The Art of Caffeine Consumption and Cycling by Lawson Aschenbach

O caffeine, my caffeine. No matter the vessel—coffee, tea, or even chocolate—millions of people crave your energy boost.

There is no shortage of potential benefits to caffeine, and I’ve personally experienced the following:

  • Increased energy
  • Better focus
  • Improved athletic performance

But I’ll let you in on a little secret. Did you know that the consumption of caffeine may hurt your ability to recover from digestive disorders, or other disorders in general?

Here are a few symptoms of caffeine sensitivity or overconsumption:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Nervousness
  • Digestive inflammation

Caffeine Elimination

When I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, my functional medicine practitioner recommended that I eliminate caffeine from my diet. For me, it wasn’t a deal breaker as I’ve never been a huge caffeine addict. 

As a young boy, my parents wouldn’t allow me to consume caffeinated soda because, apparently, I would start running all over the house and slamming into walls—all the while talking my head off. 

I’m sure it was a sight to see!

And most of my adult life, I’ve had to refrain from drinking anything caffeine due to sleep issues. One cup of tea or coffee would cause me to stay wide awake for hours every night, staring at the ceiling while my mind raced uncontrollably.

After my Crohn’s diagnosis, I decided to eliminate caffeine, partaking only in the once-in-a-blue-moon soda or tea. When I did, the negative effects were immediate. I would end up with increased anxiety and digestive discomfort. Due to my disease, the digestive discomfort was the most concerning aspect.

Caffeine Trial

Fast forward some years, when I decided to give coffee a legit go during an offseason from my racing career. I felt that my digestive tract was the strong enough to withstand the acidity, and I was looking to improve my athletic and mental performance. 

So, adding a simple cup of coffee in the morning made a lot of sense. 

Over the first week, I was blown away. My energy levels were through the roof during workouts, and continued steady throughout the day. I also felt increased focus levels and mental processing 

And, believe it or not, I was able to sleep. 

At that point, I became one of the 150,000,000+ coffee drinkers in the USA. I was a believer! 

Negative Side Effects

Over the following few weeks, I noticed some digestive issues, but I chalked it up to other supplements and dietary changes— ones advised by my functional medicine practitioner.

I was such a champion for coffee at that point that I never thought it could be the problem. 

Or could it? After about two months, I was starting to see increased stomach pains, digestive inflammation, anxiety, and significant bouts of insomnia. 

I wasn’t back into a complete Crohn’s disease flare, but I was on my way! 

Annoyed, frustrated, and angry, I finally sat down and reviewed everything. My diet, lifestyle, supplement protocol, and everything else that had changed over the prior few months. 

That’s when it finally hit me! What were you thinking, Lawson?! Duh. The coffee. 

So, I eliminated it once and for all, and boy was I glad to see a return to normalcy within a few short days. 

Once again, I decided that I would continue to live my life caffeine-free. As much as I enjoyed a cup of black coffee in the morning, it wasn’t meant to be. And I was OK with it. 

Let’s Try This One More Time

Fast forward to 2018. 

I had been running strong for many years, taking my game to another level in many different areas of my life: fitness, racing, health, mental focus, and more. 

But…I always did love the smell and taste of coffee. So, I decided to give it another try. 

At the time, I was dedicated to doing early morning workouts (and still am), so I wanted to add a layer of performance to each session. Coffee seemed like the right fit again. Lucky number three! 

However, instead of adding it without a clear directive, I gathered information from a variety of sources and realized that it would be beneficial to add some fat to the coffee. This added fat would slow down absorption and lower acidity levels.

The goal: get the energy boost without the digestive discomfort. 

After a bit of trial and error, I settled on full-fat, unsweetened organic coconut milk. It eliminated all of the digestive troubles and allowed for a sustained energy boost. 

Caffeine Cycling

Although I had found the right balance in terms of acidity, I was still concerned about the long-term effects. I was worried that a steady flow of coffee would create anxiety and insomnia.

That led me to try caffeine cycling, as caffeine has a half-life of approximately 5 to 6 hours. 

I decided to develop my own cycle to alleviate any concerns:

DayTypeCaffeine
Monday
CoffeeHigh
TuesdayCoffeeHigh
WednesdayGreen TeaLow
ThursdayCoffeeHigh
FridayCoffeeHigh
SaturdayGreen TeaLow
SundayHerbal TeaNone

I use Wednesday and Saturday as a partial reset by drinking low-caffeinated green tea, instead of full octane coffee. This seems to keep my sleep schedule on track and my inflammation levels low.

Sunday is an essential day as I go caffeine-free. This break allows my body to stay sensitive to the stimulant. Too much coffee (or caffeine) intake can actually make your body less sensitive and potentially resistant to its benefits. 

Plus, the lack of caffeine guarantees a great night of Sunday sleep, allowing me to start refreshed for a critical week of training or racing. 

Learn Your Limits

But everyone’s body is different. So, take time to learn about your body’s ability to handle caffeine. Don’t be afraid to eliminate it for some time in order to give yourself a reset. This will ensure you stay sensitive to the performance benefits. 

Although there are plenty of studies out there boasting about the benefits of ingesting multiple cups of coffee each day, some people are too sensitive for such high amounts.

Make sure you get great sleep and have a clear, calm mindset throughout the day. If you notice any issues, decrease the amount of caffeine. Be mindful about your consumption levels. 

Finally, this blog wouldn’t be finished without mentioning a few of my favorite brands! 

Coffee:

Bulletproof Coffee: The Mentalist
Intelligentsia Coffee: Kurimi Ethiopia
Hu Kitchen Coffee: Fire-Roasted Sumatra

Coconut Milk:

Native Forest: Simple Unsweetened Organic Coconut Milk
Native Forest: Premium Unsweetened Organic Coconut Cream

As you can see, I have a thing for coconut! 

Be mindful, but enjoy the benefits of America’s favorite morning beverage! 

Never give up!

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