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).
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.