At 500 billion cups of coffee consumed a year globally, it's the world's most popular Nootropic and productivity fuel.
Caffeine boosts the Limitless neurotransmitters: Dopamine, Serotonin, Norepinephrine, Acetylcholine, Epinephrine and Glutamate.
A lot of people are going to find this article because they don't like the taste of coffee and want to learn about taking caffeine in a supplement. The good news is that to the left of this article you'll see objective ratings and reviews of a variety of high quality caffeine supplements. A lot of them combine caffeine with other Nootropics or natural ingredients that are demonstrated to improve cognition, and some of them are just 100% grade A 1,3,7-Trimethylxanthine (caffeine's chemical name).
However, I would suggest that if you don't like the taste of coffee, you are actually drinking the wrong stuff. If you drink coffee and it has a really bitter, unpleasant taste that's indicative that the coffee has oxidized and contains a lot of toxins. These toxins are bad news, they can cause brain fog putting you into that weird state where you are energetic yet unfocused, frenetically jumping aimlessly from task to task. They can also cause more long term issues like unbalancing your hormones or even obesity. This video will actually include some coffee hacks for improving the taste of the coffee if that's what your issue is.
Coffee can actually be a real pleasure to consume, if you drink high quality stuff. If it tastes smooth WITHOUT sugar, milk or other additive and goes down without making you cringe, it's worth however much it costs. High quality coffee can actually be one of the most healthy things you put in your body. So if it tastes good then it's good for you, and if it tastes bad then it's bad for you and you should avoid it. If only the rest of life was like that!
I'm an ethical hedonist, and I derive a significant amount of happiness from the few cups of the anti-oxidizing dark nectar I consume everyday. For me coffee lies at the rare intersection of being cheap, healthy and very pleasurable to consume, which is why it's an addiction I heartily recommend succumbing too.
Since there is so much already written online about Caffeine, this article is going to focus on it's interactions with Nootropics and applications specifically for Biohackers. I have a high stimulatory set point, a lot of people find Caffeine overwhelming and would never combine it with all the that I do, I'm also an extremely productive person and credit this highly to the various drugs I take that stimulate my mind in wide array of dimensions. This is a rabbit hole you may not want to venture into.
As one of the most popular consumable products on the planet Caffeine has been studied exhaustively with nearly 2000 human clinical trials.
As a Nootropic agent caffeine is something of a blunt instrument, there are zero studies showing that caffeine actually improves cognition. However, it's a notorious favorite drink of writers, programmers, salespeople and attorneys chasing the dragon of a more productive state of mind. Coffee is a classic example of Pavlovian conditioning; since coffee makes us more energetic we get reference experiences being more productive while caffeinated. We associate the earthy scent of the scalding beverage, the hot cup in our hands and it's strong taste with getting stuff done and it becomes a trigger for our productivity. For this reason I prefer to combine caffeine with smart drugs that actually improve cognition and creativity.
In combination with Nootropics...
Caffeine and L-Theanine is regarded as one of the most efficacious Nootropic combinations. A 2010 Dutch human study, The combination of L-theanine and caffeine improves cognitive performance and increases subjective alertness, suggested consuming Caffeine and L-Theanine in approximately a 2:1 ratio. From it's abstract:
"The combination of moderate levels of L-theanine and caffeine significantly improved accuracy during task switching and self-reported alertness... and reduced self-reported tiredness... There were no significant effects on other cognitive tasks, such as visual search, choice reaction times, or mental rotation. The present results suggest that 97 mg of L-theanine in combination with 40 mg of caffeine helps to focus attention during a demanding cognitive task."
This stack is one of my favorites and I consistently start my mornings like this...
My Lifehacking Morning Beverage Regimen
Before I go to bed the night before I leave fill my glass water bottle with water and drop two teabags in it, green tea and usually another tea variety with a little better taste, like Flor de Jamaica.
Before bed I also put the coffee grounds and the water in the coffee maker. Then when I wake up all I have to do is the hit the button on the coffee maker.
While the scent of the brewing coffee tickles my olfactory pleasure centers, I pour the tea in a glass, add some extra powdered L-Theanine, for a kick of creative energy, then skull the glass of tea to down whatever other Nootropics I'm taking.
