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How to know if you’ve built up a caffeine tolerance—and what to do about it


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Photo: Unsplash/Athena Lam
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When you’re new to caffeine, that first cup of coffee or tea can be a game changer. Suddenly, you’re focused, energized, motivated, and alert. You’re a superhero who can plow through a presentation, hit the gym, and still make it to happy hour with energy to spare.

But when the newness wears off and the caffeine only keeps withdrawal headaches at bay, does it mean that you’ve developed a high caffeine tolerance? And if so, what should you do?

Here’s what you need to know about caffeine tolerance—and whether you might want to cut back on your matcha latte habit.
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Learn about caffeine withdrawal and tolerance.
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What is caffeine tolerance?

If you’re at the point where you must start your day with a red eye from the corner coffee shop, you might notice that the initial kick has waned significantly. “Caffeine tolerance develops with the continuous and daily use of coffee and caffeinated drinks,” explains Adonis Maiquez, MD, the medical director at the Carillon Miami Wellness Resort. “Once you notice that drinking them no longer give you the highs you used to get—such as energy, alertness, happiness—then it’s considered tolerance.” 

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What if only a tiny bit of caffeine gives you a “boost”?

Whether you’re hooked on your daily Bulletproof coffee or only need a green tea to get you over the mid-day hump, pay attention to how your body reacts. “Symptoms of caffeine sensitivity include headaches, anxiety, jitteriness, trouble concentrating, a racing heart, palpitation, and irritability,” explains Patricia Salber, MD, of The Doctor Weighs In. “Some people are so sensitive that very small amounts of coffee will bring on the symptoms.” If you can drink cup after cup of coffee without feeling anything, put yourself in the high-caffeine-tolerance group.

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Learn how to detox from caffeine
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Is it time to detox?

A high tolerance for caffeine can affect your health. “Some people find themselves drinking more and more cups to get the same result they used to get with just one drink,” says Dr. Maiquez. And too much caffeine can cause acid reflux, keep you up at night, and increase your heart rate. He adds that the caffeine molecule competes with the brain’s chemical receptors for other stimulating natural substances.

The best way to detox from caffeine is by cutting it out of your routine it for at least a week, possibly more. This way, your body can have some time to reset. Then, start to consume caffeine only when you really need it—and when you’ll fully appreciate good latte artwork as a special treat.

Coffee, matcha, Bulletproof… find out what each drink does for your body. Or kick caffeine to the curb with an easy-to-follow reset plan.

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