What is Caffeine Anhydrous – Benefits, Risks, and Side-Effects

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The chances are, if you’ve ever spent any time in the gym or in a health food store, you’ve heard someone mention, or talk about caffeine anhydrous.

An increasingly popular ingredient in energy bars, caffeinated gum, pre-workout supplements, and weight loss pills, caffeine anhydrous seems to have appeared out of nowhere and taken the nutritional world by storm. At least, that’s how it appeared to us when we started seeing it listed on a lot of the products that are part of our workout diet and regime.

As we’re incredibly careful and cautious about everything that we put into our bodies, and like to know as much about everything that we consume, and how it might, and does, affect us, we turned our curiosity powered intellectual microscope on caffeine anhydrous to find out as much as we possibly could about it.

What we discovered about this miracle ingredient surprised us, and it’ll almost certainly surprise you too because it’s not what you think it is, but it’s also everything that you hope, and probably already know, that it is.

Meet Caffeine Anhydrous

If you’ve ever had a soda, enjoyed a relaxing cup of coffee or pot of tea, and secretly indulged in a little more chocolate than you probably should have, you’ll know exactly what caffeine is.

A lot of committed coffee fans and hipsters swear blind that caffeine makes the world a better place, by brightening, sharpening, and helping your senses to focus and, if we’re honest, we wholeheartedly agree with them.

It is, after all, a natural stimulant that’s been part of the human diet, in one form or another, for thousands of years. We know what caffeine is, but what makes it anhydrous? What effect does that latter part of its name have on the caffeine and anyone who consumes it?

There’s no need to worry, as the anhydrous part of its name is simply a medical and chemical term that’s derived from the Latin word for “without water”.

Science loves to use Latin terminology to name and label everything, and caffeine anhydrous is just a scientific way of saying that it’s dehydrated caffeine. 

And as it’s dehydrated it’s a far more concentrated form of caffeine that’s used to boost all of the properties of this natural stimulant to the next level and increase its effectiveness.

Where Does Caffeine Anhydrous Come From?

Caffeine as we’ve already said is a natural stimulant, and it’s found in, and extracted from sixty different plants. The most well-known, and used, sources of natural caffeine are cocoa and coffee beans, which are used to make chocolate and coffee.

We’ve been extracting caffeine from them in one way or another, since the dawn of recorded history and we’ve become pretty good at doing it. But the worldwide demand for caffeine as an ingredient has exceeded and continues to exceed nature’s ability to provide it.

Following the basic tenet of supply and demand, because nature couldn’t provide the amount of caffeine that the corporate world needed to satisfy its eager customers, science stepped into the breach and created synthetic caffeine.

We wish that we could say that natural and synthetic caffeine had an equal share in the market, but it simply isn’t true, and we’ll examine why, and talk about both in more detail a little further on.

Caffeine Anhydrous - It’s Here, There, And Everywhere

The demand for caffeine-related products in America alone means that caffeine anhydrous is one of the most commonly used ingredients in the country.

In all likelihood, and it doesn’t matter how careful you and how conscientious you are about your diet and what you put into your body, you’re one of the tens of millions of people who consume caffeine anhydrous on a daily basis

The list of foods, drinks, medication, and supplements that contain caffeine anhydrous is absolutely staggering.

It’s an active ingredient in the majority of mass-produced sodas, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages that line the shelves of supermarkets, energy drinks and supplements (including widely available stay-awake pills), pre-workout supplements and work-out supplements, protein drinks, weight loss powders, and pills, breakfast and cereal bars and any over the counter pain relief medication that contains caffeine.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg, and the deeper you dig, the more you’ll find. Caffeine anhydrous is, quite literally everywhere and in almost everything.

Strangely though, the products that you might expect to find it in, such as coffee, tea, and chocolate, don’t contain any caffeine anhydrous. 

They don’t need to, as all three contain caffeine naturally, which is why you won’t see caffeine listed as an ingredient or their packaging.

While some chocolate brands, who shall remain nameless, have been known to artificially increase the level of caffeine in their product, the good news is if they do, they HAVE to list caffeine as an ingredient. 

If caffeine is added to the product artificially and isn’t part of its natural make-up, then it has to be featured on the ingredient list.

Caffeine Anhydrous

The Caffeine Listing And Caffeine Anhydrous

Let’s talk about the listing in a little more detail. By law, if a manufacturer adds caffeine to their product and it doesn’t occur naturally in said product, then they have to list it as an active ingredient. 

And that includes adding extra caffeine to a product in which it already naturally occurs, such as the aforementioned chocolate.

Why does that matter? Well, unless the company in question goes out of their way to stress that the caffeine in their products is extracted from natural sources, there’s a ninety-nine point nine percent chance that the caffeine in whatever it is that you’re eating or drinking is actually synthetic and not the much-beloved sort that’s found in coffee.

There’s an incredibly straightforward and logical reason why almost every manufacturer uses synthetic caffeine, and that’s the cost to profit ratio.

Synthetic caffeine is far cheaper to produce than its naturally occurring cousin is to extract, especially in the quantities that most companies use it. 

