Caffeine supplements or pills are extensively documented cognitive enhancers thought to improve mental performance, boosting concentration, alertness, memory and energy.
What are Caffeine Pills?
Caffeine supplements are considered to be stimulants and are not “technically” a Nootropic. However, they do have many recorded Nootropic effects on improving mental alertness, concentration, memory and the obvious, a burst of short-term energy.
Considered the most widely used and legal psychoactive drug, Caffeine is a xanthine alkaloid compound, a naturally occurring mild stimulant used to prevent sleepiness and increase short-term alertness in the central nervous system.
Caffeine itself is found in over 60 plants including cocoa beans and tea, in certain dietary supplements for weight loss and in many food products including energy drinks, soft drinks and many other products.
Although the effects of Caffeine itself are all similar, regardless of how it is consumed, supplementation is thought to be most commonly used by students and individuals to maximize mental alertness and stay awake for extended periods of time when drinking coffee isn’t enough.
In some cases, Caffeine supplements are blended with minerals or vitamins to further reduce fatigue, enhancing energy levels, concentration and even fat metabolism. For these reasons, Caffeine pills are the most widely used stimulant among athletes.
Caffeine pills are commonly stacked or used in combination with other Nootropics to enhance their effects and are especially popular in combination with L-theanine to enhance energy and alertness.
The Effects of Caffeine in the Brain
Caffeine’s stimulating effects in the brain come from it’s action on adenosine receptors that are found in the central nervous system. In our natural everyday cycle, the brain produces and slowly releases this chemical which prevents the central nervous system from becoming over stimulated. When adenosine binds to these receptors, neural activity slows down and causes drowsiness and the eventual state of deep sleep.
These receptors cannot define the difference between caffeine and adenosine, which both target the same receptors. So when caffeine is present in the system, it will dominate and attach to them instead of adenosine, giving the opposite effect and keeping us awake.
Another effect of caffeine, is that it stimulates the pituitary gland to secrete hormones. This causes more adrenalin to be produced and is where we get the burst of energy and the increase in attention.
Finally, adenosine works to reduce a chemical called Dopamine in the brain, which is a neurotransmitter that is associated with positive reinforcement, mood, motivation, learning and pleasure.
The brain cannot detect any adenosine when Caffeine is present, so the release of dopamine becomes increased. This is what keeps people addicted to caffeine and why 90% of adults in North America consume it.
Benefits of Caffeine Supplements
There are also quite a few cognitive benefits associated with caffeine. Naturally, when we are more alert and awake, cognitive functions such as concentration, attention span, memory and focus become enhanced.
Caffeine pills in low doses are considered relatively harmless. These supplements are used for many different reasons including enhancing alertness, concentration, increasing wakefulness during the day or night and even for weight loss, where they are thought to help curb your appetite.
Caffeine combined with carbohydrates are thought to improve the energy storage in the cells of the muscles and liver, enhancing energy levels and increasing output for people who exercise frequently.
Some studies indicate that caffeine may also have beneficial effects for people who suffer from asthma, aiding in opening up airways and for people who get frequent headaches.
For your brain, caffeine is mostly used to increase mental alertness and even memory. When certain receptors are targeted, neurotransmitters are stimulated and speed up the signals they send between the neurons.
Also, there seems to be some reports that suggest caffeine may protect against memory declining conditions such as Alzheimer’s. Research is still ongoing, however, this may suggest that caffeine may be a potential protector of neuronal structure.
As a Nootropic, caffeine helps us to stay alert, positively effects our moods, reduces fatigue and enhances mental energy.
Side Effects of Caffeine Supplements
Caffeine pills are considered well tolerated and safe when taken in proper dosages. Side effects are rare but include insomnia, nervousness and nausea.
The half life of a caffeine supplement is approximately 4-6 hours. Taking more than 300mg a day (equivalent to 3-4 cups of coffee) is not recommended because it still remains in your system during that period of time. This will affect your ability to sleep and cause restlessness.
Also, there is a concern that you can build a tolerance to caffeine which will increase depression and fatigue when the effects wear off. Cycling caffeine supplements might be an option.
Taking high doses of caffeine can cause caffeine overdose, whether it is supplemented or in the daily intake of coffee. Symptoms include irritability, rapid breathing, dizziness and mental fog.
Caffeine is considered GRAS (generally regarded as safe) by the FDA for healthy adults up to 400mg per day. This is equivalent to 4 or 5 cups of coffee or two Caffeine pills per day.
People have different tolerance levels to caffeine, so it is hard to determine a standard dosage. To stay on the safe side, start at no more than 300mg per day and raise the dosage if needed.
If you are taking caffeine supplements for athletic performance, it is noted that a good way to measure proper caffeine consumption is to base it on body weight. The approximate formula is 1.5 mg of caffeine for every pound you weigh.
It is well known that we can build up a tolerance to caffeine, which means it’s effectiveness can become less and less over time. It might be beneficial to cycle caffeine supplements if you are taking them in combination with other Nootropics.
A common combination is stacking caffeine with L-theanine which is found in green tea. Combining these two are believed to work well together since L-theanine relaxes you while caffeine keeps you alert without the possibility of the jitters that caffeine may have on it’s own.
Caffeine supplementation is considered generally safe (GRAS) by the FDA when used by healthy adults in moderation and proper dosages.
Users may take this supplement as a more convenient and less costly method of getting the benefits of caffeine which may last longer and gradually fade off as opposed to a high boost and crash.
Whether you are considering this supplement to enhance athletic performance, for longer periods of concentration and wakefulness or as an alternative to coffee, taking caffeine when needed only, may be the best option to lessen the risks associated with over usage and tolerance.
When taken in moderation and weighing the risks and benefits, you can enjoy the full brain boosting effects that caffeine is known for.