In the sense of what it means to cycle supplements, this refers to taking one or more supplements consistently for a period of time, then in scheduled intervals, pausing that routine intake before returning to consistent use.
The reason for doing so is to give the body a break from the consistent exposure to said supplement(s) to allow the body to increase its sensitivity and therefore, respond better to the influence of that supplement.
This decrease in results after long term use of a supplement is referred to as a process of diminishing return caused by receptor attenuation. We have receptors all through our body. Over time, some become desensitized to consistent exposure to the same substance. Becoming accustomed to the same smell in your home is a great example of this effect. It’s not that your favorite candle or oil is less effective as it once was, but your nose has adapted to the constant exposure and therefore sensitivity is decreased.
The same concept can be applied within the body. Most notably with stimulants, caffeine being the most common. Perhaps one single cup of coffee in the morning gave you all the energy boost you needed at one point. But after months or years, you’ve needed to add a second cup, a caffeine-boosted pre-workout, and chocolate or tea mid-afternoon to keep your energy levels up. In this instance, not only have you been working through receptor attenuation, but you’ve largely impacted your adrenal gland health very negatively. You actually need a complete break from stimulants in order to return your body back to normal, healthy levels of sensitivity again. The more caffeine dependent you are, the more your body is trying to indicate to you that it needs rest and rejuvenation rather than more stimulation.
To stay ahead of this desensitization to stimulants, it’s advisable to cycle off periodically. One method can be to repeat a cycle of 6-8 weeks “on” caffeine and 1-3 weeks “off”. Testing for yourself through trial and error can clue you in to how your own body responds best to different cycle lengths. If you’re feeling nervous about taking a break from caffeine, it’s a worthwhile question to ask if you are too dependent on it for your energy needs. Looking into other nutrition and supplement support that are non-stimulant based to improve and regulate your energy in a healthy way will create the most long term and balanced approach.
Rhodiola is an adaptogenic herb we’ve included within Stress Defy to help your body handle and respond to stress in a healthier way. Stimulants do increase anxiousness, especially people who already have a more anxious system. Rhodiola and Ashwagandha (also included in Stress Defy) reduce mental and physical fatigue. Working directly on your natural stress response system to improve resilience in a natural and healthy way. Adaptogens like these have been shown to improve recovery and endurance within exercise. So these are great supplements to continue using when you are cycling off stimulants.
But some adaptogens are also nootropics. Nootropics are drugs, supplements, and herbs that have an enhancing effect on cognitive abilities. Typically they are used for the positive effects on memory, motivation, and focus among other enhancements. But nootropics can also face the same rate of diminishing return. Therefore many people find best results when cycling them as well. Strong nootropics (man-made) are typically the focus on these cycling recommendations. Not everyone needs to cycle any or all adaptogens. Especially because adaptogens, ashwagandha being one of the most commonly studied, takes up to 4 weeks to achieve full effect on the body and has shown to be effective when used long term consistently.
Despite these common scientific findings, every person is going to respond differently to these adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens aren’t manufactured to have a specific singular result like pharmaceuticals. Natural herbs will have a general and systemic response typically similar among a general group of people. However, each person is an individual and based on many factors internal and external, personal response and feedback will have variation. This amounts to some people finding that consistent use of adaptogens have an exclusively positive impact when used long term. Some people will find, for example, that calming herbs have the opposite effect on them. So while the effect may still be positive if needed, the timing of taking these herbs or the quantity they take will deviate from the norm. We’ve seen that some customers only need a single dose of Stress Defy in the morning and they feel best with that schedule. While that’s not the norm, we understand and support the fact that each person must honor their own physiology.
This leads to the question, should you cycle adaptogens yourself? That’s only something you alone can determine by paying attention to how you feel and respond to consistent use of the supplements we offer. At the time of publishing this article, we offer two supplements that contain adaptogens, Stress Defy and Baseline+. Our other supplements, VePro, GI Assist, and Vegan Amino contain no stimulants or adaptogens, and therefore do not fall into the category of supplements to possibly cycle.
If you are interested in experimenting with supplement cycling here are some key tips:
- Know that the longer you consistently take a supplement, especially stimulants, the longer you will need to take a break from them in order to return to your personal natural sensitivity. Some people who are very sensitive to specific herbs will want to cycle more frequently. Some people may feel best with 5 days on, 1 day off. While others feel best with a longer stretch of time like 6 weeks or 6 months on and 1/4-1/2 that amount of time off. Only your personal experimentation can provide that answer for you.
- As mentioned above, if you cycle off one supplement, you might consider relying on another to support this transition. If you cycle off a stimulant, make sure to have at least one supplemental adaptogenic herb to keep you feeling more balanced and supported during this break time. One method may be to have already been using Stress Defy for 4 weeks consistently before you take your two-week break from caffeine. This way you’re much less likely to feel stressed or strained for focus and energy.
- Hormone support adaptogens, like Vitex (Chaste Tree Berry) may have a diminishing return for some women. Pay attention to how your body responds, some suggest that a one month break may be needed after 6 months of use.
- Know how your body felt prior to using your chosen supplements. Take note of any and all symptoms. If you feel like you’re seeing that your supplement of choice is no longer reducing or fighting off these symptoms, you may need a brief break to regain that sensitivity again.
- Don’t feel bad if you miss a dose of your adaptogens! This small variation (especially for nootropics) can improve your sensitivity even if you’re not someone who needs or wants to cycle your supplements.