Is it Necessary to Cycle Caffeine?

There are benefits associated with daily caffeine consumption, and there are benefits associated with intermittent caffeine consumption that fade with tolerance. Depending on your reasons for using caffeine it may be necessary to cycle or take breaks from caffeine usage.

Tolerance to caffeine is quite interesting in that it isn’t a simply increase the dose to get the same effects. Caffeine can act very different in somebody who doesn’t use it often as compared to frequent users.

Benefits on endurance exercise, typically increasing the time to exhaustion during cardiovascular exercise, do not seem to be reduced with regular use.

If using caffeine to combat headaches (by reducing cerebral blood flow), cycling is not needed as the degree of blood pressure reduction does not differ between frequent and infrequent users.

If you are seeking the adrenaline response that caffeine can provide it is recommended that you cycle caffeine. The effects of adrenaline from caffeine are reduced during tolerance, but they do not fully disappear. This is due in part to a reduced secretion of adrenaline in response to caffeine, but also due to a reduced amount of adrenergic receptors in a state of caffeine tolerance. Reactions that are associated with adrenaline are increased focus, fat burning, and appetite suppression. ‘Increased Focus’ should not be confused with wakefulness, which is an adenosine receptor reaction and not attenuated with tolerance.

Cycling is needed for anything pertaining to dopamine signaling. When tolerance develops with prolonged caffeine usage, these effects quite literally disappear. Caffeine has the chemical effect of increasing dopamine signaling in the brain after consumption. Dopamine belongs to a family of chemicals called neurotransmitters, which function as signaling molecules that allow nerve cells to communicate with each other. Dopamine signaling affects mood regulation, with increased dopamine signaling leading to enhanced mood. This dopamine release leads to a feeling of pleasure after the ingestion of caffeine.

Dominick Walsh is a blogger for Performance Nutrition and and covers all men’s health topics and exercise issues including protein powders, diets, weight loss, weight lifting supplements, fat burners and supplement reviews. Dominick’s columns cover everything you need to know about your pre, during and post workout nutrition.