Caffeine is a Femme Fatale: Tolerance, Side-Effects & Withdrawal

Caffeine is a Femme Fatale: Tolerance, Side-Effects & Withdrawal

Caffeine is a Femme Fatale: Tolerance, Side-Effects & Withdrawal

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By Menno Henselmans ()

Warning: this article has been rated PG-13 for explicit language – which may be unsuitable for children – and misogynistic and religious satire – which may be unsuitable for feminists and religious fanatics.

Chemical structure of caffeine

So sexy: Chemical structure of caffeine (Source: Wikimedia.org / Icey & ClockworkSoul ; CC Licence)

I want to tell you about a girl called Caffeine. Caffeine (1,3,7-trimethylxanthine) is nothing like Leucine. Caffeine isn’t hard to get, complicated or expensive. You don’t have to buy her any drinks or meet her family and she always puts out on the first date. Not too long ago at a wet T-shirt contest where Leucine was doing her thing, Caffeine took the ‘T-shirt’ out of ‘wet T-shirt contest’ and stole the first prize from Leucine. Since then, she’s known as a stimulant. When Leucine called her a slut, Caffeine knocked her into premature menopause.

Caffeine is a Femme Fatale

Caffeine. Who could resist her?

What makes Caffeine so feisty? Caffeine both stimulates the central nervous system (CNS) and direct muscle action. Her performance enhancing effects aren’t very relevant for bodybuilders though, because caffeine’s effectiveness generally decreases for activities the shorter their duration with pretty minimal ergogenic function for purely anaerobic activities [2][3]. Besides, temporary performance increases aren’t very relevant for bodybuilders anyway, unless they also result in higher gains from training.

Caffeine Anhydrous

Did you already know? Caffeine supplementation is more effective in anhydrous form. (Source: Wikimedia.org / Ragesoss ; CC Licence)

Caffeine’s use as a fat burner is also widely overstated. Yes, it induces thermogenesis, fat oxidation and lipolysis and it increases your metabolic rate, but only by 3-11% for a few hours and even that takes several hundred milligrams. The net effect of any reasonable amount of caffeine consumption generally amounts to under less than 100 calories per day. Moreover, you develop a tolerance to its effects. Unsurprisingly then, in controlled long term trials caffeine consumption performs no or negligibly better than placebo as a fat burner. Favorable anecdotal reports and studies on ad libitum (uncontrolled) food intake are the result of Caffeine’s appetite suppression effects, which causes people to eat less. They are not the result of actual fat burning by Caffeine [7].

Counterintuitively, it’s best not to make Caffeine wet before taking her. Caffeine supplementation is more effective in anhydrous (powder/capsule) form, for some reason, than forms in which caffeine is dissolved in a liquid, such as coffee [8].

No, the main attraction from Caffeine is psychological. She’s just so arousing. Caffeine counteracts fatigue and the effects of sleep deprivation, reduces perceived exertion, increases the pain threshold and for some tasks even improves cognition above normal levels [6]. It also reverses the negative neuromuscular effects of training at suboptimal time points during your circadian rhythm, such as early in the morning [4].

Combined with the facts that Caffeine is dirt cheap – you can literally get her for a few cents – and that there is no law against taking her, unlike for most psychoactive drugs of her kind, many men enjoy her on a daily basis. Now I consider myself a pretty damn tolerant wingman and I don’t like to cockblock, but there’s something you should know about this girl.

Caffeine: Tolerance, Side-Effects & Withdrawal

The Caffeine Curve - Do you recognize yourself? (Source: Flickr / emdot ; CC Licence)

The Caffeine Curve: Do you recognize yourself? (Source: Flickr / emdot ; CC Licence)

She’s mentally unstable. I know saying that about a female is like saying the pope helps pedophiles get away with their crimes, but this one’s a serious clinger and warrants caution. You can’t really fault her for being the way she is though. She’s been the most commonly abused psychoactive drug in the world ever since she was born somewhere in the 9th century. I’m not saying she’s royally psychotic, like Heroin, and acute toxicity requires several grams of Caffeine, although 5 grams can be lethal, but even light caffeine consumption does result in considerable tolerance, side effects and withdrawal [1].

