Caffeine Tolerance: Causes, Prevention, and Reset

caffeine tolerance
Caffeine tolerance is a common term associated with caffeine use and it determines greatly how a person responds to a dose of caffeine.

Caffeine tolerance is different to caffeine sensitivity. Tolerance is acquired over time, while caffeine sensitivity refers to one’s genetic predisposition to processing the caffeine molecule.

Caffeine Tolerance

A first time caffeine user or one that has abstained use for an extended period, has a zero tolerance to caffeine. Caffeine is a foreign substance according to the body.

This is when caffeine works the best, often described as producing the following effects:

  1. Feelings of euphoria.
  2. Extreme alertness.
  3. Positive feelings.
  4. Increased motivation.
  5. Increased energy.

Advertisement
Consuming the same amount of caffeine the next day will result in a lesser degree of those effects.

As a person continues to consume the same dose habitually, those effects can reduce pretty rapidly.

Soon that same amount of caffeine produces only a sense of “normal” rather than all of the effects initially experienced.

By “normal” we mean that without the daily dose of caffeine a person feels extremely tired and fatigued way beyond the point they felt tired or fatigued before that initial dose of caffeine.

At this point, caffeine seems to bring the user to “normality”, instead of producing the “super human” effects it once did.

How Fast Does Caffeine Tolerance Happen?

One study1 found that complete caffeine tolerance occurred after just 1-4 days among their study participants. They measured this by noting the increased blood pressure, increased heart rate, and plasma epinephrine levels. After 1-4 days these levels were back to their baseline.

Another study2 showed caffeine tolerance occurs in part because the brain quickly develops more adenosine receptors to compensate for those blocked by the caffeine molecule.

You can expect the initial euphoric feelings to flee pretty quickly unless…

The daily dose is increased every couple of days to compensate for the increased adenosine receptors and other physiological changes.

Unfortunately it doesn’t take long to be in danger of consuming dangerous daily amounts of caffeine in order to achieve the desired effects.

Many people know that an entire pot of coffee might be too much and will just settle for that “normal” feeling. However, others continue to chase caffeine’s fleeting euphoria with ever increasing doses, which can be destructive or even deadly.

Advertisement

Resetting Tolerance

Fortunately, caffeine tolerance can be reset or prevented.

  1. Caffeine Tolerance Reset
    Those habitually addicted to caffeine should conduct a caffeine detox to eliminate caffeine from their system. This allows a return to normal non-caffeine functioning. This can take 2 weeks to 2 months depending on the daily amount of caffeine consumed.  The herb rutaecarpine has been shown to eliminate caffeine faster.
  2. Occasional Caffeine Consumption
    A person can avoid caffeine tolerance by never allowing it to develop in the first place.

    By consuming caffeine only occasionally, the desired effects will be experienced every time. By only consuming caffeine when it is really needed is probably the healthiest way to use caffeine. This means to only consume caffeine once or twice a week with several days between each dose.

    Just be warned that consuming caffeine too late in the day has a greater chance of resulting in sleeplessness that night with a zero tolerance.

By resetting or preventing caffeine tolerance, a dose of about 100-200mg will produce the effects described above once again. The key is to avoid habitual caffeine consumption.

This is extremely difficult for some people in the same sense it would be difficult for most smokers to have 3 cigarettes just every 3 days. Caffeine has an addictive nature and some just can’t seem to use it moderately, but only on an all or nothing basis.

If you have built up a tolerance to caffeine it may be time for a reset.

Then you can decide if caffeine will play any part of your life in the future based on your ability to control how much you consume.

Can you describe your level of caffeine tolerance or have a question about it?

Get Help Quitting Caffeine

Reduce your caffeine intake without pain and discomfort.

Learn More
  • BillClinton

    This is an awesome article. Pretty much one of the few on the internet that tells the truth about caffeine and its effects.

  • Ted

    Thanks and it’s comments like yours that give us the motivation to keep doing what we are doing. Spread the word!

  • Bitterman

    I’m in my third week, quit cold turkey. This website is excellent and informative. I feel very drained still. No headaches, not too much of body aching (but some), and I’m unable to get myself out of bed to work out yet. Seeing it may take 30 days was what I needed to keep with it. I had read too many “hey, just make it a week or two and you’ll feel GREAT!!” articles…and it’s just not truth. Truth is, it’s unpleasant, but to take back my independence from caffeine, I need to grind another week or two. From there, perhaps I allow myself a cup on Friday mornings as a reward…and I’ll plan to find the cure for cancer and ebola on Friday after my cup, given how sharp I’ll be mentally.

  • Ted

    I’m glad you find our site useful. I want to encourage you to workout. You will feel so much better if you do. Not only will it release some needed endorphins but it will energize you. If you can’t do it in the morning, do it after work. But, hang in there and you certainly aren’t alone.

