How To Know if You’ve Developed a Caffeine Tolerance

December 20, 2021

When you’re new to the world of caffeine, that very first cup of java or tea can be a real game-changer. Just after a few gulps, you’re energized, focused, and motivated. You feel as though you can run the world and plow through any task thrown your way. 

Getting to the gym doesn’t involve an internal battle where a quick cat-nap usually wins, and you even have enough energy to meet your bestie at happy hour. 

When you're a caffeine newbie, life is sweet. Being bright-eyed and bushy-tailed becomes your new norm, and it’s almost unbelievable how much more productive you are. 

But then it happens— instead of just one mug of coffee, you find yourself needing two or three to feel that same buzz. Your afternoon energy drink doesn’t provide that same delicious jolt anymore, and suddenly, you’re guzzling a few cans a day. You’ve replaced your latte with several shots of espresso over ice, and tea doesn’t even come close to giving you the kick that it used to. 

What gives?

Well, we hate to break it to you, but it sounds like you’ve developed a caffeine tolerance. But don’t worry — we’ll tell you everything you need to know, including why it happens and what to do about it. 

Are you ready? Let’s dive in!

First Things First, What Exactly Is Caffeine Anyway? 

Ah, caffeine — the world’s favorite drug. Yep, you read that right: caffeine is a drug or a stimulant, to be exact. Found in many different things, such as your favorite soda pops and coffee beverages to energy drinks, chocolate, and more. 

In tiny doses, caffeine can make you feel focused, uplifted, and refreshed. However, in large doses, the beloved stimulant can make you feel anxious and jittery. And just like many other drugs, it’s possible to develop a tolerance to it, meaning you need larger and larger doses to achieve the same energizing effects. 

How Does Caffeine Work? 

Simply put, caffeine works in the body, similar to how many other drugs work. Of course, drugs work in various ways, but primarily it’s a way of being receptor antagonists. 

This means that the substance you put in your body attaches to an itty-bitty receptor explicitly meant for a neurotransmitter. But since the drug attaches to the receptor instead, it interferes with normal messaging between your body and brain. 

In particular, caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant and an adenosine receptor antagonist. You see, adenosine is an important neurotransmitter that causes sleepiness by slowing down nervous system activity. 

Caffeine molecules, however, have a nearly identical structure to adenosine, so when you slam back a caffeinated beverage, caffeine intercepts the receptors intended for adenosine. 

In other words, the sneaky stimulant tricks your adenosine receptors before doing the complete opposite of what adenosine does: 

  • It constricts blood vessels in the brain
  • It increases nervous system activity
  • It signals the adrenal glands to produce epinephrine (aka, adrenaline)

Additionally, caffeine increases dopamine signaling, which is part of the reason why your coveted morning brew puts you in an uplifted mood. 

The alertness — and sometimes nervousness — that tends to occur after consuming caffeine is all due to these many physiological changes. 

Why Does A Caffeine Tolerance Happen? 

Caffeine doesn’t just attach itself to your adenosine receptors — it actually triggers your noggin to produce more receptors, too. Why? Because when you consume caffeine, your brain is under the impression that all of its existing receptors are full, yet it can’t identify adenosine in your system. 

So, it overcompensates by making more adenosine receptors, which bumps up the likelihood that the essential neurotransmitter goes where it’s supposed to. This is the brain’s attempt at maintaining balance in the face of constant caffeine consumption. 

As a result, you now have much more adenosine receptors to fill, meaning more caffeine is needed to bind to those receptors to provide the same jolt. 

What Are The Signs?

When you’re new to caffeine or simply haven’t had any for an extended period, the stimulant is essentially a foreign substance to your body. Having zero-tolerance to the stimulant tends to produce many effects, including:

  • Feelings of euphoria
  • Increased motivation
  • Extreme alertness
  • Enhanced focus
  • Boosted energy

Now, when you consume the same amount of caffeine the following day, these effects are often felt to a lesser degree. And as you continue to consume the same dose habitually, they are felt even less. 