At ~750 mg/day the tolerance is complete, meaning caffeine ceases to provide any benefits. Lower dosages generally induce incomplete tolerance, but side effects already occur at ~200 mg/day, including increased anxiety. Sleep disruption is also very common, as caffeine has a half-life of 5 hours, meaning a strong cup of coffee (120 mg) taken 10 hours before bed still leaves 30 mg caffeine active in your system. People don’t experience these effects this way, because human psychology is set up to detect only differences in our mental state and is generally poorly equipped to detect absolutes. This causes you to think caffeine is only working when the effects are still accumulating, which takes 30 to 90 minutes, and think it’s wearing off when it’s only just past its peak [1].

Withdrawal occurs at dosages as low as 100 mg/day. That’s just one typical cup of coffee. One study even found that abstaining from just 41 mg/day for 30 hours decreased blood flow to some parts of the brain by 19-32% [5]. The most common withdrawal symptoms are headache, fatigue, decreased energy/activeness, decreased alertness, drowsiness, decreased contentedness, depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, irritability, and foggy/not clearheaded-ness. Withdrawal is much, much more common than most people think.

Caffeine: Tolerance, Side-Effects and Withdrawal Symptoms

Caffeine withdrawal occurs at dosages as low as 100 mg/day. That’s just one typical cup of coffee. (Source: Pixabay.com / geralt ; CC Licence)

Many people just assume legal drugs are perfectly safe and only associate withdrawal with illegal drugs, even though there is practically no relation between the toxicity and addictiveness of drugs and their legal status, but caffeine withdrawal is extremely common. In fact, many studies overestimated the positive effects of caffeine, because they didn’t exclude habitual caffeine consumers. This causes participants to be in withdrawal during the study and the so called positive effects of caffeine are then merely withdrawal reversal. If your training sessions are notably poorer without stimulants, you may very well be in withdrawal. Withdrawal also causes muscle stiffness and weakness [1].

The severity and duration of withdrawal is dose dependent, but you should have dealt with the worst of it after 3 days and pretty much all of it after 9 days. Afterwards, you’ll be pleasantly surprised how good just 100 mg taken on an empty stomach can make you feel [1]

The Verdict on Caffeine

This girl is excellent one-night-stand material and cheap to boot, but don’t get involved in a relationship with her. She will suck the life out of you and make you her bitch. If you’re currently involved with her on a more than friends-with-benefits basis, stop now. Call her again after 9 days and make sure you don’t take more than an average of 100 mg daily, preferably in powder or capsule form.

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Picture sources: Pixabay / eliasfalla ; CC Licence

About the Author – Menno Henselmans

Aesir Sports - Menno HenselmansOnline physique coach, fitness model and scientific author, Menno Henselmans helps serious trainees attain their ideal physique using his Bayesian Bodybuilding methods. Follow him on Facebook or Twitter and check out his website for more free articles.

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References (Click to Expand)

[1] Juliano, LM. / Griffiths, RR. (2004): A critical review of caffeine withdrawal: empirical validation of symptoms and signs, incidence, severity, and associated features. In: Psychopharmacology. URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15448977.

[2] Davis, JK. / Green, JM. (2009): Caffeine and anaerobic performance: ergogenic value and mechanisms of action. In: Sports Med. URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19757860.

[3] Tarnopolsky, MA. (2010): Caffeine and creatine use in sport. In: Ann Nutr Metab. URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21346331.

[4] Mora-Rodríguez, R., et al. (2012): Caffeine ingestion reverses the circadian rhythm effects on neuromuscular performance in highly resistance-trained men. In: PLoS One. URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22496767.

[5] Field, AS., et al. (2003): Dietary caffeine consumption and withdrawal: confounding variables in quantitative cerebral perfusion studies? In: Radiology. URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12616005.

[6] Snel, J. / Lorist, MM. (2011): Effects of caffeine on sleep and cognition. In: Res. URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21531247.

[7] Jeukendrup, AE. / Randell, R. (2011): Fat burners: nutrition supplements that increase fat metabolism. In: Obes Rev. URL: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21951331.

[8] Goldstein, ER., et al. (2010): International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance. In: Int Soc Sports Nutr. URL: http://www.jissn.com/content/7/1/5.

Search terms for this article: caffeine dosage, caffeine side-effects, caffeine lethal dosage, caffeine withdrawal, caffeine performance, caffeine tolerance, dark side of caffeine, caffeine withdrawal symptoms.

 


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