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.
What is a Caffeine Crash?
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.
Caffeine Crash Symptoms
Here are some classic signs that you may be experiencing a caffeine crash:
- Extreme fatigue
- Unable to focus
- Falling asleep unexpectedly
- Empty stomach sensation
Why Caffeine Causes a 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 sleepy until 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!
How Long Does Caffeine Last Before the Crash?
Hard question to answer here since it can depend on a lot of things such as:
- How tired you were before consuming caffeine
- If you had anything to eat with your caffeine
- How much caffeine you took
- How fast your body metabolizes caffeine
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.
How to Prevent a Caffeine Crash
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:
- Get enough sleep. Eight hours or more per night. Adequate zzz's will ensure the gray matter in your head (the brain) starts the day with normal adenosine levels that will help prevent a crash.
- Don’t take caffeine on an empty stomach. Throw a small carbohydrate down your throat before consuming caffeine. Consuming caffeine with nothing in your tummy will only make the crash worse if it happens.
- Spread out your caffeine. Are you a two to ten cup a day coffee person and slam a pre-workout before hitting the gym? Spread that caffeine out hombre. That’s because copious amounts of caffeine consumed in a short period of time can lead to a caffeine crash.
- Don’t go overboard on the caffeine. Try to keep single doses of caffeine below 250mg. Any more than this and chances are high you’ll experience a caffeine crash.
- Don’t consume caffeine at all. While this sounds miserable to me, it can be a “last resort” tactic for those who never want to experience the caffeine crash again
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.
What is 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
- Increases energy
- Enhances focus
- Boosts metabolism
- Bolsters cognitive performance
- Blocks pain
- Decreases perceived fatigue
- Improves time trial performance
- Improves reaction time
- Makes exercise feel easier
- May spare muscle glycogen
- May help produce more efficient muscular contractions
Benefits of malic acid
- Promotes energy production via the Krebs cycle
- Increases endurance
- Helps fight muscle fatigue
- Improves power output
- Reduces pain
By themselves, caffeine and malic acid are kick-ass supplements, but when they are combined, the real magic happens.
Benefits of Dicaffeine Malate
- Slow-release caffeine. The first thing you will notice when you take dicaffeine malate is the initial surge of energy followed by steady energy that will sustain you through your workout. This is due to the bond between the caffeine and malic acid. You WILL not experience jitters, anxiousness, racing heartbeat, or any other ill side effects you might get from regular caffeine. You will also not experience any caffeine crash!
- Long-lasting caffeine. The effects of traditional caffeine may last a couple of hours while the impact from dicaffeine malate may last 6-8 hours.
- Replenishes energy. Malic acid plays a role in producing energy from the breakdown of carbs, fats, and proteins. As caffeine wears off, the malic acid takes over to help you avoid the loss of energy.
- Reduces caffeine tolerance. It is common for some people to develop a tolerance to caffeine. Meaning it doesn’t work as well over time the more you take it. A small body of research has demonstrated the dicaffeine malate slows caffeine tolerance, which means you get the benefits of caffeine for longer.
- No stomach or GI distress. Regular caffeine in large amounts can cause unexpected trips to the bathroom (explosive diarrhea anyone). The malic acid in dicaffeine malate helps calm digestive distress commonly caused by caffeine anhydrous.
How Much Caffeine Does Dicaffeine Malate Yield?
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.
Dose and Timing of Dicaffeine Malate
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.
Dicaffeine Malate Half-Life
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.
Who Makes Dicaffeine Malate?
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.
Where to Buy Dicaffeine Malate
Expect to pay $15-$20 for thirty servings of dicaffeine malate or $30-$40 as part of a pre-workout.
The Bottom Line on the Caffeine Crash and Dicaffeine Malate
Let’s wrap things up with a few take-home points:
- Caffeine is great. I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t take it. Caffeine makes you feel like a million dollars and can have a significant, positive impact on your athletic performance.
- The caffeine crash is real, and it’s no fun. To avoid it space your caffeine out, don’t drink too much in a single dose, get adequate sleep every night, and don’t take caffeine on an empty stomach.
- Dicaffeine malate is the best “no crash” caffeine. If you’re like me and take in close to 600mg of caffeine daily, consider taking dicaffeine malate. It’ll give you all the energy you need, a plethora of performance benefits, and it won’t make you want to punch kittens when it wears off.
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.
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