Caffeine microdosing: what is it and should you try it?

August 25, 2020 4 min read

Caffeine microdosing: what is it and should you try it?

Microdosing has become so popular these days – and for all the right reasons. A trend in Silicon Valley, microdosing has a become a common practice of ingesting minimal doses of a substance – say one-tenth or one-twentieth of what’s normal. 

The point is to reap all the positive effects of a substance while steering clear of the negative. Microdosing is perceived to boost cognitive functions – such as improve concentration – and increase energy levels.

The practice has been perceived to be so effective that some have repurposed and applied it to caffeine.


What is caffeine microdosing?

According to dietitian Melissa Meier, caffeine microdosing involves consuming tiny amounts of caffeine throughout the day.

“Caffeine is a stimulant drug and in the right dose it can make you feel alert, but overdoing it can leave you feeling anxious, cranky, and tired,” she says.

To achieve the optimal dose of caffeine, consume somewhere between the 60 mg and 100 mg range. [1] This is equivalent to:

  • a regular cup of joe (100 mg)
  • an espresso shot (85 mg)
  • two cups of green tea (45 mg x 2 = 90 mg)
  • two caffeine mints (40 mg x 2 = 80 mg)

See our previous article “Here’s how much caffeine you should have in a day” for an infographic of caffeine amounts in your regular food and drinks.

By staggering your caffeine fix throughout the day, you’ll be able to optimize your intake and get the most bang for your cup – have a productive, focused day sans the jitters.


Caffeine microdosing: What research says

A Harvard Medical School study reports that people who practice caffeine microdosing find themselves in better mental awareness and performance. [2]

According to Charles Czeisler, PhD professor in sleep medicine at Harvard Medical School, having a massive dose of caffeine early in the day – looking at you Starbucks Venti frappe – can only cause sleepiness later on in the day. [3]

"Their caffeine levels soar only to fall as the day progresses in the face of rising sleepiness. They might be better off taking much smaller more frequent doses of caffeine, equivalent to a quarter of a cup of coffee, as the day wears on," he says.

A study by Czeisler and scientists at the Division of Sleep Medicine at Harvard Medical School showed that subjects who practiced caffeine microdosing had better cognitive test results.

Subjects who took the low-dose caffeine performed better on cognitive tests. They also exhibited fewer accidental sleep onsets, or microsleeps... Despite their enhanced wakefulness, the caffeine-taking subjects reported feeling sleepier than their placebo counterparts, suggesting that the wake-promoting effects of caffeine do not replace the restorative effects gained through sleep.

The study also reveals that caffeine microdosing may keep alertness and performance beyond the 9-to-5. According to James Wyatt, lead author of the study:

Our results highlight the impairments in cognition that accompany all work schedules that lie outside the usual 9 to 5 workday. In addition, they reveal an entirely new way to use caffeine to maintain alertness and performance in the face of sleep loss.

This practice is especially beneficial for those working night shifts, essential workers, military, doctors, emergency first responders, and practically anyone who needs to stay awake and alert in their job.


How to do caffeine microdosing

Caffeine microdosing may be easier than swearing off caffeine cold-turkey. The key is to ease off massive doses of caffeine at one point and staggering your intake throughout the day.

Start with opting for an espresso shot in place of your regular morning grande frappucino. Or perhaps having green tea in the morning and a pop of caffeine mint in the afternoon

Maybe buy half of what you normally get in the morning or asking the barista to only put in half of your usual dose.

When you get a feel of how much caffeine keeps you in your optimally productive self, try having smaller doses more frequently.


Caffeine microdosing: is it for you?

If you’re one to experience the afternoon slump and crash because of having too much coffee in the morning, then yes. It may be worth trying out caffeine microdosing.

Also, this practice may suit those with low caffeine metabolism, as staggering the intake throughout the day gives the body enough time to process it. 

And if you want to optimize your cognitive performance or working odd hours and night shifts, caffeine microdosing may be worth a try.


A word of caution on caffeine microdosing

While caffeine microdosing staggers your intake across the day, make sure that you don’t overdo it. The last thing you want is to take in smaller amounts but end up having too much caffeine.

Here’s how much caffeine you should have in a day (and their equivalent in cups). Spoiler alert: the magic number is 300-400 mg.

Finally, make sure that you’re not pregnant nor have any pre-existing heart problems, stomach ulcer, or high blood pressure.

Before trying this, it would be best for you to check with your doctor and see if it is right for you.






Tina Sendin
Tina Sendin

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