Every day, billions of people worldwide rely on caffeine to perk up in the morning or get through that afternoon slump. In fact, it’s the most widely consumed stimulant drug in the world. Classifying your coffee as a “drug” may sound intense, so let’s take a look at how caffeine works in the body.
Before we dive in, we need to understand how adenosine makes you feel sleepy. It’s primarily produced from physical work and brain use, which is why people get tired as the day progresses.
Think of a lock-and-key model where the locks are receptors in the brain, and adenosine is a key. Once adenosine locks into a certain receptor in the brain, it begins to take effect. There are many different receptors in your brain, all with different functions. We’re looking at the A1 receptor – once adenosine locks with the A1 receptor, it promotes muscle relaxation and sleepiness.
Adenosine can also bind to the A2A receptor, impacting the release of mood-boosting neurotransmitters like dopamine.
So, if we can somehow block adenosine from locking into the A1 receptor, we won’t feel tired – right?
Adenosine is one of the best-known sleep-regulating molecules. Located in your central nervous system, it helps get you sleepy as the day winds down.
How caffeine works in the brain
Your body breaks down the adenosine molecules overnight, so you may feel a bit groggy first thing in the morning, but your brain is waking up. When you have that first cup of coffee, the caffeine is absorbed within 1 hour and peaks in the blood anywhere from 15 minutes to 2 hours. As it enters your brain, it starts competing with adenosine.
Picture a bunch of small cups on a table, and a bucket of ping pong balls – some are white and some are black. The white ones represent adenosine, the black ones represent caffeine, and the cups represent the brain’s receptors. If you drop the entire bucket of ping pong balls onto the table, they’ll bounce around until they land inside one of the cups.
Similarly, adenosine and caffeine molecules “bounce around” until they can land in one of the receptors. As more caffeine molecules enter the scene, they’ll soon block the majority of adenosine molecules from binding, which blocks the signal to your brain that you’re experiencing fatigue.
To be precise, caffeine doesn’t fully bind or lock into the A1 and A2A receptors. It just gets in the way and occupies the lock, rather than actually unlocking it. So you’ll experience a jolt of wakefulness and a release of dopamine and glutamate – which make you feel good after you drink coffee.
Unfortunately, caffeine is not sustainable energy.
Caffeine has a half-life of 2-10 hours, meaning it takes between 2-10 hours to be fully metabolized and no longer blocking adenosine from binding with your A1 and A2A receptors. As you’re trying to wind down for bed, when you still have some caffeine molecules blocking the A1 receptors, it’ll prevent the sleep signals from making it to the brain.
Then, because adenosine is metabolized overnight, if caffeine molecules are preventing you from getting restful sleep, you’ll have an increase in adenosine molecules in the morning. So you’ll wake up feeling extra tired, reach for even more coffee, and perpetuate the cycle.
Fortunately, caffeine isn’t the only way to get an energy boost.
There are a variety of adaptogenic herbs that actually enhance the way the body creates energy and deals with stress. Because they work with the brain, certain adaptogens can also help increase mental endurance, improve your ability to focus, and boost your mood.
Adaptogens for energy, mood, and focus:
- Bacopa revitalizes cognitive function, helping to improve clarity
- Rhodiola is an adaptogen that boosts energy and helps the body adapt to daily stressors
- American ginseng improves mental and physical endurance, which helps the mind focus longer
- Cordyceps enhance oxygenation in the brain and throughout the body, improving overall energy and stamina
We combined clinical strength doses of all 4 into 1 energy-boosting formula! Because the impacts of the day can take a toll on the body, we also included licorice root, a powerful antioxidant that supports overall health. Get started with sustainable energy, improved focus, and a better mood with Rightful Energy+.