I generally drink 1–2 cups of coffee per day, between 09:00–12:00. I switch to teas after lunch so I'm not still full of caffeine by the time I go to bed. I wouldn't say that's heavy usage by any stretch, but I can tell that coffee doesn't effect me much any more (i.e. I can have a big mug late and night and then go to bed a couple of hours later).

That's about the extent of how much I've thought about my coffee consumption. However, I'm sure there must be some sort of optimal strategy for getting the most ‘bang for your buck’. No articles I've found seem able to agree on one though.

For example, this one says to start with a 1-month coffee fast, and this one concurs, whilst this one this one says a week'll do. The first article then says to stick to one cup per week, with the occasional extra if really needed, which seems very low (since the effects only last around 6–8 hours). The second article doesn't give a target to aim for, but warns against daily coffees.

However, this article and this article don't say anything negative about daily coffees, instead just saying to avoid certain times (e.g. 08:00–09:00).

In addition, this one and this one both seem to advocate something along the lines of coffee microdosing, whilst the others don't really say anything on the topic.

With all this conflicting advice, is it just an fundamentally inexact science or is there a canonical guide on how to maximise coffee effectiveness out there somewhere?

More specifically,

a) how long should one initially abstain to reduce any built-up tolerance? 1 week or 1 month?

b) afterwards, how often should coffee be drunk in order to maximise the benefits whilst minimising the build-up of tolerance? 1 cup a day, 1 cup a week, microdosing throughout the day or something else?

  • I'm curious: it seems as though you asking for the schedule of effective ratios which maximize certain neurological effects integrated by time. Buzz-hours, if you will. Is that your only concern, or do you want a formula which accounts for any deleterious consequences health to your health with co-efficients? Furthermore, are there any of the neurological effects which you'd wish to minimize — jitters, et al.? Dec 19, 2018 at 2:11
  • @can-ned_food I've edited the question to clarify excatly what I'm asking.
    – 08915bfe02
    Dec 19, 2018 at 10:24
  • Welcome @Rumps, I assume the caffeine tolerance is highly depend on a person's metabolism. At least, age and body mass should affect explicitly. Therefore, I think you should try and find it for yourself. So, I don't have an exact answer. To see how caffeine affects your neurons may be interesting and helpful. Please take a look at this answer: coffee.stackexchange.com/questions/4488/…
    – MTSan
    Dec 19, 2018 at 15:21

1 Answer 1


I suppose I would consider optimal caffeine (primarily through coffee) usage to any usage that maximizes fatigue reduction/alertness/wakefulness whilst minimizing tolerance build-up.

Ok Rumps, given that interest, let me offer a few notes-

  1. Adaptation: first off, our brains adapt to caffeine over time, so a dose that may give you effects now, may give you zero effects later.

  2. Plan to back off from caffeine every month or so if your goal is this effect rather than just the pleasure of the beverage. Why? Some receptor clean up in the brain needs to happen and that takes time.

  3. Caffeine does not reduce fatigue - just to be clear - fatigue is a set of system level responses that tell you you are potentially under slept or under nourished - using a drug to mask that doesn't sort that problem. What caffeine can do is?

  4. Caffeine assists "alertness" by again blocking what the body is telling you about rest - So, it's a kind of chicken and egg thing in terms of how it works: Caffeine will block adenosine receptors in the brain especially later in the day (when this substance builds up in the brain to start a wind down cycle) - and that's for many people about the worst time to have a coffee - because of its half life it can really start to disrupt sleep - and make it harder to get to sleep.

  5. Caffeine also seems to be associated with helping folks work out hard, and also perform better on cognitive tests - when used as a dose in an experiment right before a test. So that may say something about "strategic dosing" for an acute effect (effect right at time of need), and having to work hard physically can be boosted here by the connection to serotonin - and other cool stuff happening in muscles.

  6. And yes caffeine is a long time supporter of fat burning too - so it seems to rev up fat burning - but so does green tea.

  7. As much as I'm skeptical about some of this - the weight of evidence suggests that moderate coffee drinking has no ill effects, and while some of the benefits may be attenuated as one adapts, it's not causing harm.

A nice overview from 2010 is here

I haven't checked into more current research on each of these topics, but one review suggests that coffee compounds, when sent to a Petri dish of cancer cells, arrests proliferation of the cells - this seems like an awesome thing. See

In working with athletes and university students - to get a performance boost, however - they cycled their dosing - really tapering off before a key event, and using it strategically in a period before the event to get the benefits.

So, as to your question about optimal dosing - you can test a few things for yourself.

  1. Find out what your optimal cut off time is for coffee not to disturb you getting to sleep. Earlier is probably better:

    • Most work suggests 6-8 hours before hitting the sack for sleep is needed to have caffeine flushed out of the system.
    • Also, coffee ups stomach acids - not a good idea before going to sleep and finally - If you don't need to push yourself awake don't do it. Figure out ways to get more rest - a challenge but after awhile if we rely on coffee to keep us upright, other things will break. So, try for a week to stop 8 hours before bed time - and after that week - play around. You might also wish to check out adding to that, reducing the amount of coffee you drink overall - but doesn't sound like a lot anyway.
  2. Think about using coffee strategically - if you're doing something creative - see if having a coffee makes a difference; if you're doing a workout - see if coffee 20-30 mins before your heavy sets makes a difference - and if it does do you need it all the time - or maybe again strategically on particular sessions only.

  3. Get into the pleasure of coffee as a beverage. Like building up a taste for dark, special really well made chocolate ups experience and reduces cravings (a little intense shot goes a long way), consider doing this with coffee. personal story: it's gotten to a point with me that I really prefer to roll my own: I pick the beans, grind them, make my coffee and enjoy it with intent - or with colleagues who share that experience. I no longer enjoy grabbing just any coffee. This means I have one or two cups a day (or sometimes none at all) because I enjoy the real thing so much I don't spend my caffeine/coffee nickle anywhere else.

So take-aways are:

  1. Test it for yourself - It's not only you in one moment but learning how different contexts affect this beverage.

  2. Consider strategic dosing if that's what you're using it for else.

  3. Maybe explore getting into coffee as a gorgeous food that you can give yourself as a daily ritual / treat.

  4. Think about tapering off from time to time to re-up your sensitivity and enjoy even more - without being any food that's a drug too b**ch.

All the best m.c.

PS - On effect on both workout intensity and on fat burning.

Because coffee is a food and has way more going on than caffeine, when I'm really focused on the caffeine properties around work outs (super hard training for an event) or fat burning (when already just a wee bit away from target body fat) I prefer to use caffeine pills as part of a "stack" for those effects - this may be way outside anything of interest, but it's just a focus/control thing.

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