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When your energy stores are running low (like, really low), stretching out that much-needed caffeine buzz from your morning cuppa is a non-negotiable.

This is even more imperative if having more than one cup of coffee irritates your stomach (hi, endless hours of acid reflux). But according to food scientists, drinking more coffee isn’t necessarily the solution to get you through a mid-day slump. In fact, there are a few ways to hack your caffeine intake to keep that energy “high” going well past your first sip of the day.

Ahead, we’re sharing seven ways to stay as energized as possible while keeping your overall caffeine intake low.

Wait, why do you feel “buzzed” from caffeine?

First things first, why does coffee (or other caffeinated beverages) make you feel buzzed to begin with? According to Natalie Alibrandi, a London-based food scientist and CEO of Nali Consulting, it’s due to a chain reaction that occurs in your brain upon ingesting caffeine.

“The caffeine ‘buzz’ is created primarily through blocking the action of adenosine, a neurotransmitter that promotes relaxation and drowsiness. Caffeine competes with adenosine for binding to its receptors in the brain, so instead we may feel increased alertness,” Alibrandi explains.

Aside from the effect caffeine has on the brain, Alibrandi says there are secondary effects it may have throughout the body, particularly on your central nervous system (CNS). “A stimulated CNS, [can lead] to an increase in heart rate and blood pressure implicated in the ‘buzz-like’ sensation,” she says.

Have jitters from too much caffeine? Alibrandi says caffeine’s stimulatory effects on the CNS are likely to blame. “Caffeine also stimulates adrenaline, which can increase heart rate, blood pressure, and energy levels. High adrenaline can lead to nervousness and jitteriness,” Alibrandi explains.

How long does a caffeine buzz typically last?

The length of a caffeine-induced buzz can vary from person to person, but Alibrandi says the effects of caffeine can start to kick in within just 15 to 45 minutes after consumption. Meanwhile, the “peak buzz” will typically occur around the 30- to 60-minute mark post-consumption.

But you should only expect the effects of caffeine to last between three to six hours (at best). The big time gap is due to three main factors: how much caffeine is consumed, individual tolerance, and metabolism, Alibrandi says. Plus, she notes that caffeine tolerance can build up over time with regular consumption.

7 ways to make your caffeine buzz last longer

1. Pair caffeine with a source of L-theanine

According to Alibrandi, one of the best ways to make your caffeine buzz last longer is to pair it with L-theanine, an amino acid known for its ability to help enhance alertness.

“To extend a caffeine ‘high,’ stay hydrated, eat a balanced meal, and consider combining caffeine with L-theanine, that [according to] research, synergizes with caffeine for a smoother and longer-lasting buzz, while reducing jitteriness,” she says.

Alibrandi notes that L-theanine is available via supplement form or can be found in caffeinated beverages like green tea.

2. Add a bit of sugar to your caffeinated beverage

While keeping in mind that consuming sugar in moderation is always important, Alibrandi says this pantry staple can potentially help prolong a caffeine buzz. “Some research suggests that sugar in energy drinks may enhance caffeine’s initial effects, prolonging alertness and subjective energy,” she says.

However, Alibrandi notes that this approach may not be optimal for overall health due to potential blood glucose spikes and caffeine crashes, aka the fatigue experienced after consuming too much caffeine.

3. Sip your drink slow and steady

“Drinking a caffeinated beverage over a longer period of time may help sustain a milder and more prolonged caffeine buzz compared to consuming it quickly all at once,” Alibrandi says. “This is because gradual intake allows for a slower release of caffeine into the bloodstream, potentially reducing the risk of abrupt spikes and crashes in blood sugar and energy levels,” she adds.

As such, slow and steady (caffeine intake) usually wins the race. But this, again, can vary depending on a person’s tolerance.

4. Pair your caffeine with foods high in certain nutrients

Although the influence of food on caffeine metabolism is generally considered minor compared to factors like genetics, liver function, and individual metabolism, there are a few nutrients that can potentially help prolong the effects of caffeine, Alibrandi says.

“Some foods, such as those high in antioxidants, fat, protein, and particularly foods rich in dietary fiber may have subtle effects on caffeine absorption and digestion due to their impact on gastric emptying and metabolism,” she says. But Alibrandi notes that scientific evidence supporting the significant influence of specific foods on caffeine metabolism is limited.

5. Drink coffee *after* eating breakfast

According to Alibrandi, it’s best to wait roughly 60 to 90 minutes after waking up to start consuming caffeine. “This allows for the adenosine to get flushed out and allows your body to naturally wake up before you add in caffeine,” she says.

In addition to this, Alibrandi explains that some studies suggest that consuming coffee after eating breakfast may be beneficial for several reasons. “Recent discussions suggest that consuming coffee after breakfast, rather than before, may help moderate blood glucose levels and potentially extend the duration of a caffeine-induced ‘high,’” she says. “Blood glucose spikes influence factors like general functioning, appetite, and restlessness, all of which contribute to feelings of being energized, often associated with caffeine consumption.”

That said, more research is needed on the topic to conclusively determine this relationship.

6. Choose beverages with higher caffeine concentrations

“Beverages with higher caffeine concentrations, like espresso shots and energy drinks, are absorbed quickly into the bloodstream, resulting in a stronger and longer-lasting buzz,” Alibrandi says.

She explains that their smaller volume contributes to faster absorption compared to larger (by volume) drinks like coffee or tea (if no other caffeine has been consumed already). On the flip side, lower-caffeinated beverages may yield a milder and shorter-lasting effect, she adds.

That said, Alibrandi notes that individual tolerance, again, typically plays a huge role, with regular caffeine drinkers often needing higher doses to experience the same buzz. But if there’s one thing Alibrandi wants to stress it’s that moderation is key, especially when it comes to optimizing a caffeine buzz while minimizing negative effects like jitteriness and insomnia. In other words, more caffeine might not be the solution for everyone.

7. Make a few lifestyle changes

Alibrandi says getting adequate sleep, engaging in moderate exercise, and practicing mindful caffeine consumption are also equally as important to further optimizing the effects of caffeine and duration of a buzz. However, to reiterate, more caffeine isn’t always the way to go.

“Consumption of high quantities [of caffeine] habitually may increase the likelihood of abuse of caffeine over time, further weakening the strength of a buzz,” she says.

Why drinking more caffeine isn’t always the solution for more energy

Although your initial instinct to keep the buzz going may be to drink more caffeine, Alibrandi says you may want to think twice before refilling your cup for the zillionth time in a day. Indeed, more caffeine intake can equal a longer buzz, but it comes with a few drawbacks. “The more caffeine, the more adenosine receptors are blocked, which can result in a more pronounced stimulating effect,” Alibrandi explains.

Trevor Craig, a food safety expert and corporate director of technical training and consulting at Microbac Laboratories, also adds that the average half-life of caffeine can be anywhere from two to six hours. “This means that the more you have, the longer the effects, but again the harsher the downfall would be,” Craig says.

Not to mention, there’s only so much caffeine your body can handle, Alibrandi explains. “There’s a limit to how much caffeine your body can effectively process. When the enzymes in the liver reach their limit in metabolizing caffeine, further intake won’t enhance its effects,” she says.

In fact, she notes that repeated exposure to caffeine can make your body “down-regulate” or “desensitize” adenosine receptors in the brain, meaning their sensitivity to caffeine is diminished.

Plus, more caffeine intake can lead to jitteriness, increased heart rate, anxiety, and gastrointestinal discomfort that can detract from the overall buzz, she says.

Benefits of coffee, according to an RD: