Coffee and caffeine are often thought of as energy boosting substances? And indeed, immediately following caffeine consumption, you will feel a boost in energy. Yet, the story of how coffee relates to energy levels (and fatigue) is more complex than it seems on the surface. I’ll give you a clue why I say this: Every day, thousands of people do Google searches with questions like “why does coffee make me sleepy?”, and “coffee makes me tired?”, and “can coffee make you tired?”
The truth is that while coffee and caffeine do give an immediate boost in energy, daily consumption of coffee is actually slowly degrading your energy over time without you realizing it. And at the same time, it’s making you dependent on coffee to function.
Sound hard to believe? Well, if coffee were just an energy booster, there probably wouldn’t be thousands of people using the internet every day trying to figure out why it seems to be making them sleepy or tired.) Get ready, because there are a lot of twists and turns to this story, and there is some shocking (and little-known) research we’re going to cover that will likely shock and amaze you…
So what’s the deal with coffee? What is really doing to your energy levels? And what is it doing to your overall health?
It’s hard to know the truth, right? After all, some health gurus are telling us that coffee is terrible for our health and that we should avoid it at all costs. Other people are telling us it is a health food or even a superfood that is packed with all sorts of beneficial antioxidants and phytochemicals that give us energy and help us perform better.
So which one is it?
It turns out the story with coffee and caffeine is actually not so simple…
There is scientific research showing health benefits from coffee consumption, as well as negative side effects. In particular, while coffee can help protect us from several diseases and gives us a temporary boost in energy and performance, drinking it every day also cause changes in our brain function during the time we don’t have caffeine in our system — it can impair our mood, worsen our performance, and lower our energy levels. Many people suffer low-level fatigue chronically as a result of chronic caffeine use and don’t even realize that the problem is because of caffeine.
Now, don’t worry, because I’m NOT going to tell you to stop drinking coffee! (In fact, if you love coffee I want you to keep drinking it because it actually has lots of potential health benefits). What I’m going to show you is how to get the benefits without the drawbacks. It all comes down to how you use it.
I am cutting through the hype and teach you the science on caffeine, how it interacts with your brain, and why the way most people use it is actually hurting their energy levels and causing caffeine fatigue.
Let’s get into it!
The article is below, but please note that I’ve also put audio podcast and video options here for you in case you prefer to listen to this information or watch a video to see all the visuals. If you prefer to read just scroll past this next little section with the podcast and video links. Feel free to read the article, or listen/watch, to your liking. 🙂
Table of Contents
In this podcast, you’ll learn:
- Why most people use coffee in ways that are counterproductive and are hurting their mood, performance, and making them tired
- What it means when you get a caffeine crash
- Why coffee is not giving you the boost that you think it is giving you
- How you can use coffee to get the health benefits while keeping your energy levels high
Listen outside iTunes
First, let’s talk about what caffeine actually is and how it works..
What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a chemical stimulant that increases activity in certain parts of the brain and central nervous system. It is found naturally in several plant species and is consumed by billions of people all over the world on a regular basis. Now, unlike many drugs (and caffeine is a drug by the way) caffeine may be taken legally by people of all ages which is why it’s one of the world’s most widely used stimulants, actually the most widely used stimulant.
Approximately eighty percent of all caffeine is consumed in the form of coffee. It has been estimated that over 1 billion cups of coffee are consumed throughout the world every day. The other main places that people consume caffeine are in the form of tea, chocolate, soda, as well as ”energy drinks” and various stimulant and ”fat burner” pills where the main ingredient is often synthetic caffeine.
Eighty percent of the world’s population consumes caffeinated products each day and for adults in North America, it is over ninety percent. Among coffee drinkers, the average consumption in the United States is 3,2 cups of coffee per day!
How does caffeine work?
To understand caffeine, you first have to know what the neurotransmitter adenosine is.
Adenosine is what is called an inhibitory neurotransmitter. That means, it tends to make you tired and sleepy. At night it builds up and is one of the major signals telling your brain it is time to go to sleep.
To give you a better understanding of what I mean, I want you to picture a spectrum where on one end of the spectrum you have someone deep in sleep and on the other end you have someone on crack or someone who is hyperactive, who is wide awake bouncing off the walls and probably acting a little crazy.
We tend to spend our daytime hours, mostly in the middle of the spectrum.
