While we all know coffee contains caffeine, we often forget that caffeine is a stimulant. Other stimulants include adderall and cocaine (maybe stay away from those). We’re all guilty of saying we’re “addicted to coffee”, but remember you just might be. Other than the side effects of coffee that we welcome with open arms, that being the energy boost, there is more to it than we often think.
Coffee may keep you up for hours on end, but it may not do so much for your brother or best friend. In the same way someone reacts differently to other stimulants, it is important to consider how everyone’s bodies react to coffee differently. You may be constantly asking yourself “why does coffee make me tired’, while your roommate bounces off the walls after just one cup. The answer to such a question has some mixed thoughts, as do any health-related questions, but it does not hurt to look at the possibilities.
Say you’re four cups in to the day, and the only thing standing between you and the work you need to finish is how tired you are. When not even coffee is solving your problems (like we all believe it does), you may be wondering why the caffeine kick is actually making you tired. Next time that happens, take a look at these possible explanations.
Coffee Blocks Adenosine
Adenosine has a large role in the human body. It’s medically used to help pain and blood pressure. That’s all well and good in the medical world, but what’s important here is its role when interacting with your coffee.
Adenosine regulates sleep. Levels drop when we sleep and increase during the day. Knock back a coffee or two, and the caffeine blocks the adenosine receptors. The body does not suddenly stop producing adenosine when coffee enters the system, but rather the chemical builds up in your brain. This means it all has to go somewhere, right?
Fast forward to whenever the caffeine wears off and the adenosine is ready for its time to shine. This buildup can lead to tiredness. Toward the end of the day, this is a saving grace. It’s those midday slumps that create an issue.
When we have had a few cups of coffee but still feel tired, we attribute that feeling to our coffee causing us to be tired. It really comes down to miscommunication in the brain between the caffeine and the adenosine.
That Sugar in your Coffee is Making you Crash
Like those donuts or cake-y treats that your mom kept away from you as a kid, sugary creamers will have that same crashing effect that your mom was trying to avoid (maybe you even saw her crash a few times from her own coffee when you were a kid).
Whether you add just a small pack of brown sugar to your americano or some Coffee mate creamer to that sub-par Keurig coffee (no offense Keurig), it could be coming back to haunt you a couple hours later.
The sugar rushes to your brain, adding to the energy buzz that the coffee works so hard to create on its own. It works its way through your system and does what it came there to do—give you energy.
Once the job is done, the sugar does a nice Irish exit. This leaves you more tired than you were before the coffee. Depending on just how much sugar you prefer in your coffee, the crash can lead you to feel not just tired but moody and upset. Sugar knows how to start the party but it does not do a good job at saying its goodbyes.
Coffee is a Diuretic
This means it makes your bladder feel like the size of a coffee bean. It also contributes to the fact that a lot of coffee can make you dehydrated. What does being dehydrated feel like? Fatigue.
Coffee makes you tired because it dehydrates you. When you consume a lot of coffee, your body loses more water when you have to go to the restroom more. By the time all of that is out of your system, on top of the fact that the caffeine wears off eventually, you are left extra tired and looking for something to blame.
The coffee definitely contributes to the dehydration, but take a look at other aspects of your diet and how they hydrate you if you are not willing to give up the coffee.
It might not be that your coffee is making you tired, but that it isn’t giving you the energy that it used to. Your body can get used to the caffeine intake, just like it can get used to certain levels of medications or alcohol. This causes your body to need more to get the same buzz as it did that faithful day where you tried your first cup of coffee.
The Mayo Clinic advises against more than 400 mg of caffeine a day—which means you should rethink that fifth cup of coffee. (Your typical 8oz cup of coffee has between 90-105mg of caffeine).
While there are more serious health concerns at risk when drinking too much coffee, there is also the chance that it is losing its effect when you are drinking that much anyway. Even just a few mornings in a row of coffee can build a tolerance, so think about what years of your favorite drink will do to you. You know this happens when it just does not have the same effect as it used to.
Instead of wondering “why does my coffee make me tired”, consider “Am I just not getting the same jolt of energy as I used to”. It’s an easy mistake to make, but just as easily of a feeling to avoid.
4 Tips to Avoid Coffee Making You Tired
There’s no need to quit cold turkey or force yourself in to being a tea person. It is just time to make some small adjustments in order to get back that same feeling from coffee that you loved in the first place.
1. Consider a coffee nap next time
It might sound a little strange, but a coffee nap is the way to go. It’s as simple as enjoying a cup of coffee right before you lay down to take a nap. The quick turnaround between drinking the coffee and laying down for the nap allows for you to fall asleep before the caffeine kicks in—and for you to wake up feeling extremely well rested.
2. Take it easy on the sugary creamers
The only way to avoid a sugar crash is to avoid the sugar all together. There are ways to add flavor to your coffee without cramming sugar in it, from sugar free syrups to sugar free creamers. It may take some experimenting to get a flavor that you love, but the benefits will be well worth it.
3. Cycle your intake
Everyone is guilty of having one too many coffees a day (or if we’re being honest, 2 or 3 too many). Try your hardest to limit your coffee intake the day or two after you treat yourself to the max. It allows the body to regulate itself more without having to go completely without it.
4. Drink more water
Sometimes it feels like drinking more water is the answer to all of our problems. A large cold brew sounds like a cure to all of your problems after a long day, plus your all-nighter study session could really use that espresso shot. When it comes down to it though, it’s time to listen to your body a bit more. Start your day with a large glass of water before whipping out your French press, or simply alternate between coffee and water throughout the day. Your body, and wallet, will thank you there.
No one likes to feel tired, especially when your subtle addiction is meant to have you feeling like you could say awake for hours. It is important to know the “why”, but the next step is to take some measures to ensure that you can enjoy your coffee with as much energy as you intended. Hopefully this cleared your conscious of any concerns and will lead to more energetic coffee sessions.
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Happy caffeinating! ☕️