Question: “I always have a massive come down after my pre-workout wears off. It makes me avoid them altogether. Any suggestions on what I can do to better fuel my 5am Tabata sessions?”
Come downs or “crashes” following caffeine consumption aren’t fun. Let’s start by first establishing what causes the crash. Then we’ll look at how to better fuel your session and avoid it (within reason).
What causes a “caffeine crash”?
Caffeine is a central nervous system (CNS) stimulant that releases adrenaline and dopamine by inhibiting adenosine. Adenosine is responsible for preserving your energy for when you need it. It does this by promoting sleep and supressing arousal or excitement. If a large dose of caffeine is consumed then adenosine is severely inhibited, leading to a surge in energy, focus, and performance. However as the caffeine starts to wear off, adenosine starts flooding back in, leading to tiredness and other symptoms associated with a “caffeine crash”.
Can you avoid it?
Not entirely. Your body isn’t wired to live in a constant state of “fight or flight” where an abundance of adrenaline is coursing through it. Whether that adrenaline is induced from caffeine, work, or external stressors, a crash will inevitably arise at some point.
There are two ways you can stave off a caffeine crash and/or reduce its intensity, firstly look to reduce the amount you are using in each dose, and secondly spread your intake evenly throughout the day. For example, if you have normal caffeine sensitivity, you could consume 100mg first thing in the morning, 100mg at 11am, and 100mg at 3pm. Whilst you won’t get the same intensity in the morning as you would consuming all 300mg at 5am, you’ll avoid the dip in energy later in the day.
The only way you’re going to avoid a crash all together, is if you avoid stimulants all together. With that being said, some tiredness after a workout is normal; even when it isn’t caffeine fuelled.
Apart from altering your caffeine intake as indicated above, it might also be worthwhile looking at how you fuel your sessions with food. A lot of people lack energy during their workouts due to low carbohydrate consumption and expect caffeine to pick up the slack. That’s not going to happen.
Food energy is different to caffeine energy. If you’re training first thing in the morning, have a banana prior to your workout. If you can’t consume food before working out, ensure you consume adequate carbohydrate the night before.
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