Now, we have a bunch of neural chemicals in our brains that are in charge of regulating this balance and keeping us awake or asleep and controlling our level of energy, alertness, fatigue, etc. Adenosine is an important one of those. Again, adenosine is an “inhibitory neurotransmitter” that pushes you towards the “fatigued/sleepy” end of the spectrum.
The key point you need to remember here is: more adenosine means less energy. If you have lots of adenosine in there, you are going to feel sleepy, fatigued etc.
Here is an illustration to help you visualize this.
When adenosine binds to the adenosine receptors, you get fatigued and tired. The more adenosine you have binding to these receptors the lower energy you feel. Remember this, because it’s a really important point and we are going to come back to this later. Now that you have a better understanding of how adenosine works, caffeine is going to be really easy to understand.
How Caffeine And Adenosine Work In The Brain
Caffeine works by inhibiting the action of adenosine.
When you consume coffee or caffeine-containing substances, you now have caffeine which is also floating around inside the brain. Caffeine is in the same, or a very similar, shape as the adenosine molecule and it also fits into the adenosine receptors. Like this image…
When you drink coffee, caffeine will go in and hijack the adenosine receptors. This blocks the adenosine from making you tried, which is why you feel energized when you drink coffee.
When you introduce caffeine into the system, it basically blocks adenosine from getting in and activating this receptor. It fills up here, but it does not have the same effects as adenosine. That is a really important point.
When the adenosine receptors are plugged up by caffeine, the brain then acts like there is a lot less adenosine in the system. It does not detect that adenosine is there. The adenosine is still floating around but it can not get to the receptors in the brain because of the caffeine that is blocking it.
By blocking the fatiguing effect of adenosine you create an energizing stimulant effect. In other words, you are blocking something which would make you tired, so by doing that, it creates a stimulant effect.
That is why caffeine works as a stimulant.
Basically, more caffeine means that less adenosine is reaching the brain which makes you feel more awake and energized. When caffeine is present your brain detects less adenosine and you get more energy, more alertness, better performance, etc. and that is exactly what caffeine does to you, which of course you know because you felt those effects as you have had caffeine or coffee before.
That’s the basic idea of how caffeine works. And although that might sound great to you so far, there’s a lot more to the story, as you’re going to find out in a moment.
But first, let’s talk about some of the health benefits associated with drinking coffee…
The Positive Effects Of Caffeine On The Body
Now that you understand how caffeine works, let us talk about whether these effects are good or bad for your health, your mood, your mental and physical performance, and your energy levels.
First, the good news: There is an immediate benefit of consuming caffeine on your mood, your mental and physical performance, and your energy levels. Anyone who has consumed caffeine has felt that before so we know that now. , , , , , , , , , , , , , 
To show you what this actually looks like this is basically on this vertical axis you see performance and energy and the horizontal is the day as from morning to evening. Below is what a normal person’s performance and energy level look like. As you can see there are certain little peaks and valleys but consider this the normal performance of somebody who is not on caffeine.
Now let’s introduce coffee to this person and see what that looks like…
On caffeine, performance increases, energy increases, mood improves, mental and physical performance improves, etc.
So that’s the first nice benefit of caffeine — it has the potential to improve your energy, mood, and performance.
In addition, coffee consumption has also been linked to numerous health benefits. Here are some of the diseases that coffee consumption has been linked to being protective or preventative for:
- Lower risk of cardiovascular disease
- Lower risk of diabetes
- Protects the liver
- Promotes longevity
- Decreases cancer risk
- Protects the skin
- Neurodegenerative diseases
- Reduces the risk of Multiple Sclerosis (MS)
- Prevents gout
- Supports gut health
While all of this sounds great so far, this is unfortunately not just as simple as taking that information and saying “Hey, coffee improves energy and performance and helps prevent lots of diseases” and then assuming that drinking coffee every day is great for you.
Like I said, the good news is that coffee boost energy and performance and is protective of numerous different diseases, but there is some bad news…
The Negative Effects Of Caffeine: How Caffeine Can Make You Sleepy And Influence Mood And Performance
The bad news is that the way most people consume coffee is actually harming their mental and physical performance, their mood, and make them tired.
This is the complex part where we are going to get into the scientific research, so stick with me here. Remember back to what I just told you about how caffeine works in our brains.
Adenosine binds to the adenosine receptors in the brain
When you drink coffee, caffeine will go in and hijack the adenosine receptors. This blocks the adenosine from making you tried, which is why you feel energized when you drink coffee.
It creates a stimulating effect by blocking adenosine. The adenosine is still floating around, but it cannot get to those receptors because caffeine is blocking it.
