While it’s generally up for debate as to whether caffeine is a “true” nootropic I personally prefer to consider it somewhat so (arguably it is more of a stimulant). I personally use it in conjunction with my nootropic stack. Its function has been well documented to enhance cognition including to help improve reaction time, alertness, memory, and mood.
Caffeine is in fact, the most popular legal psychoactive drug on earth right now. Caffeine is a xanthine alkaloid compound. Its effect is to stimulate the central nervous system and is shown to temporarily increase alertness.
Being that it is so ubiquitous, caffeine can be found in a wide range of natural sources including over 60 different types of plants. This being the case, caffeine is found in many foods and drinks that you may not even be aware of.
Besides coffee, its most famous form, it can be found in everything from chocolate to energy drinks to tea to even weight loss products. You can even buy caffeine anhydrous (meaning it contains no water) in pill form.
How it Works
Essentially Caffeine works by interacting with the adenosine receptors (or P1 receptors) that are in the central nervous system. During regular function, the brain produces and slowly releases adenosine that prevents the central nervous system from being over stimulated. When it binds to the receptors neural activity slows down and causes drowsiness and the eventual state of sleep.
Luckily for caffeine, the receptors cannot tell the difference between it and adenosine which both target the same receptors. So, when caffeine is introduced into the system, it will dominate thereby producing the opposite effect which is to keep us alert and awake.
Also, another effect of adenosine is to reduce dopamine in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter that has been linked to mood, motivation, learning, pleasure and positive reinforcement. And since caffeine suppresses the adenosine, dopamine secretion increases, which is why caffeine can be mildly addictive.
A secondary effect of caffeine is that it also stimulates the pituitary gland which in turn secretes more hormones. One of these hormones is adrenaline, which gives us a burst of energy and increases attention.
One cool thing about caffeine is that unlike some other substances it doesn’t really differ structurally between different sources. Meaning that the way you choose to take it should have little to no difference from other ways, for example drinking coffee, tea, energy drinks or even in pill form should deliver the same effect
Caffeine is mostly known for increasing both physical and mental capability. Though the effect is not very long lasting and does seem to decrease after the first 100mg or so, there is no denying the boost you gain is significant.
1. Promotes Alertness and Focus
This is one of the first and most noticeable benefits of caffeine. Not only can it improve alertness and focus but has also been shown to have a positive effect on mood, concentration, and memory.
2. Caffeine Improves Physical Performance
When combined with carbohydrates a low to moderate dose of caffeine is thought to improve the energy storage in the cells of the muscles and liver which enhances energy levels and increases output for athletes.
In fact, caffeine can be so effective in sports that it was banned for athletes from 1962 – 1972 and again from 1984 – 2003.
3. Possible Long-Term Health Benefits
Consumption of up to 200 mg per day has been shown to reduce the risks of certain life-altering illnesses including:
- Reducing the risk of colon cancer by up to 20 percent
- Reducing the odds of cirrhosis by 80 percent
- Reducing the chance of developing gallstones by 50 percent
- Reducing the risk of developing Parkinson’s by 80 percent
- Increase airflow through airways for sufferers of asthma
- And even reducing the risk of and may even protect against Alzheimer’s (research is still ongoing)
Sources and Dosage
You can get your regular dose of caffeine from many different sources some of which I have already mentioned. According to the Mayo Clinic around 400 mg is a safe daily intake for most adults.
If you are just starting out on caffeine we would recommend to start out with around 200 mg per day, to begin with, see how your body reacts to it and adjust your dosage from there. WIth the absolute upper limit being 500 mg.
- Coffee – 70 – 140 mg
- Tea – 25 – 48 mg
- Chocolate – 10 – 31 mg
- Soda – 24 – 46 mg
- Energy Drinks – 27 – 164 mg
- Protein Bars – 3 – 50 mg
*Based on average portions
Personally, I don’t much like coffee. I drink green tea from time to time if I’m in the mood, but if I’m just looking for a caffeine boost (usually in the morning and early afternoon after lunch time) I just take a pill. Not only because it’s quicker and easier than drinking a full coffee, tea, or energy drink, but it also allows me to control the caffeine dosage a lot better. It also allows dosing without the extra sugar and calories that come along with drinks. My personal pill of choice is Prolab Caffeine Tablets. Each tablet is 200 mg perfectly measured out so it is great for beginners.
Prolab Caffeine Tablets
If coffee is more your speed I would recommend Bulletproof Coffee