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Sam the Neuroscientist: Ārepa and Caffeine

November 10, 2022 4 min read

Sam the Neuroscientist: Ārepa and Caffeine

At Ārepa, we have always formulated caffeine-free products.

This isn’t because caffeine is inherently bad, however we have identified clinically researched compounds that can serve a similar purpose, without any of the side effects. We know as well as anyone that the majority of people will continue to consume caffeine, predominantly in the form of coffee.

Drinking coffee has a lot of upside, until it starts to compromise sleep, cause that familiar mid-afternoon fatigue, and particularly when it elicits strong anxious sensations.

Caffeine is a central nervous stimulant (CNS), acting on the adrenal axis and facilitating the release of cortisol. The physiological responses to these transmitters and hormones, can strongly resemble stressful states, particularly in response to overconsumption of caffeine. This also is not conducive to quality sleep, which is dangerous, as sleep is the foundation of our mental and physical health and performance in all endeavours.

Another mechanism through which caffeine exerts its effects isby blocking the body’s ability to absorb the molecule adenosine, which is the cause of drowsiness. Caffeine binds to the same receptors as adenosine and thereby blocks adenosine absorption and sleepiness at the same time. Adenosine gradually builds up throughout the day and reaches its peak as we approach bedtime. While we sleep, our body naturally clears out the adenosine and as those levels get lower, we wake up and begin our day anew.


Fortunately, there are ways to consume caffeine that can mitigate the negative side effects. Additionally, the consumption of Ārepa will offset the downsides of caffeine consumption and can make drinking it possible for those who are sensitive to its effects.

Most of us only equate cortisol with stress and consider it a bad thing, however this is only an issue when it comes to chronically and excessively elevated levels. Without cortisol we wouldn’t function, as it is responsible for many important functions like food and energy metabolism, regulating blood sugar and blood pressure, and importantly, cortisol is the hormone most strongly related to our levels of alertness.

Cortisol levels naturally peak about 2 hours after waking and then gradually decline throughout the day as we approach bedtime. By starting our days with caffeine we cause our cortisol levels to rise quicker and peak sooner, which results in their dropping sooner as well. Over time our body begins to not only reduce natural cortisol production necessary for optimal health, but we also build a tolerance to the caffeine which consequently creates smaller and smaller rises in cortisol. This is why many people who rely on caffeine to start their day, usually end up consuming 3–5 doses or more throughout the day just to keep boosting their cortisol and alertness levels.

All this caffeine consumption impacts our natural hormone production and damages our restorative sleep, especially when we consume caffeine after 4/5 pm (for those of us going to bed at 10 pm-12 am). Even those who claim to sleep fine after having coffee in the evening will experience less deep and restorative sleep as well as negative impacts on HRV (heart rate variability, an important gauge of cardiovascular fitness and general wellbeing).

Delaying the first dose of caffeine by 1.5-2 hours after waking will offset the effects created by blocking these adenosine receptors. This will help to avoid the negative health outcomes mentioned above, as well as preventing the mid-afternoon crash that coffee drinkers experience if they consume it immediately after waking. On top of this, it is important toavoid caffeine within 8-10 hours of bedtime, due to the prolonged period of time it spends circulating the body. Dr. Matt Walker (sleep expert from UC Berkeley) might even say 12-14 hours. This will ensure you are in a position to maintain high quality sleep.

Within the appropriate window of the day,ingesting caffeine (approximately 100-400mg) in the form of coffee, tea or whatever form you prefer. This will cause a mild increase in dopamine but also increases the availability of dopamine receptors, so your body is more sensitive to circulating dopamine. Dopamine is a molecule in the brain and body that is closely linked to our sense of motivation. It can also enhance our depth of focus and lower our threshold for taking action toward specific goals. The simplest way to think about dopamine is that when our dopamine levels are elevated, we tend to focus our attention on outward goals — the things we want — and we feel motivated to pursue them. “Dopamine is about wanting, not abouthaving,” said Dr. AnnaLembke, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and the chief of the Addiction Medicine Dual Diagnosis Clinic at Stanford. It is hard to overstate how much dopamine levels shape our perception of life, our emotions, and how capable we perceive ourselves to be — when dopamine levels are low, we feel unmotivated, derive less pleasure from pursuits and feel physically tired.

L-theanine (a key ingredient in Ārepa), is an amino acid contained in green tea leaves, is known to block the binding of L-glutamic acid to glutamate receptors in the brain, and has been considered to cause anti-stress effects by inhibiting cortical neuron excitation. Both L-theanine and caffeine, which green tea contains, have been highlighted for their beneficial effects on cognition and mood. Ārepa’s Neuroberry blackcurrant and pine bark extract also show cognitive-enhancing properties.

Research by Yoto et al. (2012) found that L-theanine not only reduces anxiety but also attenuates the blood-pressure increase in high-stress-response adults. When caffeine is consumed in conjunction with Ārepa it can act synergistically, creating an even more pronounced boost to cognition and mood, whilst working to counteract the downsides that caffeine can bring in isolation.










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