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Microdosing Caffeine & Coffee: What Is It & Why Do It?

a person pouring coffee in a cup, microdosing coffee and caffeine

Key Takeaways

  • Microdosing involves consuming small amounts of caffeine throughout the day instead of larger doses at once.
  • It aims to provide the alertness and focus benefits of caffeine while minimizing side effects like jitteriness or anxiety.
  • Caffeine in low to moderate doses (50 to 300mg) can enhance alertness and concentration, but excessive intake can lead to various side effects.
  • A study showed that low-dose caffeine may enhance cognitive performance and reduces instances of microsleeps.
  • The amount of caffeine in coffee varies depending on the bean type, origin, roasting, and the amount used.
  • Microdosing involves spreading your total caffeine intake thinly over the day, avoiding intake close to bedtime.
  • Caffeine is also found in tea, cola, chocolate, and energy drinks, and even in small amounts in decaf coffee.
  • It's recommended not to exceed 400mg of caffeine per day, with adjustments for individual tolerance and sensitivity.
  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women should limit their caffeine intake to no more than 200mg per day.
  • Tips for microdosers include staying hydrated, not exceeding the daily caffeine limit, and adjusting dosage based on personal response.

Much of Australian life runs on caffeine. At least 75% of Australians enjoy a cup of coffee daily, with close to 28% of these loyal coffee drinkers consuming three or more cups a day.

Given how caffeine is such an important part of life, it's no surprise we're constantly exploring new ways to amplify its potential. Enter the concept of "microdosing caffeine.

With microdosing, you're not playing around with flavours. Instead, you're looking at a refined and nuanced practice where you measure out and consume small amounts of caffeine throughout the day.

With a growing number of coffee connoisseurs embracing this approach, it's time to look into what microdosing coffee entails, explore its origins, and examine the potential benefits and drawbacks.  We'll cover everything you need to know!

What Is Microdosing and Why Do It?

Microdosing refers to the practice of consuming small amounts of caffeine (or coffee) throughout the day instead of drinking one or more large cups, which can be a lot of caffeine in one go.

Caffeine is a type of stimulant that increases the activity of your brain and nervous system. When you take caffeine in low to moderate doses (50 to 300mg), it can help make you feel refreshed and alert. It can also increase your ability to concentrate and stay focused. But when you take it in excessive amounts, it can cause various side effects such as:

  • Increased body temperature
  • Palpitations (increased heartbeat)
  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Increased excitability
  • Restlessness
  • Increased frequency of urination
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Insomnia
  • An initial rush of energy, followed by a period of feeling more tired.
  • Trembling hands (jittery hands)

At the same time, caffeine in appropriate doses is known for a range of different health benefits, based on existing research, such as:

  • Getting a quick energy boost because of the increase in neurotransmitters that regulate your energy levels.
  • Helping lower the risk of Type II Diabetes (one cup per day), cancer, heart disease, and even early death in some cases.
  • Helping to decrease body fat in women.
  • Protecting against neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's.
  • Reducing the risk of depression.
  • Protecting against liver disease.
  • Boosting endurance and athletic performance.

Microdosing coffee is a good option for people who want the benefits of drinking caffeine without dealing with the side effects of having a lot of caffeine at one time.

In a randomized, double-blind protocol study carried out by Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women's Hospital, and other institutions, participants were given either a single caffeine pill containing 0.3 mg per kilogram of body weight or a placebo to test this hypothesis.

The subjects took a pill upon waking and then once every hour. It was found that the participants who took the low-dose caffeine performed better on cognitive tests and exhibited fewer "accidental sleep onsets, or microsleeps."

But, the study also showed that the low-dose caffeine-taking subjects reported feeling sleepier than the others, meaning that drinking caffeine in small doses doesn't necessarily replace the benefit of a good night's sleep.

How Does One Microdose Coffee or Caffeine?

a man holding a cup of coffee, microdosing caffeine

Researchers found that caffeine amounts as low as 9mg can have psychoactive properties (i.e., they can affect mental processes) that can endure for several hours.

For reference, you can expect 70 to 140 mg of caffeine in an 8-oz/237ml cup of freshly brewed coffee. 95mg would be the average amount. The amount of caffeine present in your coffee can vary depending on:

  • The type of coffee bean
  • Where it comes from
  • How it's roasted
  • How much coffee you're using

With microdosing, you're splitting the total amount of caffeine you'd otherwise take and spreading it thinly during the day. So, as a specific example, if you're having three cups, split these into half-cup servings throughout the day. However, it's a good idea to avoid caffeine intake too close to bedtime to prevent insomnia.

