It’s easy to get hung up on the use of caffeine, we all could use the energy boost. One of the very few readily available stimulants is cafeeine. They come in various forms and prices, it still doesn’t change their function.
If you’re a cafeeine addict, you realize that from time to time, you intake tends to increase. The more you take caffeine , the more caffeine you need to stay awake. You can picture a situation where you need to eat more food to stay alive. Only this time, you’re drinking more coffee to stay active, and when you fail to level up, you feel groggy and depressed.
To understand how this effect comes into play, let’s take a simple look at how caffeine works. Being a brain stimulant, it’s important to understand the basis of chemicals and neurotransmitters that aid it’s action.
When you eat, whatever you eat, the end goal is to make certain amount of energy from it. Energy in the body is called ATP (Adenosine TriPhosphate), a complex way of saying, A molecule of adenosine and three phosphate.
For your body to stay active, for you to be able to walk about, carry stuff, cycling, and get stuffs done, the ATP has to be broken into something smaller that your body cells can easily attach to. Ultimately, the ATP is broken into smaller portion, called Adenosine.
Adenosine has a special function in the body. In the brain, it work with some other “guys” to control your wakefulness.
For science purpose, let’s call these “guys” receptors. When adenosine gets to the receptors in your brain, it tells them to slow your brain down, in response, you feel sleepy.
Caffeine on the other hand has a very similar structure to adenosine. They’re like twins, but from different parents; doppelganger if you must give them a name. The guys (receptors) in the brain have poor sight, most times, they can’t tell if it’s caffeine or adenosine. They look alike!
So when you take caffeine (Via your coffee or other caffeinated drinks), the first thing they do is find their ways to the receptors in the brain. Once they get to them, the pretend as adenosine. Remember I said those guys have poor sight? Well, they welcome them in, like the real adenosine.
But there is a problem, caffeine does not have the passcode to instruct them to do what they normally do. So they can’t tell your brain to slow down, simply because caffeine can’t instruct them properly.
What then happens?
Well, the real guy (Adenosine) has been locked out! He can’t enter or access the receptors because there is an impostor there already. Thus it’s unable to deliver the message to the receptors. Without the message, they won’t slow down, your brain stays active and keeps working all around the clock.
At this point, let’s assume you take a cup of coffee per day.
Few weeks later, your body would realize that something is wrong somewhere. It’s not getting the required instruction from adenosine, simple because the impostors are everywhere! Caffeine is obstructing the transmission.
It then automatically create more receptors! That’s it. It create more of the receptors that normally bind with adenosine.
So if you take a cup of coffee as usual, well, the caffeine would bind as it usually does, but then the new receptors will be available for the adenosine to bind to. Bingo! You don’t feel as active as you used to when you take just one cup of coffee.
What this means is that, for you to get the same effect when you started out, you need more caffeine to act as impostor and block off the new receptors. To achieve this, you would have to increase you caffeine intake, to let’s say two cups.
Yay! You’re back to being as active as you used to be. Because you’ve increased your intake.
The cycle continues, building up your tolerance, with equal increase in the number of coffee you take per day. I believe you must have seen people that take as much as three (3) cups of coffee every day.
What happens when you suddenly stop?
Caffeine withdrawal symptoms sets in. It’s bad, but not as bad as you might have imagined when you saw the word “symptoms”.
Basically, it’s you feeling depressed and poorly energized until your body is able to adjust to the new system. The sleepy feeling and depression usually occur because at the stage of three (3) cups of coffee per day, you have excess adenosine receptors around. But the moment you stop taking the regular cup of coffee, you’ve successfully created a gap, thus your body needs to produce more adenosine to cover up for the receptors.
The higher the amount of adenosine flowing around, the sleepier you get. Few weeks of sticking to the regular routine of no caffeine will result into the disappearance of the excess receptors, and you will be back to the normal you again.
There is another chemical in the body called dopamine. You can call it the “feel good chemical”, because it literally makes you feel good. In the brain, some of the receptor has a spot for both adenosine and dopamine.
When adenosine share space with dopamine, it reduces the “feel good” effect of dopamine, but when caffeine share space with dopamine, their effect is not affected, since caffeine is an impostor and does not have the right to instruct the receptors to do anything, dopamine takes total control of the receptor and you end up feeling good. This explains why coffee can boost your mood significantly.