This is well documented — I’ve been consuming monstrous amounts of caffeine since Saturday, March 28, 2009. From May 2009 throughout the summer 2009 (hell, it was actually until late October 2009), when I was up late every night until the sun would rise the following mornings, I was drinking four Monster Lo-Carbs a day as well as multiple cups of bitter-ass Folgers coffee.

In a little over four months, it will have been five years since I started going crazy with caffeine. And as far as I know, I’m all good in the hood. But this is one individual, anecdotal account of caffeine consumption without a report of an adverse reaction.

I see the topic of adrenal fatigue everywhere, with a lot of people citing caffeine as the culprit of their exhaustion in the afternoons, extreme tiredness in the morning and their cortisol imbalance they perceive. My favorite website for all things scientifically studied and peer reviewed is PubMed, and the last time I checked, with over 20 million valid studies on various topics, if you search “adrenal fatigue” you will only yield three results in the process.

After years of studying the topics of human physiology and thermodynamics, the subject of adrenal fatigue, to me, is bullshit.

Here’s the cold hard truth, ladies and gentlemen, brought to you by Troy L. Sparks Jr. as always: adrenal glands cannot be “damaged” by caffeine. You have peripheral receptor downregulation if you feel like you are “burning out” from caffeine. Caffeine does not adversely affect the adrenal glands or alter function. The question is how long does it take for peripheral catecholamine and adenosine receptors to reach normal density, and the answer is really too variable for me to guess, but most people feel fine after a week cold turkey.

Adrenal fatigue is based on the concept of tolerance. When you supplement with caffeine, the body upregulates hepatic CYP enzymes which are oriented at deactivating caffeine. Naturally, in order to produce an equivalent effect, you have to supplement with more and more caffeine. Similarly, the body upregulates central adenosine receptors and so caffeine literally decreases in potency. If you decrease your dose of caffeine, or cease administration, you will have a withdrawal period (headaches, fatigue) which is simply due to the latter mechanism. Eventually, the adenosine receptors downregulate and you return to baseline.

Fitness “experts” don’t understand biology/pharmacology, and blame “adrenal fatigue”. Others are trying to make money off of people’s ignorance (i.e. adrenal fatigue supplements).

Animal studies have clearly shown that the only way to produce adrenal medulla insufficiency is to physically denervate the organ. You can produce temporary adrenal medulla atrophy with longstanding absence of leptin, cortisol, or corticotropin. The latter two can be induced with exogenous supplementation of glucocorticoids (i.e. prednisone), although the main effect will be directed towards the adrenal cortex (i.e. actual adrenal insufficiency).

New Fact Sheets Dispel Myths of Adrenal Fatigue and Wilson’s Temperature Syndrome
I’m wary of citing MayoClinic, but here. I feel cheap now.

I don’t know why most people are so goddamn hard-pressed to try and convince everyone there’s something wrong with them as an excuse to validate whatever struggle they are enduring. Their bleating vociferations of pure whine reverberate loud and clear. Drink water, get some sleep, destress, cut the bullshit.

Adrenal fatigue is broscience. That’s not to say chronically elevated cortisol levels may not have deleterious effects (notice I said chronically elevated), but your adrenals don’t get blown out by exercise, stress and drinking caffeine. Diagnosable conditions such as adrenal insufficiency (eg, Addison’s) are another story.

I swear by caffeine. The only reason to cycle off it is for some downregulation over time, causing a lower response rate. Taking a semi-annual two week washout period may be a good idea to allow you to regain its full effects when you resume taking it.

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7 thoughts on “Adrenal Fatigue is Bullshit and Doesn’t Exist

  1. I have to disagree with you to a degree (Respectfully of course). There’s hidden dangers of caffeine allergies and I do believe caffeine does infact tire the adrenal gland, not permanently but the daily consumption of it.. Putting it metaphorically? I have more torque when I stay away from caffeine. So yeah, if you eat right get your sleep and throw in some organic vegetable juicing, there’s no need for caffeine in the first place.

    Caffeine builds in the system and take up to a year to fully get it out of your system. I don’t recommend anyone taking it. Sure, once in a while in an emergency is fine, but not daily.

    Some people just have better tolerance for caffeine, maybe you’re one of those people.

    If you like I can give you a link, I don’t want to post a link on your comment section without your permission. 🙂

    1. Caffeine doesn’t “tire” the adrenal gland. Reread the post. Review the science.

      “Caffeine builds in the system and take up to a year to fully get it out of your system”

      Sigh.

      Facepalm.

      That is not true.

