If you’re guilty of indulging in a cup of coffee, or three, every morning, you may find yourself experiencing fatigue and irritability mid-afternoon. Otherwise known as a caffeine crash, this slump can put a damper on your day, but understanding what causes it can help you avoid it in the future!
Caffeine fires up the central nervous system, allowing you to become more alert and focused. A liver enzyme called CYP1A2 breaks it down, and genetic differences, as well as lifestyle and dietary habits, determine how caffeine affects you and to what degree. This is why some people can have a cup of coffee at six pm and sleep just fine while others experience shaking or anxiousness with even one cup.
If you’re reliant on caffeine to start your day, caffeine crashes occur when you start to go through afternoon withdrawals. Metabolism speed and mealtimes can also affect how quickly your body processes caffeine and the magnitude of your subsequent crash.
Most Americans consume some form of caffeine, whether it be coffee, soda, chocolate, or tea, every day. So how can you prevent this unpleasant side effect?
Eat a gut-supporting diet that balances blood sugar
Spikes in blood sugar can exacerbate caffeine crashes, so support your digestive system with foods that are naturally low in sugar and opt for fruit, rather than processed sugar, when you’re craving something sweet. For more information on how to eat for a healthy gut, check out our article on eating for a healthy gut.
Slowly phasing out some of your caffeine will generate a less severe response from your body each afternoon. If you’re cutting down on caffeine to reduce negative symptoms, be sure to do so gradually. Going cold turkey can lead to worse withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, and headaches. Slowly switching to half decaf before fully decaf will make the process less painful.
Set caffeine cut off time
Cutting yourself off mid morning can help reduce the overall amount of caffeine you intake, reducing your dependence on it. This can also help improve your sleep by making it easier to doze off at night. Consider also pairing your caffeine with meals to slow your body’s absorption rate for a more gradual energy boost.
Caffeine can be a great resource for an early morning start or an extra push to get through a long day, but it’s not without drawbacks. If you’re experiencing caffeine crashes, consider switching up your intake habits for a more pleasant afternoon.
From the archive: This popular healthy living Optimist Daily story was originally published July 3, 2020.