Also, remember that coffee isn't the only product containing caffeine. You can find caffeine in other equally common products like tea, cola, chocolate and chocolate drinks, and energy drinks. Refer to this resource for the caffeine content in the most common beverages.

You can even find small amounts of caffeine in decaf coffee. Check the label to be sure and work out your caffeine intake accordingly.

You may want to test with the smallest dose possible to see what microdose works the best for you. Interestingly, the word microdosing comes from the use of small amounts of psychedelics to treat mental challenges like depression and anxiety (although scientific research is inconclusive about the benefits). According to Straight, a typical microdose is anywhere from 5 to 10% of your regular dose.

Benefits vs. Side Effects of Microdosing Coffee

Microdosing on caffeine can help you feel alert and refreshed and give you improved concentration in a more sustainable manner, helping you prevent those sudden highs and sinking lows that come with drinking a lot of coffee in one go. Low-dose caffeine may also go down easier on your stomach if you have sensitive digestion.

There don't appear to be any side effects currently associated with microdosing caffeine, unlike the potentially stronger side effects you may experience when consuming regular amounts of coffee or caffeine at one time.

How Much Caffeine Can You Take When You're Microdosing?

According to research, 400mg is the maximum caffeine you can consume in a day. But bear in mind that this also depends on your tolerance. So, although this is the recommended maximum intake, some people may be sensitive to caffeine, even in small doses. So, experiment starting small to find the dose that works best for you.

In the meantime, if you're used to having up to 400mg, and you're able to tolerate it, it's only a question of breaking this down to, say, 30 or 60mg per dose per hour from the time you wake up. This isn't an exact science, and people's bodies react differently. So check in with your body and mind as you make changes to see how well you're adapting.

Who Should Avoid Caffeine?

400mg is the maximum recommended intake for otherwise healthy adults. However, some special groups of people have to exercise caution when consuming caffeine, such as women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. They should limit their intake to no more than 200mg per day.

If you're generally not a fan of caffeine, check out this resource for natural caffeine alternatives that can give you a similar boost without the crash and burn.

Tips for Caffeine Microdosers

Keep the following in mind when microdosing on caffeine or coffee:

  • Drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.
  • Do not exceed the recommended intake of caffeine per day.
  • Avoid microdosing close to bedtime, as you may have a hard time getting to sleep.
  • Stick to a schedule and opt for daytime hours so your body gets used to the changes. Factor your lifestyle and daily schedule before you settle on your schedule.
  • Choose quality coffee based on reviews and your personal preferences for the best results.
  • Adjust your dosage and schedule based on how your body responds, as each person can react differently based on their unique physiology.

FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) About Microdosing Caffeine

Q1. How much is a microdose of caffeine?

Microdosing caffeine simply means taking small amounts of caffeine spread throughout the day. So, if you're taking 3 cups of coffee daily, split the total into smaller doses taken per hour throughout the day. Microdosing is best avoided close to bedtime as it may interfere with your sleep.  One study states that 9mg is the lowest dose of caffeine you can consume at one time to yield any psychoactive effects (effects on mental processes).

Q2. What's the best microdosing schedule?

One scientific research demonstrated that consuming 0.3 mg per kilogram of body weight on waking and then once every hour aided improved performance on cognitive tests and reduced "accidental sleep onsets, or microsleeps."

The easiest way to do this by yourself is to divide your usual dose of caffeine and coffee into smaller doses to take every hour during the day. 9mg is the lowest you can take at any one time, based on research, to get psychoactive effects from your caffeine.

Q3. How do you microdose caffeine/coffee?

Simply by calculating how much caffeine you're consuming in a day and splitting it into smaller doses spread across the day. So if you take 1 cup of coffee daily, try taking 1/4th cup every hour after waking or every 2 hours. People react differently to microdosing. You may have to experiment to see the quantity and frequency that works best for you. Remember to consume no more than 400mg of caffeine daily, as that is the recommended safe upper limit. And if you're pregnant or breastfeeding, limit your intake to no more than 200mg of caffeine daily.

Final Thoughts

Microdosing can help you better control how much caffeine you're taking, reduce the side effects such as anxiety and jitteriness, and maybe even help you save some hard-earned dollars! So, whether you're a casual coffee sipper, someone sensitive to caffeine's effects, or a die-hard coffee purist, microdosing may be one trend worth giving a whirl.

Darcy Ogdon-Nolan

Author

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