Then I pour my coffee, begin to sip the dark nectar to wash away the nasty taste of any other Nootropics I've taken (Like Phenylpiracetam... that stuff tastes like angry fire ants!), then I get shit done.
This stack may improve athletic performance according to Travis (See video review below). Inspiration and motivation, talk about a winning morning regimen!
Coffee and Modafinil is one of my favorite combinations actually, since I don't find Modafinil particularilly energizing and it takes sometimes as much as 3 hours to kick in for me I will wash them down with the dark nectar. The hardcore cognitive enhancing effect of Armodrafinil in combination with the stimulation of caffeine can be paranoia inducing for some people so go easy on the dosage.
This is actually the one Nootropic that makes me go off coffee, the energising effect of Piracetam is so much more acute than coffee's and in my experience the two really don't compliment each other. In the future I'm going to try combining Piracetam, Caffeine and a relaxing agent like L-Theanine or maybe even Phenibut.
This Racetam's Ampakinic effect is nicely complimented by Caffeine.
This discipline promoting mixture of pharmaceutical grade Racetams goes well with Caffeine. The caffeine provides energy which in combination with the stack puts me in a head space of passionate pursuit of processes.
Another awesome focus drug that's not very energizing, is nicely complimented by coffee. Coffee seems like the only thing that can actually wash away the terrible taste of Phenyl.
This Nootropic stack is quiet energizing so adding Caffeine to it is little bit of stimulatory overkill, but if I was just doing a single Excelerol capsule it seemed nicely complimented by a cup or two of Joe.
I've tried coffee with Phenibut and I have to admit it's a pretty awesome cocktail for a crazy sleepless night, if you are into that sort of thing...
I haven't tried this combination but according to Biohacking blogger extraordinaire Mike Minneman:
" I noticed that CILTEP enhances the "mind" effects for me, while doing little for the "body", which suits me just fine. In a way, CILTEP+Caffeine felt like a more dopaminergic caffeine. In any event, I find the combination vastly superior to simply consuming more caffeine, which can leave me a little racey."
It has dubious effects on memory. From a 2008 study of 61 human participants out of the University of California:
"We directly compared caffeine (200mg) with napping (60-90min) and placebo on three distinct memory processes: declarative verbal memory, procedural motor skills, and perceptual learning... Caffeine significantly impaired motor learning compared to placebo and naps. Napping produced robust perceptual learning compared with placebo; however, naps and caffeine were not significantly different. These findings provide evidence of the limited benefits of caffeine for memory improvement compared with napping. "
Interestingly caffeine does increase working memory at a dosage of 200 milligrams but only in those who self identify as extroverts, according to two studies. A 2010 University of London study, Caffeine enhances working memory for extraverts, tested human subjects with the Dual N-Back task, it stated:
"Findings revealed that caffeine administration relative to the placebo condition resulted in heightened [working memory] performance, but only for extraverted participants."
So if the goals of your biohacking include improving memory, Caffeine should not be taken alone.
Anyone who's ever made a regular habit out of coffee consumption knows that it has a positive effect on mood, however at least one 2011 study suggested this is all placebo effect:
"We explored whether caffeine, and expectation of having consumed caffeine, affects attention, reward responsivity and mood using double-blinded methodology. 88 participants were randomly allocated... These results suggest caffeine expectation can affect mood and performance but do not support a synergistic effect."
You think the coffee is going to make you feel better so it does make you feel better. A self dillusion I'm certainly not complaining about!
An interesting study on decision making entitled, Gambling when sleep deprived: don't bet on stimulants, compared Caffeine with Modafinil and other stimulating drugs and found that these drugs, while they do help psychomotor vigilance and alertness do not improve decision making in those who are sleep deprived:
"These findings are consistent with prior research showing that sleep deprivation leads to suboptimal decision-making on some types of tasks, particularly those that rely heavily on emotion processing regions of the brain."
A significant effect of caffeine according to 21 high quality human studies is improving anaerobic running ability, power output and aerobic exercise. From a 2006 human study of athletes:
"This study revealed that acute caffeine ingestion can significantly enhance performance of prolonged, intermittent-sprint ability in competitive, male, team-sport athletes."
