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I've read on different websites, mainly fitness related, about cycling a pre-workout due to a build up of caffeine tolerance. The suggestions generally range in 1-2 weeks, but I think this would be a great question to have here. Some links would be nice, if you could point me to some studies.

So, How long does it take to reset caffeine tolerance to pre-caffeine levels?

Can lowering down caffeine for a period of time work as a partial caffeine tolerance recalibrator?

  • Do you have a reference for cycling your caffeine dependence? It's not a concept I have heard of as beneficial for fitness previously. – Suspended User Nov 5 '15 at 17:56
  • P.S.: Also I thought that this would be a good question for the community :) Really hope it strives ! :) – Roman Nov 5 '15 at 22:02
  • Typically cycling pre-workout is due to the creatine, not the caffeine. Creatine cycles tend to be 3 weeks on, 1 week off to get the best results, and most pre-workouts will include this ingredient. Personally, if I am going through an extreme diet change which happens from time to time whenever I get time to get into the gym really hard for a few months, I will have to cycle. Personally, I do normal caffeine intake and if I need to hit the 'reset' button, I stop almost all caffeine for 1 week. Basically I do zero caffeine until I start getting a headache, then have a half cup of coffee. – Nate M. May 30 '17 at 16:39
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If you are looking at cycling your caffeine naivety with an eye for fitness benefit (caffeine increases exercise tolerance), I think you should first look into whether there is any true benefit to the cycling. You are talking about purposefully inducing a cycle of addiction/dependence and withdrawal, however, I am not sure I have ever heard that the exercise tolerance from caffeine decreases as caffeine tolerance increases.

In cycling (a sport I am familiar with) most pros maintain some level of caffeine tolerance. I've the routine before the day's workout is an espresso or two. I've never heard of cycling that caffeine intake. With a doping and performance maximization such a ever present in cycling, it seems like if there was really benefit to cycling, it would be happening.

This article suggests that the exercise tolerance is the same or similar regardless of the level of caffeine dependence. (actual study here) The most I could find online for cycling was some bodybuilding forums talking about cycling their pre-workout stimulants. Not really any specific information about what is contained in the mess of supplements they are taking.

Based on that study and the lack of information for cycling caffeine tolerance, I'd suggest that the withdrawal symptoms and side effects of caffeine consumption on naive individuals are not worth the purported but undocumented benefit of cycling your caffeine consumption. I think while it's true that some of the mental stimulation and other effects of caffeine may taper off with tolerance, the exercise tolerance benefit does not. However, individuals ignorant of this, or seeking mainly the mental stimulant part of caffeine effects, may resort to cycling their caffeine intake.

TL;DR The bottom line is for physical performance, there is not a reason to cycle. For mental performance there is a build up of tolerance and off periods would provide a benefit at the cost of symptoms encountered during the withdrawal period.

  • Thank you for your answer. Main references were read around bodybuilding-like articles and forums. Given that I use caffeine for weight lifting, I naturally wondered if there is benefit of "off-time" in order to gain similar to initial benefits. I will read the article (and the study, if I can). So I guess the bottom line is - for physical performance - no need. For mental - there is a build up of tolerance and off periods would provide a benefit... Thank you :) – Roman Nov 5 '15 at 22:01
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    @Roman Correct, except that varying by individual, this benefit must be balanced against the withdrawal symptoms and any symptoms encountered during the end of the naive phase. – Suspended User Nov 5 '15 at 23:07
  • Additional comment.. keep in mind caffeine is a vasoconstrictor. You get an energy boost, but can actually hinder your gym performance with too much caffeine, and reverse the benefit of other supplements you are taking to try and improve blood flow. – Nate M. May 30 '17 at 16:42

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