  • Jeff Jeske

    I hate water and as a result for the last 5 years or there about I drank nothing but soda and monster. One monster for breakfast and 5-6 cans of soda to get me through the day. Today is day 30 of drinking nothing but Propel which is much easier to enjoy than plain water. I gave up C cold turkey and I’m paying for it. First two days I was bed ridden with migraine headaches, upset stomach and cotton mouth but then things got better. Most people say I should be through the worst part but I still get at least one pretty big headache every couple of days. I’m hoping I level off in the next month. Other than being sick I felt it was pretty easy to simply stop…. but I’m betting it’s even easier to start back up again. I really REALLY miss how it made me feel. Heck even food was better with soda. It makes me wonder how much harder it is for smokers and drinkers to stay clean.

  • Jeero!!!

  • Cindy

    I’ve been drinking mt dew for over 10 years and for the majority of that time it’s been at least a 12 pack a day habit. About a month ago I decided it was time to quit, well, I’m down to six cans a day and seem to be stuck on that. I have felt miserable and yesterday I started vomiting. So now I have the headaches, tired, nausea, can’t sleep, NO energy and now vomiting to top it off. How do I get to ZERO cans a day and how long for my system to be free from all this?

  • Ted

    When you cut back how many cans at a time do you cut back on? How long do you stay at each level?

    The vomiting sounds unusual. Perhaps you caught a virus?

  • Cindy

    Unfortunately I just found your website today or I would have done things differently…I was coming down two at a time and staying at that for about 3-4 days but once I got to six I just couldn’t drop those two cans. I’d have four throughout the day and by 5:00 I would end up grabbing the fifth and later the sixth. Believe me, getting to six was quite the accomplishment. I was drinking two within 30 minutes of waking up before!

  • Ted

    Try cutting back just a half a can each time. Good you are making the change. Do you drink regular MD or sugar free? You could also be experiencing some sugar withdrawal as well.

  • Cindy

    Regular mt dew. I actually made it yesterday with only 4 1/2 cans! I am so thankful for your website and your help!

  • Ted

    Definitely factor in a sugar withdrawal too. So glad we could help and is why we do what we do. Hang in there and keep us posted on your progress.

  • David

    Could be a crazy idea, but you might should try substituting coffee for the Dew to ease the transition. It could help with any physiological symptoms that arise from caffeine withdrawl. I realize that it’s just one addiction for another, but Mt. Dew will do more harm to your body than similar caffeine-levels worth of coffee ever will.

  • Cindy

    Can’t do coffee. Love the smell but hate the taste! But I am down to only two

  • Kristen Marie

    A week ago I spent 4 days in the hospital. I hated water as well but when a 104 fever sent me to the ER I was I was deficient in magnesium, potassium, and vitamin D and of course dehydrated (that was not a shock). Diet Coke, my drug of choice is a diahrretic and even tho I wasn’t having those symptoms it ate away all my nutrients. I can honestly say almost dying saved my life! Now all I am dealing with seems to be some acid reflux/gas/heart burn….not sure what of this is the withdrawls or the medication I am on for the deficiencies and kidney infection I have.

  • Christian Thomassen

    I have been drinking coffee since i was 4 years old (ofc it was only a small amount of coffee and a huge amount of milk, but got more and more coffee and less and less milk). I am 22 years old today, energy drinks and coffee have no affect on me, i consume at least 4 to 6 dl coffee a day. I have none of these effects that are listed in this list. I have no problem sleeping even if i drink a cup of coffee right before i go to bed. I don’t even have an addiction to caffeine either, i can go for days without drinking caffeine without problems.

  • LickitySplits

    Try quitting all caffeine for 3 weeks and you wont be saying that.

  • Ted

    You are hyposensitive to caffeine. See this article. http://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-sensitivity

  • Christian Thomassen

    Well, i might have to try and go 3 weeks without caffeine, but it will be hard to find something else to drink with my food, Dinner will be fine, cause i only drink milk when i eat dinner. I will give a report every week for 3 weeks, starting tomorrow.

  • Christian Thomassen

    I see, thank’s for the link 🙂

Last Modified: March 26, 2015

References

  • 1. Robertson, D. A. V. I. D., Wade, D. A. W. N., Workman, R. O. B. E. R. T., Woosley, R. L., & Oates, J. A. (1981). Tolerance to the humoral and hemodynamic effects of caffeine in man. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 67(4), 1111.
  • 2. Chou, D. T., Khan, S., Forde, J., & Hirsh, K. R. (1985). Caffeine tolerance: behavioral, electrophysiological and neurochemical evidence. Life sciences, 36(24), 2347-2358.
  • 3. Evans, S. M., & Griffiths, R. R. (1992). Caffeine tolerance and choice in humans. Psychopharmacology, 108(1-2), 51-59. Study link