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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  • Joe

    3 month after. Some days I just crave it again, no headaches or anything physical, but I guess this longing for the taste and feeling. And I would drink a can again but I know me, I’ll slip right back.

  • Ted

    It probably has to do with your sensitivity level too. https://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-sensitivity

  • Isar

    I am really addicted to coffee, tsk tsk, im a filipino and u knw that we filipinos really love to drink coffee almost everyday, and now that i feel like when i drink coffee i can’t feel its power anymore and when i can’t drink it i feel really drowsy and sleepy. So dis is why i came up to this blog and research everything what is happening to me.
    And thanks a lot to this infornation, i hav learned a lot now.

  • Jennifer Westlake Gresham

    I’ve been taking some form of caffeine my whole adult life. Before they had flavored coffee or capocinos, I hated coffee. A diet pepsi would be my coffee. Soon that wasnt enough, I became a mom and needed more. At this point diet/energy pills were the big thing. It wouldn’t take but 1 to get me through a day. Quite a few years of that and many varieties of energy pills. Then I started working and the pills took to long to kick in. So tried the off brand of the 5 hr shots. I was thrilled to find my boost again. I would only drink 1/2 the bottle in the morn and within minutes be energized. Well that’s been 3yrs ago, that 1/2 still works but I need more a few hrs later, plus some. Currently, I still have my SK bottles, some type diet/energy pill, and occasionally a flavored coffee, and yet for a couple of hrs after getting to work I feel like a nap and fight to keep my eyes open. I get decent sleep, about 5-7 hrs. What should I do? I know I need to cut it down, but I’m afraid I’ll be dragging even more. I’m fine in the afternoon and evening.

  • Ted

    Hi Jen, Decent sleep is actually 7-9 hours, so I would first start there. I’m sure it’s hard to do being a mother. Anyway, another thing to try is to hold off having caffeine until 1-2 hours after you wake up. After waking your brain is already in a naturally awakening cycle.

  • Jen

    Is it possible that too much caffeine can have the opposite effect? Has for sleeping, I do get that on the weekends, but during the week not so much. But I’ll work on it and I’ll try what yoy recommended. Thank you.

  • jane

    hello i have some form of caffeine intolerance as I react to anything containing caffeine and can only have decaf tea, but a friend just mentioned to me that hot chocolate contains caffeine but I don’t react to it. I would be really grateful if anyone could help me out.

  • Ted

    Actually it’s a sensitivity issue more so than a tolerance issue. But hot chocolate would have about the same (or just a tad more) amount of caffeine as a decaf tea. https://www.caffeineinformer.com/caffeine-sensitivity

  • Anely

    Is it bad if I take coffee at night & sometimes during the day that i feel very tired and fall asleep? Also, im some cases i feel the need of going to the restroom after i have finished my coffee is that reaction bad?

  • Ted
  • i used to develop caffeine tolerance in a few months, but after a few resets, i now develop tolerance in 2-3 days. thanks for the article, good to know i’m not alone (however, i still have no idea how i can prevent the onset of tolerance)

  • Barbara

    I know that caffeine is addictive and is said to cause jitters and sleeplessness, however, I believe (especially in the case of caffeinated sodas and coffee with sugar added) that the true culprit here is the sugar. I have 8 to 10 cups of instant coffee per day, withut sugar, and have done so for 50 years. I have never had any trouble falling and staying asleep even after having a coffee within an hour of bedtime. However, if I consume something sweet, even without drinking a coffee, the subsequent blood sugar rise and fall does cause a serious bout of energy followed by jitters and then drowsiness. These are the same symptoms that most people attribute solely to the caffeine. If I am tired, drinking a cup of coffee will not wake me up and usually has the opposite effect of acting like a warm soothing drink and helps me fall asleep.

  • Joey Leahy

    yea

  • Piak Piak

    ur fkt

  • Chris

    I just spent a horrible weekend at home withdrawing from sugar and caffeine. Totally unwillingly ( unaware )
    I wanted to quit Mountain Dew for the new year. Etc .
    Went to dr. Cause of pain meds not working dew to withdraw. Dr. Said to drink dew again and slowly ween off. Now I’ve had some Powerade and a few fees since visit. Now I realize I’ve got caffeine overdose?
    Wtf should I do? How do I balance out I got two days before I have to be at work and have been on pain meds too long to just stop.

  • Dan Rae

    I’ve seen in a paper somewhere that caffeine causing drowsiness straight away might be linked to dehydration. Especially if you are already dehydrated when you consume it. Dehydration is very common as a lot of people don’t realise when they are. Some of the primary effects of it are drowsiness and/or difficulty to concentrate, which caffeine can exacerbate by causing you to lose more water (as it’s a diuretic). However it could just be that the chemical effects don’t act very strongly on your body and you simply have a psychological association with the hot drink and bedtime? Interesting! 🙂

  • Maria Lammes

    I developed a caffeine tolerance so bad I was drinking up to 8 redbulls per day just to feel alive or normal. After I decided this was getting too expensive I decided to try to order them wholesale-except they are imported from Australia it turns out so with shipping I wouldn’t save much-that was a no-go. Eating espresso beans came next.

  • Maria Lammes

    Try cinnamon in your coffee or look up insulin release caffeine and it will make sense why you feel tired.

  • Maria Lammes

    For the future if you od on caffeine you can only flush it out of your system, I have been there and vomiting is part of it. Drink lots of water to speed up filtering it out of you (powerade or the like is good too).

  • Maria Lammes

    I developed a caffeine tolerance so bad I was drinking up to 8 redbulls per day just to feel alive or normal. I only drink once in a while now because they don’t work after a while. In Bio class I studied cellular energy. Potassium and calcium are both required for energy production and nerve synapse if that helps.

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