Are you someone who reaches for caffeine the second you’re out of bed? It’s your lifeline for functioning like a human being day in and day out.
While caffeine offers many benefits for physical and mental performance, it could lead to some unwelcome side effects if it’s the first thing you’re consuming before water and food.
Dizziness is a common side effect of caffeine consumption on an empty stomach and in high doses, and if you’re not keen on seeing stars every time you pound back a cup of joe or a scoop or pre-workout, there are simple tweaks you can make to reduce caffeine’s side effects.
This article gives you an overview of why caffeine can cause dizziness, other effects you may experience, and our best tips to avoid any unpleasant side effects.
Side Effects of Caffeine Intake
Although even moderate caffeine intake can produce some nasty side effects for some people, the side effects become more pronounced as you close in on caffeine overdose territory. Caffeine overdose happens when you consume excessive amounts above the recommended intake level.
Excessive caffeine intake can lead to a state similar to intoxication, called caffeinism, characterized by restlessness, agitation, excitement, rambling thoughts and speech, and insomnia 1; it has deleterious effects on the nervous system, which can produce a variety of unpleasant symptoms ranging from depression and irritability to insomnia and loss of appetite.
Some of the most common symptoms of excessive caffeine intake include:
- Increased thirst
In more severe cases, symptoms of a caffeine overdose present as:
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest pain
- Rapid heartbeat
- Uncontrollable muscle movements
Does Caffeine Cause Dizziness?
Caffeine is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system to upregulate brain activity, increase alertness, and enhance cognitive function.
Its role as an adenosine antagonist is the mechanism behind many of its profound mental and anti-fatigue effects, but it’s also why it leads to more energy, better focus, increased alertness, and overall better performance.
Regarding performance, some research suggests that caffeine can also trigger the release of certain catecholamines, specifically epinephrine, that directly and indirectly improve exercise performance by inducing secondary metabolic changes 2, 3.
In moderate doses, caffeine can improve 4:
- Attention and focus
- Energy levels
- Cognitive function
- Reaction time
- Fatigue perceptions
However, many of these benefits are based on how your body reacts to caffeine. Because caffeine metabolism differs between individuals, some people can experience adverse reactions to low doses of caffeine, while others experience minimal, if any, reactions to high amounts of caffeine.
In either situation, caffeine is a neurostimulant that causes cerebral vasoconstriction by antagonizing adenosine receptors 5.
And although chronic caffeine use leads to adaptation of the vascular adenosine receptor system likely to compensate for the vasoconstrictive effects, reduced blood flow to the brain may be why some people feel dizzy after consuming caffeine.
A 2009 study looking at the effects of caffeine intake on cerebral blood flow found that caffeine reduced CBF by an average of 27% for people consuming high and moderate amounts 5.
However, those who consumed high amounts of caffeine showed a trend toward reduced cerebral blood flow compared to low and moderate consumers.
They concluded that while the cerebrovascular adenosine system can compensate for high caffeine intake, its ability to do so is minimal.
On the other hand, part of the dizziness response to caffeine could be because of caffeine’s effect on stimulating the nervous system, which increases heart rate, blood pressure, and the adrenal glands’ release of cortisol and adrenaline.
An influx of hormones can mimic the stress response, resulting in unpleasant side effects like dizziness, nausea, anxiety, and jitters.
Our Best 4 Tips To Avoid Caffeine Dizziness
1. Stay hydrated
Hydration is essential regardless of whether you’re consuming caffeine, but drinking enough water alongside caffeine can help slow down caffeine metabolism and eliminate some unwanted side effects.
It can also help counteract caffeine’s diuretic and dehydrating effects, which can exacerbate its effects.
One way to tell if you’re dehydrated is by looking at the color of your urine, but you can also look at the color of your lips. Dry lips signify that you may have gone a bit overboard with caffeine.
Long story short, counteract the effects of caffeine through proper hydration by drinking more water, consuming hydrating (water-rich) foods, and adding in electrolytes.
2. Eat before you have caffeine
For some people, caffeine-induced dizziness only hits when they’re knocking back caffeine on an empty stomach. If this applies to you, consider having a small meal before you down your coffee or pre-workout.
Having foods in your stomach can increase the absorption time, so you don’t have a flood of caffeine entering your bloodstream all at once.
What kind of foods are we talking about? Complex carbohydrates high in fiber are great to help slow caffeine absorption time. Think whole grains, beans and legumes, and root vegetables.
3. Lower your dose
If you find your current dose of caffeine is causing you to feel dizzy, take it down a notch. Experiencing side effects from caffeine is generally a sign that your body isn’t metabolizing it properly or you’re consuming too much. In either case, lowering your dose can reduce some adverse effects.
However, if you still want the same stimulation level without the downsides, consider something like Performance Lab Caffeine+, which contains moderate-dose caffeine packed with boosters and balancers like L-theanine, L-tyrosine, and B vitamins for performance-tuned stimulation with fewer side effects.
4. Stack caffeine with balancers
If you take a higher dose of caffeine, you may want to consider adding supplements that can help to even out the stimulatory effects of caffeine.
Things like L-theanine, L-tyrosine, ashwagandha, and maca are all-natural compounds that can take the edge off excessive caffeine consumption by balancing out brain chemicals, supporting relaxed energy, and reducing anxiety.
- Winston, A. P., Hardwick, E., & Jaberi, N. Neuropsychiatric effects of caffeine. Advances in Psychiatric Treatment. 2005:11(6), 432-439.
- Graham TE. Caffeine and exercise: metabolism, endurance and performance. Sports Med. 2001;31(11):785-807.
- Anderson DE, Hickey MS. Effects of caffeine on the metabolic and catecholamine responses to exercise in 5 and 28 degrees C. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 1994;26(4):453-458.
- Lara B, Ruiz-Moreno C, Salinero JJ, Del Coso J. Time course of tolerance to the performance benefits of caffeine. PLoS One. 2019;14(1):e0210275.
- Addicott MA, Yang LL, Peiffer AM, et al. The effect of daily caffeine use on cerebral blood flow: How much caffeine can we tolerate?. Hum Brain Mapp. 2009;30(10):3102-3114.