Are you taking too much caffeine? If you drink coffee or use pre-workout supplements, it's an often overlooked question that you'll want to consider. 

Caffeine is one of the most effective supplements, and it even has received praise from the International Olympic Committee. But, the devil is in the details. The right amount can take your performance to the next level...whereas the wrong amount can leave you flat, irritable, and frustrated. 

To help you understand how to level up, we interviewed world-class experts like Mike Mancias (LeBron James’s trainer) and Abby Smith-Ryan (director of Human Performance at the University of North Carolina) to help you better understand one of the most misused performance-enhancers.

How Caffeine Boosts Your Energy Levels

The biggest problem with most pre-workout supplements is that they nothing more than caffeine added to a bunch of other ingredients that sound fancy but won’t do much to help you level up. That quick jolt of caffeine might feel amazing, but it leads to a hard crash and tolerance, which ultimately limits the effectiveness of caffeine. That’s not what your body wants.

Caffeine is a great all-natural ingredient, but --what few people realize — is it’s best to microdose in order to maintain its power. 

Caffeine’s main mechanism is to bind to receptors in your brain that cause sedation and relaxation. Caffeine prevents this, which is why you feel awake and alert. 

A secondary benefit is that it blocks another receptor that can impact everything from increasing dopamine to adrenaline, which is why it helps you with your workouts. Increases in those 2 neurotransmitters that give you a feeling of euphoric energy, and it also leads to a boost in focus, power, and strength.

When used correctly, the right amount — and type — of caffeine can help with:

  • Energy
  • Fatigue
  • Strength
  • Power
  • Endurance

That’s the good side of energy. Here’s the bad. 

Why Mega-doses of Caffeine are Not The Answer

Those receptors that make you feel super human can also make you feel less than super. If you take too much caffeine too often, you can easily burn out the receptor that affects dopamine and adrenaline. And once you create tolerance, your caffeine use can quickly become a love-hate relationship. On one hand, the desensitization means that you need way more caffeine to experience the same benefits. And, eventually, you might get little more than just the feeling of being awake. 

Yes, you can cycle off caffeine, but then you get the withdrawal symptoms such as fatigue, irritability, and headaches. 

So what’s right right way to use caffeine? Here are 2 important things to consider.

Do This Instead: How to Make Caffeine More Effective

The majority of caffeine sources you’ll find are synthetically created. They usually take on names like caffeine anhydrous. While there’s nothing wrong with these sources (as long as you’re OK with synthetic ingredients), it does have increased potential for downsides and side effects. 

One of the big limitations with caffeine is — especially when you take it in large doses — it’s ability to spike blood pressure, as well as trigger anxiety-like effects (sometimes, just feeling jittery can cause you to feel more anxious).

Enter green tea, which is filled with a powerful antioxidant called EGCG. Research shows that EGCG is able to short-circuit the way your body responds to caffeine, and potentially complete remove the increase of blood pressure and heart rate when you take caffeine from green tea. Even better, it also appears to remove the jitters and feelings of anxiety. 

In other words, green tea is one of the best supplements you can put into your body. It is loaded with caffeine, which is one of the most reliable all-natural pre-workout ingredients that enhances performance. Caffeine has been shown to:

When you need to push harder and get more out of every workout it’s hard to beat caffeine. But, constant caffeine use leads to tolerance, which means the benefits of caffeine can be almost completely reduced over time, other than working as an anti-sleep aid.

That means you need to take more caffeine to get the same effects, and the larger doses mean harder energy crashes, headaches, jitters, and an upset stomach.

This is where smaller doses of green tea (and the addition of theanine) makes a big difference. If you’re taking caffeine without theanine, you’re missing one of the bigger breakthroughs in supplementation. Theanine enhances focus and energy, while also curbing caffeine’s negative effects and help reduce the likelihood of feeling jittery.

How to take caffeine + theanine

Combine about 100-150 mg of caffeine with, at least, 200 mg of theanine approximately 30 minutes before your workout (Ladder Pre-Workout uses the perfect 100:200 mg ratio.) By staying with lower amounts of caffeine, you can help limit tolerance and continue to boost your workouts and help increase muscle building. 

Plus, remember how we said caffeine’s main receptors work on your brain? This is the exact amount that will help you dull the perception of fatigue. There are other ways to get your body to work harder and increase energy, so it’s better to use caffeine for its highest and best use.

Not to mention, the more you take, the more likely you are to see fewer benefits from caffeine, or just need such a large dose that the side effects and addiction outweigh the positives.