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Andrew Huberman: Caffeine to Optimize Mental Health and Physical Performance

Updated: Jan 17

Podcast Duration: 2:22:28

Podcast Release Date:12/5/22

A summary by Jordan Johnson, BS

5 Key Takeaways

  1. 200-400mg of caffeine per day can have positive effects on the brain and body

  2. For best results, do not drink caffeine for the first 1-2 hours upon waking

  3. Caffeine can increase your metabolism and help burn fat

  4. To avoid increased drowsiness do not nap for more than 90 minutes

  5. Cycling off caffeine for 5 days or more can decrease tolerance and increase positive effects

Andrew Huberman begins this conversation by introducing the most frequently used drug on the planet and the applications it has on human health.

  1. Caffeine is the most widely used substance on the planet

  2. Caffeine acts as a strong “reinforcer”

  3. Meaning we actively like those foods/drinks more than if caffeine was absent

  4. Most people consume caffeine because it makes them feel more alert

Positive Benefits of Caffeine:

  1. Neuroprotective (Brain) effects

  2. increase dopamine, catecholamines like norepinephrines

  3. Diminish headaches (bloodflow)

  4. Asthma relief (1-4 hours)

  5. Improves focus/alertness in ADHD

  6. Offsets some of the probability of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimers

  7. Increase levels of alertness, motivation and drive

  8. Antidepressive effects (direct and indirect)

  9. Performance enhancing effects (mental and physical)

  10. Mental

  11. Shortens reaction time (quicker)

  12. More able to access the brain circuitry involving learning and memory

  13. Memory is increased by drinking caffeine before and after a task

  14. Physical

  15. Shortens reaction time (quicker)

  16. Exercise and exertion

  17. Powerful reinforcer of experience

  18. Using caffeine as a reinforcer to create a preference for a certain food or drink

Negative Effects when Exceeding Recommended Dosages:

  1. Higher levels of anxiety

  2. Depletion of electrolytes

  3. Lose sodium because coffee is a diuretic

  4. Caffeine can INCREASE sex hormone binding globulin which can slightly reduce overall levels of free floating testosterone and free estradiol (in women)

DOSE (ingestion of caffeine in a single sitting):

  1. Your body weight

  2. 1-3 mg per kg of body weight is the range of positive effects without feeling overly anxious

  3. Range of tolerance

  4. How caffeine adapted you are

  5. Alert and relaxed = caffeine adapted

  6. Preexisting disposition (whether or not your genetics and nervous system tends to make you feel more alert or jittery)


GLP1(Glucagon like peptide 1):

A molecule found in certain caffeinated beverages that is proven to be very useful for weight loss, mental performance and controlling blood sugar levels

Weight Loss and Caffeine

  1. Reduces hunger

  2. Activating certain neurons in the hypothalamus (region of the brain that controls hunger and satiety)

  3. It makes us feel full at the level of the brain

  4. GLP1 acts on certain receptors in the gut to make us feel as though we have ingested enough food (gives us a slight sense of fullness)

  5. Stimulates thermogenesis (active utilization of more metabolic energy)

  6. Fat cells (beige and brown fat cells) are a potent source of thermogenic activity in your body

Background: There are white, brown and beige fat cells. The beige and brown ones are fat cells that you want MORE of. They generate heat and contain a lot of mitochondria in them. When GLP is elevated in your system it converts white fat cells into beige or brown, which makes you more thermogenic and raises your basal metabolic rate over time (burning more calories even at rest).

Tools for GLP1 utilization:

  1. Yerba Mate (tea):

  2. Stimulates the release of GLP1 significantly, so they can be used for weight loss. (avoid smoked varieties of yerba mate bc they can be carcinogenic)

  3. Fasted exercise

  4. Prescription GLP1 analogs

  5. Delay your caffeine intake for 90-120 minutes after waking up on most days

Mental Performance:

  1. Caffeine acts a reinforcing agent

  2. It increases the probability that you will return to, and engage in a certain activity or consume a certain beverage or food

  3. Especially taking before exercise (ingesting caffeine can change your relationship with exercise)

  4. Caffeine increases Dopamine and acetylcholine (neuromodulators in the forebrain),

  5. Improves our ability to think, to modify our rule sets, adjust strategies for social situations, mental/physical demands

  6. Increases the number and efficacy of dopamine receptors in the reward pathways of the brain (makes things that would feel pretty good, feel even better)

  7. Caffeine acts as an antagonist to adenosine

  8. This offsets the sleepiness we would feel from the accumulation of adenosine that occurs as we are awake for more and more hours throughout the day

  9. Spiking adrenaline and other catecholamines (dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine) after a bought of learning enhances memory for the information

