How to cure a caffeine hangover when you’ve had too much coffee

If there’s one thing that unites the fitness industry, it’s our love of coffee. We drink black coffee to get out of bed, cold brew pre-workout and lattes to focus post-session. But all that coffee could be putting us at risk of a caffeine hangover, claims writer Jessica Harris.

There’s nothing quite like that first sip of Colombian blend in the morning… or 11am, after lunch or at 3pm. Before you know it, your daily cups of Joe are carrying you through the day, and come 5pm, your head is pounding. Sound familiar? As a nation of coffee lovers, we now drink approximately 98 million cups of coffee per day in the UK, with many of us all-too familiar with the throbbing that can come after a few cups.

Caffeine has been linked with migraine and headaches for many years, both as a trigger and a cure. Guaranteed to make us more alert, energetic and boost our mood, it’s easy to see why so many of us are hooked on our double dose Americano.

You may also like

Benefits of coffee: can drinking caffeine before you exercise improve your fitness?

A throbbing head is probably the most common symptom of quitting caffeine and it’s the one reason many of us keep on drinking coffee: the prospect of a 48-hour headache is hardly pleasant. But before you chastise yourself for a lack of willpower, it’s important to stress that your bean dependence is pretty complex.

Why do we get caffeine headaches?

Although the jury’s still out on the exact reason, Dr Bal Athwal, consultant neurologist at The Wellington Hospital, points to the fact that caffeine induces constriction of the brain’s blood vessels. When we take a break from consuming it, those blood vessel dilate and the brain gets an increase in blood flow. 

With over 1,000 compounds in coffee alone, most of which not yet identified, scientists are still determining the exact cause of caffeine headaches, but we do know that symptoms typically start 12 to 24 hours after caffeine cessation, peaking at 20–51 hours, and can last up to nine days. 

So, you might feel like your head is pumping towards the end of the day if you’ve drunk a lot of caffeine in the morning, but it’s more likely that you’ll wake up feeling hungover the day after – and that can last all day… until you have your next cup. And so, the cycle continues.

What does a caffeine headache feel like?

If you’ve ever spent a significant amount of time in front of a screen (or with a bottle of merlot), you’re likely to know what a headache feels like. But Dr Athwal warns that a coffee-induced headache may present slightly differently. 

“You’ll most likely experience a feeling of pain and pressure that pushes outwards from the head,” he says. “Starting behind the eyes, it can move up to the front of the head and can also present with migraine-like symptoms such as sensitivity to light and nausea, or you can feel a widespread feeling of throbbing pain.” 

What actually happens when we drink coffee?

Whether it’s a shot of espresso or a milky cappuccino, the process of caffeine consumption begins in the gut. Once there, it has a direct stimulating effect on your brain cells due to its close resemblance to adenosine, a molecule that has a relaxing effect on the central nervous system. This allows caffeine to fit into adenosine receptors in the brain, blocking and preventing the feeling of fatigue. 

“Caffeine is a stimulant,” Dr Athwal explains. “It increases the circulation of chemicals such as cortisol (the stress hormone) and adrenaline (prepares your sympathetic nervous system in response to a stressor or threat) in the body. Caffeine builds up the adrenaline supply, increasing our heart rate, pumping the blood, and opening up the airways. It also prevents dopamine from getting reabsorbed back into your system, leaving the feel-good chemical hanging around in your brain longer.”

As a result, natural stimulants such as dopamine work more effectively, which in turn tells your brain that your cup of coffee is good and that it needs more of it. No wonder we’re so hooked. 

“Caffeine intake has been shown to ‘chronify’ headache disorders, including migraines,” consultant neurologist Dr Mona Ghadiri-Sani tells Stylist. “You will notice a rebound headache when you are due for you next ‘fix’, with worsening headaches that improve after the intake of caffeine. 

“Over time, you may find that you need higher quantities or stronger doses to achieve the same outcome. Headache aside, you may also experience associated fogginess, fatigue, poor sleep, poor concentration, light and noise sensitivity and so on. Before long, you may be left with a constant foggy head with no crystal clear days.” 

4 ways to prevent a caffeine headache

Drink more water

“If you regularly drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages, increasing your water intake can help reduce your risk for caffeine-related headaches,” Dr Athwal suggests. “Caffeine can make you urinate more, increasing the amount of fluid you lose, leading to dehydration. This can make your brain shrink in volume which can result in a dehydration headache.”

Massage your head

“Some research suggests that topical menthol, peppermint’s active ingredient, may help soothe headaches by reducing inflammation and relaxing tight muscles,” Dr Athwal says. “If you want to give it a try, gently massage two to three drops of peppermint oil into your forehead or temples. This oil can be safely applied without being diluted, though you’re welcome to mix it with a carrier oil (such as coconut oil).”

Curb your consumption

As with regular alcohol-related hangovers, consumption is everything. Dr Athwal explains: “Sometimes, the best way to avoid caffeine headaches is to limit your intake in the first place. If your headaches result from ingesting too much caffeine, it is recommended to limit yourself to one or two cups of your caffeinated beverage of choice, preferably spread out over a few hours. A good rule of thumb is about 200mg of caffeine a day, which is roughly about three double espressos or five cups of instant coffee.” 

That might sound like a lot of coffee, but remember, loads of other food and drinks contain caffeine too. Chocolate and cola drinks are high in caffeine, for example, so if you like having a bar after lunch and a Diet Coke at 3pm, you may only get away with one or two cups of coffee.

Avoid painkillers

“It may seem logical to pop some paracetamol or ibruprofen when you have a caffeine headache, but new guidelines from NICE show that the more painkillers we take the less effective they are,” Ghadiri-Sani warns. “The best way to manage caffeine headaches is hydration, rest and, of course, to eventually aim to go caffeine-free. There are also some probiotics which are specifically designed to help with headaches.” 

For more nutrition tips, check out the rest of the Strong Women Training Club library. 

Images: Getty

Source: Read Full Article