When the amount the companies need to make their products is measured in millions of, rather than hundreds of pounds, it makes far more economic sense to import and use the synthetic variety instead of the natural one.

The Cost Of Synthetic Caffeine

The easiest way to illustrate the cost of synthetic caffeine compared to naturally occurring caffeine is with a direct price comparison. 

A single bag of caffeine capsules which costs just under twenty bucks contains the same amount of caffeine as four hundred cups of coffee, which even if you’re drinking the cheapest, lead-lined truck stop java, works out as nearly forty times less costly than the natural variety.

Chemical production reduces the cost of everything, and the more of something that you make, the further the cost is reduced. So, if we import hundreds of thousands of tons of synthetic caffeine into the US every single year imagine how much the rest of the world uses?

When you start to think about the sort of mind-boggling amounts of it that are produced, and how little it actually costs, it’s not hard to see why any company would choose to use synthetic instead of natural caffeine anhydrous.

Natural Caffeine Anhydrous - Where It Comes From And How It’s Made

So, we know that there are two sources of caffeine anhydrous – it either comes from any of the sixty plants that it’s found in or it’s made in a chemical plant. Extracting caffeine anhydrous from the former follows a similar methodology to producing instant coffee.

Caffeine is stripped and removed from the plant matter in which it’s contained and it usually undergoes either a flash drying or dehydration process that completely removes any and all moisture. This leaves a granular, crystalline powder that’s more commonly known as caffeine anhydrous.

With its moisture removed, the caffeine is far more concentrated than anyone brave enough to even try sampling would dare to imagine.

A single teaspoonful would make even the most ardent coffee fanatic bounce off the walls, as it contains the same amount of caffeine as thirty-five cups of their favorite beverage does. That’s a lot of caffeine to take in a single hit.

caffeine anhydrous

Synthetic Caffeine Anhydrous - How It’s Made

Honestly, we’d love to go into great detail and explain every part of the manufacturing process, but as we spent most of our chemistry classes goofing off and trying to make stink bombs, we have a rudimentary, at best, grasp of the way chemicals are made.

But, what we can tell you is that the main ingredients of synthetic caffeine are chloroacetic acid and urea, and while we don’t know what the former is, we can tell you that the latter is a nitrogen-rich chemical whose name bears a striking resemblance to urine. 

So we’ll leave it up to you and your imagination to guess where it comes from.

The Strange Blue Glow

In a blind tasting test, it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between synthetic and natural caffeine anhydrous, and the only way that you’d be able to tell which was which is…

Well, actually, there really isn’t any way to tell them apart by taste, as biologically, we react to them in exactly the same way. There is, however, one way to tell the difference between them, and that’s entirely due to the chemical composition of synthetic caffeine anhydrous, which makes it glow blue.

That’s right synthetic caffeine anhydrous actually emits a low-level blue phosphorescence, which, even though it looks spooky and strange, isn’t harmful. And anything that it’s added to?

That emits the same blue glow. But it wasn’t until the news became public knowledge thanks to one of Pfizer’s chemists filing a patent that would strip the caffeine of its odd property that anyone, apart from the chemical companies, was even slightly concerned about it. The uproar only began when the cure for the slightly problematic condition was filed with the government.

How did Pfizer strip their caffeine of its unnatural luminescence? They did it by creating a chemical bath containing acetic acid, sodium nitrate, chloroform, and sodium carbonate.

The synthetic caffeine (or, if you prefer to use its chemical name, methylated theophylline) is then washed in the chemical bath, and as soon as it has been treated, is ready for consumption. 

We know the number of chemicals that are used to manufacture it is concerning, but synthetic caffeine anhydrous is absolutely safe for human consumption.

And like all of the best things in life, synthetic caffeine won’t harm you if you take it in moderation. In its raw form, its properties mirror those of its natural counterpart and it is safe providing it’s used in moderation and isn’t consumed with wild and lustrous abandon. After all, too much of a good thing can kill you, but we’ll talk about that a little later.

Caffeine Anhydrous And America

As a nation, we’ve got an incredibly sweet tooth, and our love of sugar is equaled only by our demand for caffeine, which is almost certainly why we import around twenty million pounds (around half of which is synthetic) of caffeine anhydrous, both natural and synthetic every single year.

The thing is, that twenty million pounds? It’s in addition to the tens of millions of pounds of caffeine anhydrous that we produce domestically, which pound for pound makes us one of the largest caffeine markets in the world.

The amount that we import is enough to make close to eight million energy drinks, or nearly twenty billion cans of soda, and while those numbers may seem slightly absurd, when you consider that there are around three hundred and sixty million Americans, and factor in the average number of sodas, energy drinks, and supplements that a population that size will, and does consume annually, it is isn’t difficult to understand why caffeine is such big business.

The FDA and Caffeine Anhydrous Control

You know as well as we do that some industries are more tightly controlled by federal regulations than others are, and trying to get to the bottom of why one is more strictly governed than another is like trying to understand why you want to dance every time you hear a Marvin Gaye record.

It’s almost impossible. And it’s also why the levels, and amounts, of caffeine in dietary and workout supplements, are recorded on their packaging, but they’re not mentioned on the side of a can of soda.