By blocking that fatiguing effect of adenosine, you create this energizing stimulant effect.
Here is the deal, in the short-term this effect is a great thing. Overall, it makes you more energized, enhances your mood, and has proven to enhance your mental and physical performance. If you are a person who does not normally drink coffee and then you drink a cup of coffee (assuming you are not one of those people who gets anxiety and jittery from it) it will give you a great boost. You will be energized and you perform better in every way.
As I showed you above, this is what it looks like: a person on caffeine gets this boost in performance energy mood etc. And there is plenty of research to show that people will get an energy, mood, and performance benefit from caffeine. But here’s the part I didn’t tell you — they only get those benefits if they do not normally consume caffeine.
Stick with me for a moment because you’ll have to wrap your head around this concept to get it…
So we’ve seen that consuming coffee does give people a boost in energy, mood, and performance…
And you probably also know from personal experience that even if you are one of those people who does drink coffee every day, you will also feel a great boost in your energy, mood, and performance from drinking coffee.
So it seems like everyone benefits from caffeine all the time, right?
Here is the catch: Once the caffeine wears off several hours later adenosine comes back with a vengeance,cause a caffeine crash, and your mood energy and performance all take it. Take a look on the right of the red line here:
After the caffeine wears off your energy, mood, and performance are all now lower than what is normal.
Well, now you might think that you can then drink another cup of coffee to re-boost yourself, right?
Not so fast, because here is the much bigger problem than just this little crash…
You see, if you consume coffee every day, you will actually create negative neurotransmitter adaptations in your brain and in turn, it will cause you to feel tired and sleepy.
Here’s why: As caffeine is plugging up your adenosine receptors, the brain starts feeling overstimulated. By blocking adenosine all the time, you’ve created a chronic imbalance in your brain’s neurotransmitters where it feels that there are too much of the stimulating neurotransmitters and not enough of the relaxing neurotransmitters.
So the brain basically starts acting like there is an adenosine shortage.
Now, what does it do? It makes more adenosine receptors! Instead of having just a few adenosine receptors (like in the above images), your brain makes a lot more (see the image below):
When you consume caffeine daily, the brain registers that the adenosine is not reaching the receptors. It now starts compensating for this by producing more adenosine and adenosine receptors. That is how caffeine fatigue starts affecting you.
Why Does Coffee Make Me Tired? - What Happens When Your Brain Has Developed More Adenosine Receptors
Two primary effects:
- You develop tolerance to caffeine, that means you start needing more caffeine, more cups of coffee, to get you going and get you through the day. (This is why some people get up to drinking three, four, five, six cups of coffee because they need it in order to function). Basically, even if there is a bunch of caffeine plugging up the adenosine receptors the brain now has so many adenosine receptors that the caffeine cannot plug all of them up and the adenosine still gets in.
- Most importantly, your baseline energy, mood, and level of mental and physical performance all drop from chronic caffeine consumption. In other words, it changes your new normal state when you do not have caffeine in the system by lowering everything. When caffeine is not present in the brain, it makes the brain ultra-responsive and sensitive to adenosine. It makes it so that even with the same level of adenosine that was there before the brain now acts like there is a lot more adenosine because it has more receptors to detect it. That means that all the time you are not on caffeine, your energy levels suffer!
Referring back to what I told you before, both people who do and do not normally drink coffee will enhance their mood, their performance, and their energy.
Here is the really important part: The only people who are actually getting a real lift from coffee are those who do not regularly consume it. For those people who do not normally consume caffeine, or coffee if they have a cup of coffee, they will get a boost in their mood, energy, and mental and physical performance. But if you drink it all the time, you will not get any benefit. Instead, you will get caffeine fatigue.
At this point, you might be thinking; I drink coffee all the time and I do feel that it improves my mood, energy, and performance. You are absolutely right. You do feel it, but you are not getting the actual benefits that you think you are.
Let me break this down so it makes sense.
- You have the feeling that coffee gives you a boost when you drink it.
- If we look at the long-term effects on mood, energy, and performance and people who never drink coffee versus those who drink coffee every day, we actually see no difference at all. Let that sink in for a moment… No difference. In other words, drinking coffee has no benefit on mood, energy, performance when you drink it all the time. People who are on coffee every day have the same energy and performance as those who do not drink it at all.
On the hand, the research shows there is no benefit to energy, mood, and performance, but then we have millions of people who need their coffee every day because they swear it gives them a huge boost to energy, mood, and performance.
