This is a subject that doesn’t get covered much on the Internet.
Caffeine tolerance is an issue on many fronts. Some problems with becoming tolerant to caffeine include:
- Decreased efficacy of caffeine and stimulant based supplements.
- Increased caffeine intake and associated side effects.
- Increased cost of supplements and caffeine sources.
- Increased health risks due to excess intake.
As such, it is important that we are always aware of where our tolerance falls. This is something that varies gradually over time. Our body gets used to the amount of caffeine we take in if it becomes a recurring thing. This makes the caffeine have less of an effect, making us need to get more of it. This is the reason why coffee drinkers act like smokers in the sense that intake grows and grows as it becomes a serious habit.
Once this tolerance is built up, the body will require more caffeine. Once that tolerance is built up again, the body will require even more caffeine. As expected, this is an accruing problem which can become very serious. Over time, it can even become fatal.
How Tolerance Gets Built Up
There are two aspects of caffeine tolerance. There’s the caffeine tolerance we were naturally born with, which consists of our genetic and personal response to caffeine intake. For instance, there may be two individuals next to each other whom have never had caffeine before and each will respond differently. Then, there’s the caffeine tolerance we grow over time as we become used to taking in caffeine.
The latter is what we want to focus on. Our base point is not as serious as our progression. The effects of taking twice as much caffeine are nearly the same, whether that tolerance-enforced increase is with a low or moderately tolerant (by birth) individual.
For myself, I recall a time when I would not take in any more than 50mg of caffeine in a given day. This was before I ever picked up a cup of coffee. I would have the odd pop, sometimes even a tea, but not really anything of substance. I tried energy drinks at times, but there were no noticeable effects. At this time, my tolerance was not very measurable because I did not really differentiate effects and no effects.
After I got more serious with bodybuilding, I realized the benefits of caffeine. I used it for its appetite suppressing effects at first. This is when I started drinking coffee every day. My servings got bigger and more frequent. Over time, I took in an XL coffee every two to four hours. My intake by mg was sky-high, surpassing 1 gram a day on a regular basis.
This seemed to become my baseline. I could take in less, but not really get the effects. I would need to get at least three XL coffees in me to start to notice the caffeine taking effect. But then I started an EC stack and, oh boy, did my tolerance ever shoot up!
The EC stack cycle required 200mgs of caffeine three times a day. This was in pill form. I still drank coffee, but usually just one in the morning. It gives a different feeling than caffeine pills, which I find to be more steady energy but less physically noticeable. I also had a pre-workout drink at least every second or third workout. This was around 200mgs of caffeine as well – except for the few times I tested out Pro Supps Mr. Hyde, which contains 419mgs of caffeine!
Needless to say, I noticed the effects more when I stopped taking in so much caffeine then when I started. Sadly, this is when I realized my tolerance was built up way too high and it was not good for my health. My double dosing of pre-workouts also indicated it wasn’t good for my wallet.
How Others Can Self-Assess Caffeine Tolerance
It’s not ideal to find out about a significant tolerance build up late into the game. Many want to realize this as soon as it begins to develop. This is easier said than done, but there are ways to go about it.
The easiest way to identify a caffeine tolerance buildup is by looking at pre-workout supplement intake. Anyone who uses pre-workout drinks will have great effects from a quality supplement when first used. This will decline a little and a baseline will be found. If the effects continue to diminish from here, it may be an indicator of caffeine tolerance. The main issue with this approach is the risk of the tolerance being to a separate stimulant.
Another easy way to go about it is by recollecting caffeine intake from months prior. It shouldn’t be hard to spot if the amount of caffeine has jumped up dramatically.
Tolerance buildup is not always bad. In fact, it’s considered as being a good thing when on the EC stack as the thermogenic benefits are still in play and the jitteriness is gone. The same is true when using many other caffeine-based weight loss products.
However, there is definitely a concern if caffeine intake has constantly gone up without any breaks. An individual must cycle off of any stimulant at least every three or four months. This helps prevent the tolerance buildup. A vigorous cycle of caffeine-rich supplements may be cycled off even sooner. The cycle off period should also be a time where NO caffeine is taken. This will reset tolerance and make a small dose have a big effect once again.