That said, the levels present in soda, are significantly lower than they are in pre-workout supplements, so that may also be a factor, but we’ve always believed that was good enough for the goose is also good enough for the gander, so any manufacturer that uses caffeine as an ingredient in their products should record the levels present so that you’re aware of how much you’re consuming.

While we’re talking about the levels of caffeine that are and aren’t safe to consume, we should mention that the FDA (the Food and Drug Administration), who has categorically stated that caffeine anhydrous is safe for human consumption as long as it is consumed and used in moderation, is also on record as stating that the recommended daily amount of caffeine that an individual consumes should not exceed four hundred milligrams.

That’s roughly the equivalent of four cups of coffee or ten cans of soda. While that seems like a lot of soda to us, it doesn’t seem like anywhere near enough coffee.

The Benefits of Caffeine Anhydrous

As it’s a natural stimulant, caffeine (and even more so in its dehydrated, concentrated form) in small and regulated doses can have a number of health and physical benefits.

On a physical level, it can increase stamina, endurance, and energy levels which can help to increase the duration and effectiveness of workouts and the amount of time that runners can spend circling the track or pounding the concrete, and as it can also help to heighten and sharpen your focus, caffeine can help to increase your hand to eye accuracy and quicken your response time.

It’s an athlete and bodybuilders’ best friend, which is why it’s such a vital ingredient in so many supplements.

While a nutritionist or a doctor would be able to properly explain why it does what it does, caffeine can and does help the body to properly oxygenate itself and regulate the amount of oxygen that your cells need in order to thrive.

And that age-old myth about it helping to cure hangovers? Well, it’s partially based in truth as caffeine can help to alleviate the symptoms of stress and tension headaches, even though it can’t, and won’t do anything to prevent a hangover induced headache.

Lastly, but not least, as we previously touched on, caffeine can also help your concentration levels and improve your focus, which means that it can, and will give you that extra boost that you need to face the rigors of everyday life.

We nearly forgot to mention why it’s also used in so many weight control supplements and pills, and that’s because it’s secretly imbued with a dietary tri factor which makes it an ideal ingredient for anyone who wants to control their weight.

It can, and does suppress your appetite, which means that you’ll eat less, it encourages the production of adrenaline in the body which can help to break down and destroy any unwanted fat cells, and it increases the body’s metabolic rate, which means that your body will burn more fat and use less energy to do so, even though your energy levels have also been increased by your caffeine consumption.

Someone once described caffeine as a legalized, and healthy amphetamine, and when you get right down to the crux of the matter that’s exactly what it is. It has all the benefits of that drug, but none of the drawbacks. Caffeine does, however, have its own set of drawbacks and risks.

The Drawbacks And Risks Of Too Much Caffeine Anhydrous

We’ve already established that the FDA considers anything over four hundred milligrams too much caffeine and if you do consume more than that there are a few side effects and possible health problems that you could be exposing yourself to.

If you find yourself falling victim to, or suffering from any of the following, it might be wise to cut down on the amount of caffeine in your daily diet, as it will certainly be responsible for some, if not all of them.

Because it speeds up your metabolism and increases your energy levels, caffeine also makes it incredibly difficult to get to sleep and can make you restless and increase the chances that you might suffer an anxiety or panic attack.

It can, and will increase your heart rate and could lead to cardiac palpitations and muscular twitches, and the previously mentioned increased heart rate can also increase the chances, and the likelihood of you developing a headache. It might help to ease the symptoms of one type of headache, but it can induce another.

Then there are the stomach upsets that caffeine can be a root cause of, and in some extreme cases can also cause ulcers to develop in the lining of the stomach, which is extremely painful and a good enough reason on its own to regulate and control the amount of caffeine that you’re consuming.

And lastly, and most embarrassing of all, too much caffeine can also make you want to pee far more than you ever did, so if you find yourself making a few more trips to the bathroom than you used to, it’s probably a good sign that you need to cut back on the caffeine.

effects of caffeine on brain

Too Much Of A Good Thing Can Kill You

We’ve all heard the urban myth about the guy who drank too much coffee and ended up dying from caffeine overdose, haven’t we? That urban myth might not be as crazy as you think it is or was as there have been a number of recorded fatal caffeine overdoses.

Like any stimulant, caffeine in large doses can be extremely dangerous and can lead to a one-way trip to the emergency room. Even though it’d take you a long time, and an incredible amount of willpower, to drink enough coffee to overdose on caffeine, the same isn’t true of supplements.

That’s why it’s important to record the amount of caffeine that any pre-workout supplements or additional supplements and weight control pills that you’re taking contain and to carefully monitor how much of each you use, or take on a daily basis.

While you might be tempted to add a little extra to your daily routine, don’t. That little bit extra could be the difference between you finishing your routine safely, or ending it in the back of an ambulance. 

Caffeine anhydrous can be a wonderful thing, but if you want to enjoy its many benefits, carefully moderate, and control the amount that you take and use.

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Article by:

Daniel DeMoss

I’m a personal trainer based in Denver (Matrix Gym) and a true fitness nerd. If I’m not training clients or working out at my home gym, I’m probably skiing, cycling or hiking with my dog Rufus.