It increases lifespan according to a 2011 study which appeared in Plos One:
"Only 2 drugs, caffeine and tannic acid, exhibited a similar dependency on DAF-16. Caffeine, tannic acid, and bacitracin also reduced pathology in a transgenic model of proteotoxicity associated with Alzheimer's disease."
Caffeine Infused Chewing Gum
Need a quick hit of energy? Caffeine is actually absorbed directly into the blood stream through the mouth faster than coffee, so a lifehack maybe to leave a package of Caffeine gum under your pillow and have a stick of gum as soon as your alarm goes off instead of trudging to the coffee maker half conscious to brew up a cup of joe.
Caffeine is also, debatably, one of the first drugs ever used by humans. A common misconception about coffee is that it's originally from South America, this is a product of an excellent Colombian PR campaign done in the United States in the 1950's. It's actually from Ethiopia in Africa, how it conquered the world is a fascinating story, If you have 3 hours, I recommend the excellent documentary series Black Coffee.
Pros of Coffee
Heightens your focus
Heightens your focus
Cons of Coffee
95-200 milligrams per cup
25 milligrams per cup
42 milligrams per cup
25 milligrams per 100 grams of dark chocolate
35 milligrams per 12 oz. Coca-Cola
50 milligrams per gram
85 milligrams per cup
Getting Caffeine from energy drinks is an especially bad idea, the soda industry actually had regulated levels of Caffeine that could be added to soft drinks or sodas. The energy drinks are actually classified as 'dietary supplements' and don't need to declare dosages on labels and thereby can contain as much as 400 - 500 milligrams of caffeine on the extreme end.
Mechanism of Action
It's primary mechanism is as an adenosine receptor antagonist, this is an Nuerotransmitter that mediates sleepiness. Furthermore...
- It elevates Serotonin levels with chronic use.
- Consistent with dose it increases Adrenaline and Noradrenaline, further boosting alertness.
- Induces acetylcholine release in the brain.
Caffeine serum levels in the blood peak 45-60 minutes after consuming coffee, so a lifehack would be to drink your coffee 45-60 minutes before you need to really be in the caffeinated zone. Taking caffeine in capsule form actually absorbs even faster into the bloodstream but the fastest vehicle to a caffeinated state is actually...
Tolerance & Addiction
While many daily users of caffeine will cheerfully state that they are addicted, there's some debate as to whether caffeine is a drug that interacts with the pleasure nuerotransmitters similar to other addictive drugs. An extensive French review stated
"In conclusion, it appears that although caffeine fulfils some of the criteria for drug dependence and shares with amphetamines and cocaine a certain specificity of action on the cerebral dopaminergic system, the methylxanthine does not act on the dopaminergic structures related to reward, motivation and addiction."
According to Examine.com taking a one month break from caffeine will significantly decrease tolerance.
Milk Thistle, Curcumin and Quercetin - Xanthine Oxidase inhibitors may increase the amount of circulating caffeine.
Apparently the enzyme that metabolises caffeine is actually upregulated by smoking, so there's actually some efficaciousy to the cocktail of a cigarette and a coffee.
Sleep, sleep is a potent anti sleep agent. It's recommended to leave at least 6 hours between your last cup of coffee and bedtime. Personally I make it a point to switch to tea after 12PM just to keep my sleep cycle unmolested.
Even if your a person who manages to fall asleep within a few hours of drinking coffee, it will hurt the quality of your sleep.
Anxiety, caffiene can be agent of anxiogenesis in certain people for genetic reasons, this worstens with dosage. Yet another reason to take your Caffeine with an L-Theanine source.
Caffiene is just not kopesthetic to some people's constitions; the Pharma kinetics of it's absorption and metabolism are quiet individual and based upon genetics. It's not for everyone.
Caffeine has an LD50, it can actually kill you with an overdose but you would need to consume and absurd amount, 5-10 grams or about a 100 cups of coffee. However, some Biohackers will take 5-10 grams of Piracetam daily, so make sure you get your baggies of powdered Nootropics mixed up. Another reason why I just prefer to get my Caffeine from coffee.
Methamphetamine, mixes particularly poorly with Caffeine. So starting your day with an Adderall and a cup of steaming coffee is not a good idea.
Propranolol or other beta-blockers.