      Please provide a source from a scientific peer reviewed journal (meanining a full study, ala from PubMed, etc.; not a mainstream ‘medicine’ site with some cryptic study that dates back to 1978) backing up that claim.

  2. Before I post the links, I just wanted to add that I saw a documentary about a guy who followed a tribe of baboons for something like twenty years. In short, the alpha males (Pack leaders) had clean arteries and the all the others arteries were clogging over time even though they all had the same diet. What was found was, the pack leaders didn’t suffer from stress, but the ones lower on the totem poll did. Stress does things to the body that clogs the arteries. It shuts off some kind of hormone that’s supposed to protect the arteries in the first place. Hence, this translates to humans. When we live a stressful life and amplify that stress with coffee, wouldn’t you agree this is plausible?

    Of everything I have learned and gathered about caffeine, there’s no use for it in the body and is merely a drug. I think it’s fine on an occasion. I noticed subtle differences when I quit it all together, but subtle amounts to bigger things in the long run. Of course I’m drawing off of my own experiences on that.

    Research is very difficult to do because there is a lot of misinformation out there. Even some so called truth websites may have some articles that are in fact truth, others are questionable which is why I recommend for anyone to view many sources, and this includes obscure sources and draw their own conclusions just as I have. 🙂

    http://www.doctoryourself.com/caffeine_allergy.html

    http://www.doctoryourself.com/caffeine2.html

    1. The first part of your post is a non-sequitur to the topic at hand, of what I tried to convey in my post. Maybe I failed or didn’t interpret what I’m saying, but regardless, it’s about adrenal fatigue rather than a “war” on caffeine. Most people, yours truly included, agree with the fact that stress is detrimental to the body, but what does that have to do with the broscientific nonexistence of adrenal fatigue (which should be reclassified as adrenal insufficiency albeit that’s a completely different topic)?

      Caffeine doesn’t *cause* stress. Correlation doesn’t always equal causation. *Too much* caffeine will, however, do so, but if you read in my post, that’s a reference to chronically elevated cortisol levels. That’s subjective to any and all. The caffeine I consume (keep in mind that I’m an active 6’3”, 225 lb. man that regularly lifts weights and trains in MMA (Maui Thai and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsui), so I expend energy through said pathways. My posts about related subjects are directed towards an audience that’s active rather than the everyday sedentary 9-to-5 office businessperson that isn’t strength training or forcing their bodies into any kind of combat or muscle fiber growth.

      Caffeine is optional. I like it because I enjoy its effects and the benefits that I derive from the grand ol’ psychoactive stimulant. The cost to benefit and pros to cons ratios on my behalf are positive throughout. But my post was (is) about adrenal fatigue and how people are misidentifying it (usually it’s the average individual that I mentioned above that are eating modern Western diets, sleeping poorly, are sedentary and, at the same time, drinking multiple pots of coffee like there’s no tomorrow and, when they feel awful, are going out to a doctor and looking for confirmation biases when they are erroneously told of “adrenal fatigue” when, in all actuality, their lifestyle is the problem, not something that’s completely made-up and unscientific, and caffeine becomes the scapegoat despite the stimulant itself not being the centerpiece of the actual problem: their overall porous lifestyle)

      “Of everything I have learned and gathered about caffeine, there’s no use for it in the body and is merely a drug.”

      That’s your opinion and you are 100% entitled to it.

      “Research is very difficult to do because there is a lot of misinformation out there. Even some so called truth websites may have some articles that are in fact truth, others are questionable which is why I recommend for anyone to view many sources, and this includes obscure sources and draw their own conclusions just as I have.”

      That’s why I only rely on scientific studies from peer reviewed journals rather than random websites off the web.

      Nothing in the world beats http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/

      Chronic constant stress on the body is negative in every way, but that’s not due to caffeine or “adrenal fatigue” – chalk that up to someone’s overall quality of life as well as their lifestyle in that. Just as much, chronically low cortisol is as detrimental. People always want to put a label on something rather than looking at themselves in the mirror and admitting, “I am living a poor life with my dietary, environmental (home/work) and physiological (sedentary) choices”.

  3. I think saying that Adrenal Fatigue does not exist just because you were lucky to not suffer from it is unfair to everyone who does. Smoking can give you lung cancer. That does not mean that everyone who smokes has it or gets it. Coffee is only one factor in Adrenal Fatigue and whether it is a small or large factor very much depends on the individual and their circumstances.
    Coffee or not, stress is very real and a significant problem. You say Adrenal Fatigue does not exist but recommend “Drink water, get some sleep, destress, cut the bullshit.” So if we do not do that, what do we get? Problems – that’s right.