Soon, that same initial amount of caffeine produces only a sense of “normal” rather than all of the incredible effects initially experienced — this is known as caffeine tolerance. 

By “normal,” we mean that without their daily dose of caffeine, an individual may feel extremely sleepy, irritable, and groggy way beyond the point they felt originally, back before that initial dose of caffeine when the drug made them feel on top of the world.      

So, how do you know if you’ve developed a caffeine tolerance, you ask? 

Simple: If you notice caffeine doesn’t affect you in the same way it has before, then it’s likely you’ve developed a tolerance. 

How Quickly Can Caffeine Tolerance Develop? 

Think it might take weeks or even months of caffeine to develop a tolerance? Well, think again! Studies show that folks can develop caffeine tolerance in as little as four days. 

That being said, if you find that the coveted stimulant isn’t providing the same euphoric effects that it used to, the worst thing you can do is continuously bump up your caffeine intake. This can lead to a destructive effect on your body, so it’s crucial to watch your consumption. 

Top Tips to Get Your Buzz Back 

Hypothetically speaking, let’s say that your current caffeine tolerance is a wee bit too high for your liking. Maybe it now takes six cups of joe to power through the morning versus two. Or perhaps you find yourself dozing off even after chugging a highly caffeinated energy drink in the afternoon. Or maybe you just don’t want to be caffeine-dependent anymore. 

Whatever the reason might be, bringing your level down to a more comfortable level will require you to confront one of the harshest realities of caffeine: To make the stimulant work for you again — you have to quit it. (We know, *gasp*)

Here are a few tips to reignite the productivity-boosting joys of caffeine:

Tip #1: Avoid Going Cold-Turkey 

When we mentioned quitting caffeine, we didn’t mean going cold-turkey as this can leave you feeling pretty miserable. Slowly reduce your consumption little by little to avoid throbbing headaches, extreme grogginess, and unbearable irritability. 

Caffeine withdrawals are no fun by any means, so be sure to remove the stimulant from your system at a steady pace.   

Tip #2: Bump Up The Protein 

When you begin to nix caffeine, eating a clean diet full of protein can help to keep your energy levels up. 

We recommend replacing your morning cup of joe with a delicious protein shake like Precision ISO Protein loaded with many healthy nutrients to provide your body with sustainable energy from sun-up to sun-down. 

Tip #3: Drink Caffeine Occasionally 

Ready to bring caffeine back into your life? Avoid another caffeine tolerance and try to consume the stimulant only on occasion. 

While it might be tempting to reach for an energy drink or a cup of java when you’re feeling especially sleepy, chances are your body is just trying to tell you that it needs more rest or additional nutrients to function at its best. Consider getting more vitamin zzz or fueling your body with clean energy from a nutritious protein shake

By enjoying caffeine occasionally, you’ll find that the stimulant works much better, and you reduce the risk of becoming dependent.  

A Final Word 

So, how do you know if you’ve developed a caffeine tolerance, you ask?

The telltale sign of caffeine tolerance is that the stimulant no longer provides the same euphoric effects that it used to, requiring you to consume bigger and bigger doses. 

At the end of the day, caffeine is a popular and magical drug. If you find yourself becoming dependent on the stimulant, consider cutting back. 

While it can certainly be a pain, once you get over the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms, you’ll be able to enjoy caffeine a lot more deliberately and productively — you just have to stick with it!

Here at BioHealth, we’ve created a new standard for clean, nutritious products focusing on innovation. Whether you’re looking for supplemental support to get you through your caffeine reset or on the hunt for the tastiest protein powder on the planet, you can always count on us to have your back!



Pharmacology of Caffeine - Caffeine for the Sustainment of Mental Task Performance | NCBI

Caffeine increases striatal dopamine D2/D3 receptor availability in the human brain | NCBI

Tolerance to the humoral and hemodynamic effects of caffeine in man : NCBI

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