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Last Updated: 12.06.23

Using Caffeine to Optimize Mental & Physical Performance

Huberman explores caffeine’s impact on mental and physical health, performance, focus, alertness, mood, and sleep. Discusses optimal dosages, intake schedules, and practical tools. Addresses myths and positive effects on overall health and longevity. Actionable tips for adjusting caffeine consumption for improved performance and health.

Key Takeaways

High level takeaways from the episode.

Over 90% of adults and 50% of adolescents and teenagers use caffeine daily.

  • Increases alertness, reduces sleepiness and fatigue
  • Acts as a strong reinforcer — enhances liking of foods, drinks, containers, and company
  • Neuroprotective effects, antidepressive effects, and performance-​​enhancing effects (mental and physical)

Yerba Mate tea stimulates the release of GLP‑1 — a peptide that reduces hunger.
Caffeine & Cognition:

  • Reduces reaction time in both cognitive and physical tasks
  • Improves memory recall speed and accuracy
  • Stimulates neurotransmitters and neuromodulators in the brain
  • Lowers the activation threshold of learning and memory circuits in the brain

Bees prefer nectars containing caffeine, even when they can’t taste it

  • Caffeine makes bees feel more alert and able to do more work, which is also reinforcing

Caffeine stimulates the release of dopamine and acetylcholine

  • These neuromodulators increase focus, alertness, and feelings of well-being

Caffeine stimulates dopamine release in the forebrain, associated with clarity of thought

  • This is distinct from the classical dopamine pathway associated with addiction and reward

Caffeine also increases the number and efficacy of dopamine receptors in the reward pathways of the brain

  • This makes things that would feel good feel even better

Caffeine acts as an adenosine antagonist

  • Reduces feelings of lethargy, fatigue, and desire to sleep

Caffeine doesn’t create more energy, but changes the timing of energetic and sleepy signals.

To clear adenosine from the system, avoid caffeine in the first 90–120 minutes after waking.

Dosage: 1–3 mg of caffeine per kg of body weight

  • Adjust based on individual response and caffeine adaptation

Caffeine adaptation:

  • Non-​​adapted: increased heart rate, alertness, anxiety
  • Adapted: alert and relaxed

Instead of caffeine in the first 90–120 minutes of the day, clear out residual adenosine in the morning:

  • Spike cortisol levels by getting bright light exposure and engaging in physical activity

If insisting on consuming caffeine upon waking, drink half then and the other half an hour later.

Consuming caffeine on an empty stomach enhances mental and physical performance. May increase jitteriness — to offset jitteriness, consume 100mg of theanine (found in green tea and some energy drinks)

Consume an equal volume of water with caffeine, ideally with a pinch of salt or electrolyte drink. Proper hydration and sodium intake can help offset jitteriness and crashes from caffeine.

Daytime theanine consumption reduces depression and anxiety (200–400mg dosage, 1–3 times per day for 17 days).

No direct relationship between caffeine and osteoporosis if adequate calcium intake is maintained.

No consistent increases or reductions in hormone levels due to caffeine intake. Caffeine can increase sex hormone-​​binding globulin (SHBG), which slightly reduces overall levels of free testosterone and free estradiol in women. Effects are relatively minor and not a major concern.

Regular caffeine consumption may have an antidepressive effect, but should not be considered a sole treatment for severe depression.

Avoid caffeine intake in the 12 hours prior to sleep to prevent disruption of slow-​​wave sleep and REM sleep.
Do not ingest caffeine on the day of an important mental or physical challenge if not accustomed to caffeine. Can cause detrimental changes in thermal regulation, anxiety, and focus. 

Caffeine can be considered an ergogenic aid for women during all three phases of the menstrual cycle.

Spiking adrenaline after learning can greatly increase memory for the material being learned

  • Caffeine can help achieve this adrenaline spike

Research supports that abstaining from caffeine while learning, then ingesting it afterward enhances memory.

‘Nappucino’ trend concern: caffeine may reduce the effectiveness of naps or non-​​sleep deep rest (NSDR) in restoring natural alertness and focus.

Consuming caffeine every other day can:

  • Maximize positive effects of caffeine
  • Avoid negative effects of caffeine withdrawal (e.g., headache, irritability)

Regular caffeine consumption (1–3 mg/​​kg body weight) has been linked to reduced probability of developing Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.

Caffeine increases VO2 max, strength, peak power output, and muscle contractibility.


Science-​​based tools and supplements that push the needle.

Leveraging GLP‑1 for Weight Loss


Caffeine Dosage and Timing


Maximizing Physical Performance Enhancement with Caffeine



We recommend using this distillation as a supplemental resource to the source material.

  • Using Caffeine to Optimize Mental & Physical Performance

    Huberman Lab #101

    Huberman explores caffeine’s impact on health, performance, focus, mood, and sleep. Discusses dosages, schedules, and practical tools for optimizing caffeine consumption.

Full Notes

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