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.

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 “superhuman” 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.

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.  Wean Caffeine is a systematic way to reset your caffeine tolerance without the horrible withdrawal from going cold turkey. 
  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?

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  • Liam

    I know that through withdrawal, you lose tolerance because receptors level out. But surely, to some degree, some tolerance gained is permanent? Does the liver not become more efficient at metabolising caffeine?

  • Basto Slice

    I would love a legit way to lower my tolerance… I can drink 4 red bulls 5 or 6 cups of coffee and a caffeine pill and still be tired…it’s not fun.

  • Ted

    Did you read the article? The only legit way is to reset your tolerance by completing a caffeine detox.

  • Caleb

    I know that this is something I need to do.. I consume so much caffeine daily, it’s definitely unhealthy. It has gotten to the point that energy drinks and boosters like Monster and 5-Hour Energy respectively, no longer work, regardless of how much I drink. I need them just to reach the described, “normal” feeling. GNC has a detox program that many claim is quite effective, so I’ll be trying that. For the program to work effectively, you cannot take in any caffeine for the 2 months you are running the detox. However, I am prescribed to Adderall, and it is quite necessary in order for me to carry out my daily life normally.

    My question is; While running this detox, would I still be able to take my Adderall? Or would I be required to abstain from it for the full 2 months?

  • Ted

    I wouldn’t stop any prescribed medications without talking to your doctor, so I would say continue the adderall while you’re doing the detox.

  • Caleb

    Then that’s what I’ll do! Thanks Ted!

  • chris

    I’ve tried a few times going cold turkey, usually its difficult the first 3 days. This time I am on day 2 and I have been taking a lot of vitamins, particularly with B6 and 12, and with ginseng and other herbs and some others I can’t remember the names. Anyways I feel very relaxed and I am not having any withdrawal symptoms. I will go without taking anything this weekend since I don’t have to work and see if I have any problems.

  • John

    I read on Wikipedia that tolerance to the desired effect of alertness does not develop with a consistently tailored dosage, such as one cup of coffee a day. I want the effects of caffeine for work days (Mon-Fri) but also as a pre-workout stimulant Mon/Thurs/Sat. That would mean a cup of joe 6 days a week. Maybe green tea would be a good alternative for non-workout days?

  • Max

    The best way to use caffeine, is 200-250 mg 3 times at week. After 1 year, discontinue for 2 weeks. More than 2 weeks is not usefull. You can take caffeine 4 time at week, but the dosage must be lower. For example: day1: 130, day 2=200, day3=0; day4 =130, day5=0, day6=200, day7=0. In this way, discontinue 2 weeks every 6 months!

  • matt

    I havnt had a lot of caffeine in the last 2 years. im trying to rebuild my tolerance. for example I was able to drink a 12 pack of soda every day. how do I get it back

  • Ted

    Why would you want it back, if I may ask?

  • Master Of Caffeine

    try the effects on you! If you use low caffeina amount, tolerance doesn’t start. You can do in a reverse tolerance, so the effects of caffeine becomes more and more power every time.

  • Tired lady

    When I drink a cup of coffee (either regular or half car), My whole body hurts. I have a horrible headache and all the muscles in my back tighten right up, mostly by my shoulders. I also notice that little things anger me more. Any thoughts??

  • Ted

    It seems like you are hypersensitive to caffeine and you probably should avoid it. https://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-sensitivity

  • Hunter

    It’s strange. I don’t really tend to drink caffiene often, but when I do, I generally drink a HECK of a lot of it, for somebody my age. (12) Any advice on how much I should be drinking at this age? I am definitely in the ‘experimenting with this’ stage. My parents think it’s okay for me to be drinking caffiene, as long as I’m responsible about it.

  • Ted

    you can find the safe levels for teens here: https://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-safe-limits

  • Bryce

    No reason to try to obtain a caffeine tolerance. A 12 pack of soda everyday is doing nothing but killing you. Not to mention the weight gain that it will cause. Stick to water.

  • Karen Zirbes (themarshmallowli

    I have a very high tolerance for caffeine yet I barely ever drink anything with caffeine. Why is that?

  • Ted

    It has to do with your caffeine sensitivity level, which basically boils down to your genetics. You can read more about it here. https://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-sensitivity

  • JeffKyles

    I say its okay at your age. Im 16. And I drink caffeine so I know about this. I say dont drink ANY more than like 160 mg of caffeine. If you stsy below that you’ll be good.

Last Modified: November 16, 2017

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