Raise your hand if you love caffeine!
It wakes you up in the morning, gives you a boost of energy to get out the door, and overall, it is one of the best if not THE BEST supplements that can enhance sports performance. No wonder it is the most consumed drug worldwide.
For all caffeine’s awesomeness, there is one nasty side effect that many people experience. The dreaded “caffeine crash.” The crash is like driving an exotic sports car at 100mph and suddenly being stopped dead in your tracks after hitting a wall.
Ok, so that’s a bad example, but you get the point. The caffeine crash sucks!
Lucky for you, I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about the caffeine crash, including how to prevent it.
I’m also going to let you know about a “no crash” form of caffeine that can bolster your athletic performance by providing massive amounts of energy, block pain, and help you work out harder for longer.
Just don’t tell anyone about this secret supplement.
The caffeine crash involves going from feeling energetic and awake to tired and lethargic. It happens fast and usually when you least expect it.
It affects some people more than others based on a genetic variation of the CYP1A2 gene. In non-geek speak, this is a gene in your body that determines how you react to caffeine.
Small amounts of caffeine (below 100mg) usually won’t cause a caffeine crash. Moderate to high doses (200-400mg) are traditionally the culprit.
Here are some classic signs that you may be experiencing a caffeine crash:
To understand the caffeine crash, we first have to understand a little human physiology and what caffeine does when we eat or drink it.
When we feel tired, a molecule known as adenosine starts to build up in the brain. Adenosine makes us feel sleepyuntil it’s “lights out.”
When caffeine comes to the party, it blocks adenosine from attaching to its receptors in the brain and instead of feeling tired we feel ready to take on the world with a mega sh$t ton of energy. So far, so good. Now for the bad.
As caffeine is broken down by the body, the effects start to wear off, and we begin to hear adenosine snickering in the corner. That’s because adenosine is ready to reclaim its receptors and it’s been building up this whole time while the caffeine has been in full party mode.
When the music finally stops (the caffeine completely wears off), the built-up adenosine floods the brain and tells us we are ready for sleep, but the effects are much more intense than usual. Especially if you were “drag your ass on the floor tired” already before consuming caffeine.
And that my friends is what causes a caffeine crash!
Hard question to answer here since it can depend on a lot of things such as:
In general, the half-life of caffeine is 3-6 hours. Half-life means that half of the amount of a substance, caffeine, in this case, is found in the blood after a certain period of time.
As an example, if you consumed 200 milligrams of caffeine and 3 hours later the amount found in your blood was 100 milligrams, the half-life of caffeine for you would be…wait for it…three hours!
For most people, based on the half-life of caffeine, the crash will come 3-4 hours after drinking their 400 milligrams of caffeine from their grande double whipped iced soy latte coffee with extra foam and two-shots of expresso.
A little common sense goes a long way when it comes to avoiding a caffeine crash. Follows these steps to nip it in the bud:
Now that we know everything there is to know about the caffeine crash, a burning question remains. Are there any types of caffeine that don’t cause a crash at all?
The answer is YES! It is a caffeine supplement known as dicaffeine malate.
Dicaffeine malate is two (di) caffeine molecules bonded to a malic acid (malate) molecule. As you will see, this combination offers some distinct advantages over traditional caffeine anhydrous. First, let’s briefly discuss the benefits of each when not bonded together.
Benefits of caffeine
Benefits of malic acid
By themselves, caffeine and malic acid are kick-ass supplements, but when they are combined, the real magic happens.
Dicaffeine malate is approximately 75% caffeine and 25% malic acid by molecular weights. As an example, 200 milligrams of dicaffeine malate will yield 150 milligrams of caffeine and 50 milligrams of malic acid.
Due to dicaffeine malate not being pure caffeine, dosing should be 125% the amount of caffeine anhydrous. Most of the benefits of caffeine are seen starting around 200mg so with dicaffeine malate begin with 250 milligrams.
You can also try taking dicaffeine malate based on your body weight. Shoot for 5–7 mg per kilogram body weight (350-490 milligrams for a 70kg athlete).
Take dicaffeine malate 45-60 minutes before exercise for the most significant effects.
The half-life of dicaffeine malate is higher compared to caffeine anhydrous. This is due to the bonding to the malic acid, which creates a “slow-release” of caffeine into the bloodstream. Regular caffeine will have a half-life of 3-4 hours while dicaffeine malate will have a half-life of 5-6 hours.
The most popular dicaffeine malate supplement is called Infinergy and is made by Creative Compounds LLC. Creative Compounds holds the trademark on dicaffeine malate, but they were not the first to use this super form of caffeine.
That honor belongs to Coca-Cola when they used dicaffeine malate as a replacement stimulant for cocaine after it was banned from use in consumer drinks and products.
Expect to pay $15-$20 for thirty servings of dicaffeine malate or $30-$40 as part of a pre-workout.
Let’s wrap things up with a few take-home points:
Matt Mosman (MS, CISSN, CSCS) is a research scientist, endurance athlete, and the founder and Chief Endurance Officer at EndurElite. Matt holds his B.S. in Exercise Science from Creighton University and his M.S. in Exercise Physiology from the University of California. Matt and his family reside in Spearfish South Dakota, where they enjoy running, mountain biking, camping, and all the outdoor adventures Spearfish has to offer.