Anyone who drinks coffee on a regular basis will notice the effects that skipping their regular cup has when they don’t get coffee. Some people only feel a little fatigue, while others have splitting headaches and are downright miserable. Whatever the severity, many coffee drinkers turn to caffeine resets — periods when they have no coffee or other sources of caffeine. At Driftaway Coffee, we did a little digging into these (partly for personal reasons).
Regular Caffeine Builds Up Adenosine Receptors
As we’ve written about before, regular intake of caffeine leads to an increase of adenosine receptors. These are receptors in the brain where adenosine, a chemical that our body produces during the day, bond. Caffeine has a similar structure to adenosine and will bind to these receptors, and the brain will adjust by generating more receptors.
A study from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) backs up this with empirical evidence from mice. When mice were given 100 milligrams of caffeine per day (roughly 1 cup of coffee’s worth), the mice experienced “a wide range of biochemical alterations in the central nervous system” — including an increase of certain adenosine receptors.
Not Having Caffeine Leaves Receptors Unfilled
If adenosine receptors build up because of caffeine use, the receptors won’t all be filled when caffeine is unavailable. This is one of the reasons why coffee drinkers feel tired and experience headaches when they don’t get their regular cup of coffee. The brain has receptors that are expecting to be filled but aren’t.
Receptors Die Off During a Caffeine Reset
If caffeine isn’t ingested for a long enough period of time, the receptors that aren’t being filled will eventually die off and not be regenerated. This is ultimately the goal of a caffeine reset, for it gets the brain back to default, before-coffee status.
There isn’t a lot of evidence on how long it takes for adenosine receptors to die off. A separate study that worked with mice found that adenosine receptors in the forebrain died off by 8 days after eliminating caffeine from the mice’s diets. At 15 days, however, there was still an increased number of receptors in the cerebellum.
Without additional evidence to guide the length of a reset, many coffee drinkers try to go 1 week without caffeine. Those who do often report that their withdrawal symptoms go away during this week, and coffee has a much greater effect on them when they begin drinking it again.
Reward Your Reset with Freshly Roasted Coffee
If you’re interested in conducting a caffeine reset, select a timeframe and skip the coffee. Stick with it and avoid caffeine until the end. Once the reset is over, why not reward yourself with some of our freshly roasted coffee? It’ll be especially delicious if you haven’t had any coffee for a few days or week.