    Addison’s and Cushing’s are the two extremes when it comes to adrenal function and make up 2% on each end of the scale. I personally struggle to believe that the entire 96% in between are normal and feel exactly the same to everyone. Rather I think that if you are at the top end or the lower end of that scale, you would feel some impact. But that’s just me.

    1. I’ve laid everything out in the post and in the comments with the other commenter. Why are you ignoring the science? And who is discounting stress? You wrote, “stress is a real thing” – who’s saying it’s not?

      I think saying that Adrenal Fatigue does not exist just because you were lucky to not suffer from it is unfair to everyone who does

      Nobody suffers from this “adrenal fatigue” as it isn’t real (reread my post and examine the valid science). How about adrenal insufficiency? I’ll get to that in a second.

      Smoking can give you lung cancer. That does not mean that everyone who smokes has it or gets it.

      That’s a non-sequitur. Comparing coffee to smoking, as you implied, is laughable. And lung cancer is a real thing; adrenal fatigue, as has been cleared up in my post yet defied by you for some unfathomable reason, is not.

      Here’s the short version of my biggest problem with the adrenal fatigue hypothesis: it seems set up primarily by folks to sell a horde of supplements and the symptoms are so damn vague as to be useless. It’s set up so that everyone either has it, could have it or will have it, which is a cash cow for people selling magic supplements and not much else.

      The “adrenal fatigue” folks seem incapable of actually trotting out any real research to support their claims (what the hell is doctoryourself.net?) despite one book claiming to be based on 2100 studies (not a single one of which appears in the book).

      There’s also the issue that, in the years this ‘thing’ has existed, I’ve yet to come across someone for whom all of these supplements and pills did a damn thing.

      Individual case studies are worthless, but in case in point, a girl came to my blog a few years ago who had problems for around 2-3 years, went to every naturopath, etc. Nothing ever helped. She turned out to have Wilson’s syndrome and that fixed her. She had a thyroid problem and everything else was secondary. Someone else I know is in the same situation so far as I’m concerned. I believe that he had a long-standing thyroid problem which was the primary cause and everything else fell out of that being out of wack.

      If “adrenal fatigue” exists and is being diagnosed properly and these pills are doing something, there should be some success stories of people getting fixed. I have yet to see them.

      That said, there is very limited amount of research that, given exceedingly chronic stress, something like 10% of people can fall into a ‘burnt out’ condition in terms of cortisol response. I don’t recall that work discussing the cause.

      I’m simply not convinced that taking a bunch of vitamins and minerals is going to fix “it”. Real medical conditions require real medical solutions.

      You wrote: “Coffee or not, stress is very real and a significant problem. You say Adrenal Fatigue does not exist but recommend “Drink water, get some sleep, destress, cut the bullshit.” So if we do not do that, what do we get? Problems – that’s right.

      That goes for everyone. Everybody should be doing that (obviously not the case for most people). That’s a matter of one’s betterment of their lifestyle. So what does that have to do with anything?

      I’ll tell you what I told the other commenter (I thank you both for visiting, by the way):

      You can try searching http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/ the National Institutes of Health database of references and abstracts on life sciences and biomedical topics. It now contains more than 20 million citations for biomedical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. It is hands down the most reliable site out there for scientific studies from peer reviewed journals. Legitimate to the max.

      A search of pubmed for “adrenal fatigue” brings up only three results.

      The first is an interview with a doctor. This has no article linked to it.

      The second is a review article from the Alternative Medicine Review journal on Nutrients and botanicals for treatment of stress.

      The third is an abstract of a paper on the Adrenal responses to chronic and acute water stress in Japanese quail.
      There are many good reasons for studying cortisol in all sorts of conditions and adrenal insufficiancy is a well researched disease. Pubmed is full of papers looking at cortisol and adrenal function related to all kinds of health problems. However “adrenal fatigue” as a condition does not currentlly appear to have any research to back it up.

      This is the first website that comes up searching google.com for “adrenal fatigue”.

      http://www.adrenalfatigue.org/

      This quote on the front page caught my eye:

      Are You Experiencing Adrenal Fatigue?*
      Tired for no reason?
      Having trouble getting up in the morning?
      Need coffee, colas, salty or sweet snacks to keep going?
      Feeling run down and stressed?

      If you answered “yes” to one or more of these questions, you may be experiencing adrenal fatigue.*

      Seriously?

      If you tell people to reorganize their life, reduce their stress levels, eat a better diet and get more sleep it is not unlikely that they will feel better. Of course if you can invoke a disease like “adrenal fatigue” requiring you to buy books, cds, salivary cortisol tests and a range of expensive dietary supplements you can make a lot more money from people.

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