Rebooting your body's caffeine tolerance

Whether large or small, caffeine has the power to hook us. But as we consume more, our body becomes tolerant to the stimulant and we end up craving larger and larger doses to get the same fix. But what if you could reboot your tolerance to caffeine?

For writer Dan Gentile, coffee is a necessary part of his daily routine, so he decided to assess his dependency on coffee by going completely cold turkey and eliminating coffee from his diet for a week. But by the end of the week, the results were powerful.

So why exactly are some of us chemically dependent on coffee? Coffee scientist Joseph Rivera explains that caffeine mitigates our experience of feeling tired by preventing the work of a neuromodulator called adenosine that, when allowed to operate uninhibited, leads to fatigue.

As you consume more and more caffeine, the receptors for adenosine are blocked by caffeine and so your body responds by sprouting more adenosine receptors and therefore you need more and more to create the same effect.

But resetting that tolerance is within reach in just a couple of steps, though Rivera encourages a more incremental approach than the one that Dan Gentile took.

Take whatever amount of caffeine that you're consuming in coffee and cut that in half. So if you're drinking four cups, you'll cut it to two. And do that for a week. By doing that, your body will get used to that amount of caffeine and will reset the normal amount of caffeine in your system. And keep it going if you're really determined. You could even go one more week and just do half of that so one cup.

But reboot wisely, because the process may be painful. You may get a headache and feel a bit moody.

When you're craving another cup of java, this alternative to drip coffee could surprise you. Contrary to popular belief, espresso actually has about a third less caffeine than brewed coffee.

A successful reboot can have unexpected benefits. The compounds that are in caffeine that are mainly alkaloids are the same compounds found in painkillers. So they're metabolized in the same process as caffeine.

That benefit that will come in handy as you persevere through this potentially painful but certainly rewarding process.