Most of us think that caffeine gives us energy. But what it actually does is mask our fatigue—making us feel more energized than we actually are.
Here’s the quick story on what’s going on behind the scenes.
One of the by-products of being awake and having your neurons fire is a neurotransmitter called adenosine. As adenosine accumulates in your brain, you get tired—cueing you to go to sleep to recover.
Caffeine is structurally very similar to adenosine. So similar, in fact, that it can actually sneak into those little adenosine receptors and block the adenosine from doing its job of letting us know we’re tired.
You feel energized.
Obviously, that’s pretty cool. (Hah.)
Today’s +1: Two things we want to consider as we optimize our caffeine intake.
1. We want to know that when we use caffeine we’re “borrowing” energy. Therefore, we’d be wise to use caffeine strategically rather than habitually.
If we need caffeine to get going in the morning, what we really need is more rest, not more caffeine.
2. We also want to know that caffeine has a half-life of 5-8 hours—which means that if you have a coffee with 200 mg of caffeine at 2 pm, half of that (or 100 mg) is still in your system as late as 10 pm. (That’s a lot!)
Bottom line: If you’re going to use caffeine, do it strategically and do it earlier in the day. Have a “caffeine curfew” to make sure you get a good night of sleep. Experts say no later than 2 pm and earlier if you’re really serious about allowing your body to recover.