash lasts only a few hours, but some people report feeling side effects for several days. If you wake up tired the day after you started feeling tired from your coffee, you could be experiencing residual effects.
Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it's effective at flushing water from your system. If you aren’t properly hydrated, that can lead to feelings of fatigue. Proper hydration is essential for sustaining your energy levels, so making sure you are drinking water in between coffee is important.
Disrupted Sleep Patterns
Caffeine intake can significantly impact your sleep quality. Due to the half-life of caffeine, it’s important to make sure you aren’t drinking it too late in the day. For instance, if you want to go to bed at 9:00 p.m., avoid drinking caffeine after 4:00 p.m.
Sensitivity to Caffeine
Some people have a genetic predisposition that causes them to be extremely sensitive to caffeine. Almost like an allergy, these caffeine-sensitive people can’t tolerate consuming much caffeine without negative side effects, like sleepiness.
Caffeine sensitivity symptoms include having jitters or shakes, becoming irritable, and having digestive issues after consuming caffeine.
How To Mitigate Tiredness After Drinking Coffee
Don’t worry; coffee isn’t off the table or out of your cup just yet. There are ways to use coffee for its benefits without experiencing a crash or fatigue.
Adjusting Coffee Consumption
Reducing your intake is one of the easiest ways to decrease the tiredness you may feel from coffee. Try cutting back by just a cup a day to see if you notice a difference. You may also try switching from your regular coffee to a single shot of espresso, which has less caffeine.
Timing Your Caffeine Intake
With caffeine, timing is everything. Waiting for an hour and a half before you consume caffeine in the morning allows your body’s natural cortisol levels to rise, helping you feel awake and alert and decreasing the amount of caffeine you need to do the job for you.
It’s also important to remember your cut-off time. You should stop drinking caffeine at least five hours before going to bed.
Drinking a glass of water after you drink a caffeinated beverage will help you stay hydrated and nullify the diuretic effect of caffeine. It’s important to recognize the signs of dehydration, like parched mouth, headache, fatigue, and dark-colored urine.
Improving Sleep Hygiene
Coffee has no place on your nightstand, even if it's decaf (which still contains some caffeine). Keep your sleep schedule consistent by following the same relaxing bedtime routine each day and going to bed at the same time each night.
What Are Some Alternatives to Coffee for Energy?
You can improve your energy levels without the use of coffee. Here are our favorite energy-boosting coffee alternatives.
Tea can satisfy the desire for something hot that also contains caffeine. Both green tea and black tea contain caffeine, although they contain less than coffee. These teas also contain L-theanine, a compound that might help you feel relaxed. A welcome ingredient for those who feel anxious after drinking coffee.
L’Evate You Greens Powder
L’Evate You Vitality Daily Greens approaches energy restoration from the cellular standpoint. Energy is produced by the mitochondria in our cells, but when mitochondrial function declines, our energy begins to wane.
The special M-Charge complex contained in each scoop of our greens powder helps boost mitochondrial function. Over time, you feel a new level of motivation and a cleaner, more sustainable energy with zero crash.
While you’re optimizing your energy, you’ll also be optimizing your health with 30 superfoods and nine greens that provide vitamins and nutrients your body needs, plus probiotics, prebiotics, and antioxidants.
Some herbal supplements, like ginseng and rhodiola rosea, are thought to help support natural energy levels. It’s important to talk to your doctor to make sure these herbal supplements are a good fit for your wellness plan.
Getting plenty of exercise and eating a balanced diet are smart moves, and they also support healthy energy levels and can help mitigate the damage if you experience a caffeine crash. Start with small changes, and allow them the time to make big differences.
The Bottom Line
Does coffee make you tired? If you answered yes, it’s time to try something new. Supporting your energy levels involves different solutions. Some may work better for you than others. While you’re working on your wellness, make it easy. L’Evate You Vitality Daily Greens gives you a boost of body-loving ingredients with every scoop.
The role and regulation of adenosine in the central nervous system | PubMed
What Are The Effects Of Caffeine On The Brain? | Brown
Genetics of caffeine consumption and responses to caffeine | PMC
Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals | PubMed