  10. Intense exercise

  11. 10-15 minutes after learning

  12. Caffeine intake

  13. Naps (90 minutes or less)

More about Adenosine

Adenosine as a prosleepy molecule is a non-negotiable aspect of your biology

  1. Makes us feel tired because of the way it taps into the ATP pathways

  2. ATP pathway is central to the energy production and overall feeling of energy in our brain and body in all cells and organ systems

  3. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors

  4. Offsets fatigue/sleepiness

  5. When the caffeine is dislodged from the adenosine receptors, you will have a massive backlog of adenosine

  6. You are just changing the timing before the sleepy and energetic signals arrive

  7. Adenosine levels are lowest right after a good nights’ sleep

  8. There is no way to eliminate adenosine with caffeine, you can just block it

  9. Borrowing energy against the fatigue you will inevitably feel

How to clear out Adenosine:

  1. Sleep

  2. Short nap

  3. Non sleep deep breaths (NSDR)

  4. Viewing morning sunlight can clear our adenosine

  5. Exercise

  6. Spike cortisol

  7. Delay caffeine intake 90-120 minutes after waking

  8. Immediate caffeine consumption blocks adenosine but does not clear it out

  9. Allows cortisol to have its normal increase and rise so that it can directly clear out adenosine

  10. Hydrate with water and electrolytes

  11. Bright light/direct sunlight for 5-20 minutes

  12. Can decrease cortisol by 50%

  13. Increases mood, awareness and indirectly clears out residual adenosine

  14. Exercise

When you ingest your caffeine, you will be craving it and drinking that caffeine on an already existing backdrop of alertness for two reasons:

  1. Adenosine is zeroed out

  2. Cortisol peak higher

Why Delay Caffeine Intake in the Morning?

  1. Afternoon crash

  2. Afternoon caffeine ingestion disrupts the depth and quality of sleep

  3. It sets up your system so that you get your morning cortisol peak and clear our adenosine


  1. If you are going to be doing intense exercise first thing in the morning then it would be appropriate to ingest your caffeine first thing

  2. Suggests drinking half before workout and then half later to offset afternoon crash (quarter life of caffeine is 12 hours)

How to offset some of the negative effects of caffeine:

  1. Jitteriness

  2. Theanine

  3. Non-protein amino acid

  4. Supplement offsets jitteriness

  5. Empty stomach increases the potency of caffeine intake

  6. Water to caffeine ratio should be equal

  7. Effects & Dosage:

  8. Stimulates glutamate and glutamine

  9. Reduces levels of alertness

  10. 200-400mg (up to 900mg can be safe)

  11. Known to reduces depression & anxiety

  12. Has some pro-sleep effects

  13. Endothelial cell respiration

  14. Peak occurs an hour after ingestion

Do’s and Don’ts

  1. Avoid caffeine in the 12 hours prior to sleep

  2. The quarter life of caffeine is 12 hours

  3. If you ingest caffeine at noon, 25% of its effects are still going to be bioactive at midnight that night, resulting in sleep disturbance

  4. Slow Wave sleep, aka deep sleep is associated with mundane dreams, growth hormone release (protein synthesis, metabolism, etc.) clear our bacteria and viruses

  5. 5-day absence from caffeine

  6. Increases the performance effect on the 6th day

  7. Examples:

  8. Traveling and wanting to stay up in a different time zone

  9. Max endurance or strength increases on the 6th day

  10. Able to identify how caffeine affects your mood and alertness and feelings of wellbeing

  11. Potency increases

  12. Every other day caffeine schedule

  13. Only consume caffeine on the days of resistance training

  14. Maximize the performance effects without subjecting yourself to caffeine withdrawal

  15. Using caffeine to study (psychostimulant effects)

  16. Studies show people perform best on exams if they are in the same mental state that they were in when they studied the material

  17. Menstrual cycle affects

  18. There are no detrimental effects of caffeine for women during their cycle

  19. Dopamine stacking for individuals who struggle with motivation (combining multiple stimuli)

  20. The dopamine peak will experience a low dopamine baseline

  21. A high dopamine release results in a low valley

Existence of Caffeine in Nature:

In nature Caffeine is present in very low concentrations or is masked by other flavors within flowers, beans and plants.

  1. Plants

  2. Plants and nectars that contain small amounts of caffeine are the preferred sources of food for bees

  3. Caffeine is acting as a reinforcer for bees who are consuming nectar

  4. Not because they can taste the caffeine, rather due to the way that those caffeine containing flavors made the bees feel (alert, more consumption of food)

  5. All of the effects of caffeine are subconscious

  6. Caffeine stimulates the release of dopamine and acetylcholine not within the classic reward pathway of the brain (ie. sex, drugs)

  7. Rather caffeine stimulates parts of the brain that stimulate alertness and cognition

  8. Also stimulates parts of the brain that are associated with the reward pathway

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