Caffeine on Huberman Lab

Episode 7: Podcast Summary

Episode 7. Monday morning. Feels like apt timing.

Since this summary covers health science, I must start with a disclaimer. This is a summary and these are my personal notes. I'm not a credentialed scientist, nor do I pretend to be one. Huberman has his own list of credentials: Ph.D., neuroscientist, tenured professor at Stanford School of Medicine. My process is to learn about these ideas, decide which ones align with my mental model & priorities, then experiment with these hypotheses in my own life (typically a 2-4 week trial period). So in that way, I apply the scientific method to my own life, but I am not a scientist. I also would never suggest that what works for me will work for anybody else. All of our bodies are different. Health exists on a spectrum.

With proper disclaimer in place, on to the coffee shop...

I put a high value on high energy, trying to run at 100% for as long as possible. I view caffeine as a means of amplifying the available energy balance or refilling a depleted energy reserve. However, without the understanding of caffeine's effects on sleep, I didn't realize that past a certain threshold, I was over-borrowing against tomorrow. Adenosine debts must be repaid.

The tactics covered in this podcast helped me understand how to use caffeine as a tool without sacrificing sleep quality. The intention being sustained high energy over time.

Changes I made that were inspired by this podcast:

  • Morning routine:

    • Getting outside and moving ASAP after waking

      • If I can't get outside, then I turn all the lights on right away

  • Timing of caffeine ingestion:

    • First sip: 90-120 minutes after waking

    • Last sip: before 12pm

  • Disclaimer #2: I break these guidelines consistently

I remain a promoter of this plant. It’s a catalyst for conversation, a conduit to creativity, and a copilot to productivity.

Fueled by the good stuff,

P.S. - Michael Pollan's audiobook, Caffeine, is an entertaining & informative listen. It follows his 3-month abstinence break from the substance, while also recounting caffeine's historical importance. He makes a compelling argument that the caffeine plant is the most evolved (measured by ability to reproduce en masse) species on the planet. The caffeine plant has hooked the other most-evolved species (humans) to mass reproduce it on its behalf, by making its effects desirable and addictive.

"The insidiousness of caffeine is that we use it to promote wakefulness after a bad night's sleep, but then our excessive consumption of it leads to more bad sleep."

  • Caffeine usage stats

    • 90% of adults use daily

    • 50% of adolescents and teens

  • Timing of effects:

    • Alertness increases at 5 minutes, peaks at 30 minutes, and sustains for as long as 60 minutes

      • Depends on food in stomach and blood sugar

  • Adenosine - impacts on sleep

    • Caffeine is antagonist to adenosine (blocks receptors)

    • Adenosine accumulates without sleep

    • You’re not creating more energy, you’re borrowing energy against the overall system of energy

      • If you drink copious amounts of caffeine continuously throughout the day, then the next day you will feel extra sleepy as you have a glut of adenosine in your system

    • Tactics to clear adenosine:

    • After a night's sleep, there's still residual adenosine lurking

      • Spiking cortisol early in the day helps zero out the adenosine balance

    • Tactics to flush residual adenosine in the morning:

      • Exposure to morning sunlight (or at least bright lights)

        • Ideally outside

      • Brief, intense exercise

        • Could be 5-10min of jumping rope or walking

      • Delay first sip of caffeine to 90-120min after waking

        • Early morning caffeine consumption blocks residual adenosine, creating a backlog of adenosine that eventually leads to the afternoon crash

        • Then you're adding caffeine on top of a system that’s already alert

          • Going from alert → increased alert, lowering caffeine dose needs

        • If you must drink caffeine right away, then attempt to drink 50% dose upon waking and other 50% 1hr later

          • Extends the arc of caffeine effects

    • Huberman attempts to avoid caffeine 12 hours before bedtime

      • Quarter life of caffeine is 12 hours

        • Ingest 100mg coffee at 8am, then 25% of caffeine action is still present at 8pm that night

      • Even if able to fall asleep, residual caffeine disrupts slow wave and REM sleep for early part of the night

      • Book: Why We Sleep by Matthew Walker

      • "Sleep is better than any supplement or drug, including caffeine. Sleep is the foundation of mental health, physical health, and performance (including recovery and focus). So prioritize sleep first. Try to get great sleep 80% of nights, realizing that for the other 20%, life happens."

  • Dose:

    • 1-3mg of caffeine per 1kg of body weight

      • Body weight is good estimate but everyone is different

      • Upper bound is meant to represent the dose before one gets overly anxious

      • Dose is for a single sitting. When drinking 1 in morning and 1 in afternoon, consider the total dose consumed throughout the day, as well as caffeine quarter life

    • Impacts on dose:

      • Genetics & nervous system

      • Extent to which someone is “caffeine adapted”

        • Defined as: if you drink caffeine and are immediately anxious, then not "caffeine adapted"

  • Caffeine benefits:

    • Increases dopamine and Norepinephrine

      • Increases motivation and drive

      • Has been shown to have anti-depressive effects (assuming dosage doesn't make you anxious)

    • Mental & physical performance

      • Reduces (improves) reaction time physically and cognitively

    • Increases GLP-1

  • GLP-1

    • Stimulates pathways that tell your brain and gut that it’s full

      • Blunts appetite

    • Found in Yerba Mate tea (avoid smoked variety as that’s carcinogenic)

    • Stimulating GLP-1 stimulates conversion of white fat cells into beige & brown fat cells

    • Makes you more thermogenic causing you to burn more calories at rest (increased Basal Metabolic Rate)

      • Cold water exposure can have similar effect

    • Released during fasted cardio

  • Increases acetylcholine

    • Improved ability to think

    • Easier to context switch and change strategies

  • Reinforces experience

    • What we do and who we're with when we consume it is painted in a positive light

    • Increases receptors for dopamine in the reward pathway

      • As dopamine is released from a positive activity, there are more parking spots for that dopamine

    • Makes things that are pretty good seem very good

  • Theanine supplement

    • Blunts jittery effects of caffeine

      • Energy drink manufacturers adding regularly

    • 100-200mg per dosage

    • Peak effects are 60 minutes after consumption

    • If taken before sleep, then can increase the duration and depth of sleep

      • Caution that it can make dreams more intense, especially nightmares

  • Caffeine as Diuretic

    • Leads to sodium depletion

      • Good idea to drink water along with caffeine, include pinch of sodium

    • Sometimes crash can be from dehydration

  • Abstinence tactics & benefits

    • 5 days of abstinence from caffeine will increase performance-enhancing & alertness effects

    • Can employ abstinence in advance of travel across time zones or physical sports event

    • Can half one's normal dosage, then pulse up on the intended day

    • Consuming every other day:

      • Benefits of caffeine without facing withdrawals

      • Huberman only consumes on days when resistance training (typically 3-4x per week)

  • Caffeine as pre-workout

    • Can increase dopamine capture

      • Beware of consistent dopamine stacking, as this can lead to a lower dopamine baseline

      • See Huberman’s “Dopamine" episode

  • Spiking adrenaline after learning info increases retention of the info

    • Medieval practice of throwing children into cold water after teaching them facts (kind of hilarious to picture, but probably traumatic to experience)

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