How can we reconcile these two seemingly contradictory facts?
Simple: there is now a large body of scientific research showing that in people who drink coffee regularly the benefits of coffee consumption for mood, energy, and performance are almost entirely due to something researchers called withdrawal reversal.
What that means is that you are not actually getting a true benefit even though you feel like it is giving you a boost.
In simple terms, people who drink coffee every day make their normal function WORSE (when they are not on caffeine), and then they get a boost from caffeine that takes them back up to normal. In short, they make dependent on caffeine just to function normally!
A recent study from researchers at Johns Hopkins University did something most research on caffeine never did–they controlled for the caffeine use of the participants. That means, that they divided people into different groups depending on whether or not they normally drink caffeine in their daily life. When they then tested these participants, what they found was shocking. They discovered that caffeine related performance improvement is non-existent without caffeine withdrawal. , , , , , 
In other words, the short-term effect of coming off caffeine is that it reduces your mental and physical performance and worsens your mood and energy level. When you drink caffeine and feel like it is taking you to new heights, it is actually not. What’s actually is happening is that the habitual caffeine consumption has lowered your baseline energy level, causing you to feel sleepy and tired, and you’re just giving yourself a boost back up to what used to be your NORMAL level of function without caffeine.
Remember the performance charts that I showed you earlier.
This is the normal performance and energy of somebody who does not drink coffee or caffeine…
Now here’s what it looks like when you introduce caffeine…
Here is the person on caffeine EVERY DAY (the black line below)…
The person who consumes caffeine every day feel fatigued which results in a lower baseline energy level, and mood, and performance level. They’re stuck in a cycle of terrible energy and performance without caffeine, and then depending on caffeine to get back up to normal function. Then, after the caffeine wears off, their energy comes crashing right back down to their new lower baseline level of energy, mood, and performance.
Yikes! This is what most coffee drinkers and caffeine consumers do not realize about the boost that they are getting. They do not realize that it is just taking them back up to normal, not actually giving them a boost.
The Science On Why The "Boost" You Think You Get From Caffeine Isn't Real (I.e. How coffee has sabotaged your energy without you realizing it)
Now, let us take a quick look at the science because there is a huge amount of research that backs this up.
Here is a study on the effects of caffeine on performance and mood. Here is what they concluded: “There is little evidence of caffeine having beneficial effect on performance or mood under conditions of long-term caffeine use versus abstinence. Appropriately controlled studies show that the effects of caffeine on performance and mood widely perceived to be net beneficial psychostimulant effects are almost wholly attributable to reversal of adverse withdrawal effects associated with short periods of abstinence from the drug.” 
Here is what that means: When you go off caffeine for a short period of time, your performance and your mood is now lowered. Now when you take it again, you just reverse those withdrawal effects so you just go back up to normal.
In another study, it was found that researchers have generally failed to take account of the fact that habitual use of caffeine even at moderate levels leads to physical dependence. “Evidence by physiological behavioral and subjective withdrawal effects during periods of abstinence. Consequently, there has been a near complete absence adequate methodological controls against confounding due to reversal of withdrawal effects when caffeine is experimentally administered.” 
In other words, most of the research has not controlled for caffeine use, so most of the research on this subject is not even valid! When studies show a performance benefit, what they fail to realize is that the performance benefit is just taking you back up to normal–not actually giving you a net beneficial effect.
Another study: “Prior to receiving caffeine, the caffeine consumers were less alert and more tense than the non-consumers. Caffeine only had significant reinforcing mood and psychomotor performance effects in the caffeine consumers. These results support the hypothesis that the psychostimulant and related effects caffeine are largely due to withdrawal.“ 
Another study concluded, “The findings provide strong support for the withdrawal reversal hypothesis.” 
Here’s the bottom line of what you are doing with daily caffeine use: You are now spending most of your life in a poor mood with lower energy and worse mental and physical performance and caffeine fatigue. And you are now dependent on caffeine to give you a boost back up to normal, thus being the reason why coffee makes you tired.
What you have done, is made yourself dependent on caffeine just to function normally!
The Benefits Of Not Drinking Coffee Every Day And What Happens When You Stop Drinking Coffee
As I told you before, I am not going to tell you to never drink coffee again. The reason why is that the science actually shows us that coffee consumption has health benefits.
The real question you should ask is: how can you get the benefits without lowering your baseline mood performance and energy and while even getting a real boost from your coffee?
