Caffeine is without a doubt the most consumed drug on the planet. There are millions of people who can't start a day without their warm hit of morning caffeine (myself included). Caffeine gets students through University and has saved many a person from falling asleep, in desperate times, or even every day at work. There is no disputing it, the world loves its caffeine.
The majority of us folk that go to the gym or workout take caffeine for different reasons than the general public. Caffeine is a well known ergogenic aid (something that enhances performance in sport and exercise) and its benefits on training and exercise are well known, especially by the supplement industry. Caffeine is the primary stimulant used in pre-workout supplements, and for good reason.
With such widespread use all over the world, it begs the questions: should you cycle caffeine? And if so, when, why and how. Let us take a look.
Tolerance - More Is Less
You no doubt can't remember it, but the first time you consumed caffeine in anything resembling a decent dose, you felt more alert, focused and even euphoric. Chances are if you have kept consuming caffeine habitually, these effects quickly diminished to feeling wakeful and more alert, with no hint of the euphoria or focus you felt that first time.
Unfortunately a tolerance to caffeine, which is aptly named ''caffeine tolerance'' is formed quickly when you habitually consume caffeine. One study showed that nearly complete caffeine tolerance could occur in as little as 1-4 days. This is what is known as an 'insurmountable' tolerance, meaning that drinking more won't fix the problem, unlike other tolerances to other substances.
Caffeine And Exercise
As I mentioned before, caffeine is a primary ingredient in pre-workout supplements and is used for its benefits on exercise performance. Caffeine increases aerobic exercise performance and has benefits on power output when either lifting weights or performing cardiovascular exercise. It also has been shown to increase training volume, and decrease perceived fatigue.
As you can see, caffeine and exercise work very well together. I mean, who doesn't want to train harder for longer and lift more when they are doing it. I guess the question is now; how does caffeine tolerance affect its benefits on exercise performance?
Caffeine's benefits on exercise endurance and time to fatigue don't seem to be affected with caffeine tolerance. But, unfortunately, caffeine's benefits on power output may suffer from increased tolerance.
The answer to this question depends on the reason you are taking caffeine. If you are taking caffeine to increase exercise endurance and performance, then building up a tolerance to caffeine won't have an adverse effect. Although, it may be less effective in increasing power output.
If you are taking caffeine for its benefits on focus, mood (euphoria), fat burning and appetite suppression, then you may want to look at cycling caffeine, as these effects are all negatively impacted by increased caffeine tolerance.
How Long To Cycle Off Caffeine?
There are mixed answers to this question, and it may vary depending on the individual. It is suggested by reliable sources, that cycling off caffeine for a month (this includes all caffeine beverages and sources) will reduce tolerance.
Other sites state that the process of cycling off caffeine can take anywhere from two weeks to two months and depends on the amount you were consuming.
This obviously applies to the ''cold turkey'' approach, completely cutting out caffeine from one's diet. You can also enhance the effects of caffeine when you consume it, simply by reducing your overall consumption.
There may be some cases where cycling caffeine could be beneficial for you, and this largely depends on the benefit you are trying to attain from it.
If you are looking to take caffeine for increased focus, mood, appetite suppression, and fat burning, then cycling it can increase the positive effects. If you are taking it for exercise performance, there is no real need to cycling it. Although, cutting back consumption may help you feel the effects more.
If wish to cycle caffeine, try completely cutting out its consumption for anywhere between two and eight weeks depending on your previous use. This will have you feeling the full effects of caffeine once you start consuming it again.