Luckily, the answer is simple, cycle on and off caffeine. Use it for one or two days, and then take two to three days off of it. Or use it for two weeks and then go off for two weeks.
However, in the beginning, it is not quite that simple. First, you need to clean out your system and reset your entire neurotransmitter system in your brain if you have been a chronic caffeine consumer.
Like I said before, when you drink it every day your brain makes negative adaptations in those neurotransmitter systems which leads to caffeine fatigue. To undo those negative adaptations, and increase your baseline level of energy and performance you have to do something that is going to feel really hard for a lot of people.
You have to give your brain a complete break from caffeine for several weeks. I recommend at least three weeks completely off caffeine, but five to six weeks is optimal.
Basically, what you want to do is this:
- Step 1 – Clean out your system of caffeine for 3-6 weeks. (Do this slowly and progressively, rather than all at once, if you want to avoid drug withdrawal side effects like headaches and fatigue.)
- Step 2 – Cycle on and off caffeine, where you go off for basically the same amount of days as you’re on it. I suggest being on for no more than two weeks before taking a break.
If caffeine lowers baseline energy and mood, why am I telling people to still use it? Simple: Remember all those health benefits I told you are associated with drinking coffee? That’s why!
This is how to get all the benefits of coffee for your health, with none of the drawbacks on your energy!
Here is the thing: Telling you to go off coffee is not sexy. It might even make people mad at me. This is not a great sales pitch. If I wanted to give you all a great sales pitch and make lots of money, I would just say: ”Look, I have this magic pill filled with some special chemical that will give you all the energy you could ever dream of and you do not have to change any of your lifestyle habits or do anything different!”
In other words, I would try to sell people the quick fix solution, that requires no effort. That is what sells, but I am not into appealing to the magic pill mentality with gimmicks and quick fixes.
I am into offering people real solutions. I will tell you right now, if you are addicted to caffeine and suffer from caffeine fatigue, doing what I am telling you to do here is not going to instantly fix your energy issues. You are not going to instantly feel great by following my advice and taking a break from caffeine.
The fact of the matter is, you are going to feel worse initially if you are a chronic caffeine consumer suffering from caffeine fatigue.
I am sorry, but that is the reality if you want to build your energy and vitality the right way. That is what happens when you take a person off the drugs they are addicted to and also what happens when you stop drinking coffee. In this case, you may have a drug-dependency on caffeine, so when you go off caffeine, you are going to feel tired and rundown a lot of the time. You will probably need more sleep, you might have headaches, your mood will be depressed, and you will not be performing well physically, or mentally.
It will even be tempting for you to go right back on it so you can function normally, but I strongly urge you: do not do it.
Get comfortable with the fact that you are not going to instantly get more energy by following this advice. This is about taking one step back temporarily so that you can take three steps forward. That is what you have to do to build health, vitality, and energy the right way.
Energy is at the foundation of everything important in our lives, our health destiny, our career destiny, our relationship destiny, everything. So, when it comes to your vitality and energy, this is one area where you do not want to take shortcuts and you want to do things the right way.
You don’t want to be dependent on taking some drug or chemical compound to function normally. You want to feel great all the time!
Going off caffeine is a hard thing to do if you are dependent on it function but that is what is necessary to truly build you up to something stronger, more resilient, and more energetic. This is doing the groundwork and laying the foundation.
Right now, you put yourself into a hole because you have relied on quick fixes and band-aids to try to fix your energy and performance. I am showing you one of the foundational steps to build a real foundation of vitality and energy, the right way, not short-term thinking and relying on band-aid quick fix solutions to get through the day. I am talking about building real strength, resilience, vitality, and energy that stays with you all the time for life.
Trust me, if you do what I am telling you to do, and start following my method you will experience exactly that.
It’s time to take a break from coffee and get off caffeine dependency. It’s time to break free of your drug dependency on caffeine to function. It’s time to stop relying on fake energy, and it’s time to build REAL energy.
Does Caffeine Give You Energy, or Does It Cause Caffeine crash? (0:12)
What Is Caffeine? (0:41)
How caffeine works (4:47)
The Positive Effects Of Caffeine On The Body (6:48)
The Negative Effects Of Caffeine: Mood, Performance, And Caffeine Fatigue (9:41)
What happens when your brain has developed more adenosine receptors (12:15)
The Science On Why The “Boost” You Think You Get From Caffeine Isn’t Real… (15:00)
How You Can Get The Benefits of Coffee Without Getting Caffeine Fatigue (21:38)
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