For many of us, coffee is the first thing we drink in the morning to wake up our bodies and minds before heading off to work. It is a source of salvation and comfort during long and difficult days at the office. Just like every machine needs the energy to function, similarly, our body is also a machine that needs fuel to run, think and operate. And coffee is an energy-boosting beverage that is consumed on a large scale by most people.
However, many people realize that as time passes, they require more and more coffee to achieve the same impact that they used to get before. It gradually turns into a habit of overdrinking without the pleasure and benefits coffee used to provide.
According to the data published by the National Coffee Association (NCA), in 2022, 66% of Americans over 18 now drink coffee each day. This is more than any other beverage including tap water.
These statistics and figures got me more curious about coffee and productivity. Not only coffee but what about caffeine in general, if you are not into coffee? Is it possible to drink coffee just for productivity? Is there any best way to drink caffeine?
In all probability, you might have seen the lineup for coffee during your commute or in your office. Drinking coffee offers various advantages like boosting memory, preventing depression, ramping up metabolism, and so on. Coffee and its primary ingredient caffeine acts as a performance fuel and improves focus and attention span. As per, Karen Ansel, R.D., a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, coffee is very effective at boosting energy and concentration levels. Hence, there is no denying the fact that it does give an energy boost, and having coffee strategically, before your most important assignment, is a clever idea.
When we have a lot on our plate, we start relying on time to get more done. We stay late in the office, go early, skip lunches, etc. More to do means investing more hours and because time is limited, we feel worked up and coffee comes to our rescue then. We start gulping coffee one cup after another.
Although coffee is commonly used as a psychoactive drug, nonetheless, it is a drug. It comes with its shortcomings. But if you follow these 4 points, you can make coffee work as an energy booster for you.
1. Keep the intake of coffee up to a certain level.
If a cup of coffee or caffeine is part of your morning routine, you're not alone. Every day, adults take between 110 and 260 mg of caffeine on average. The FDA recommends that healthy adults should consume not more than 400 mg of caffeine per day. What is the reason behind this restriction?
The caffeine present in coffee influences a neurotransmitter called Adenosine in the brain. Adenosine affects attention, sleep, and alertness and makes us feel sleepy. It is a natural tiredness chemical. When Adenosine goes up beyond a certain level in the body, one has trouble staying awake and alert. After we sleep, the level of Adenosine comes down which prepares us for alertness in the morning.
Caffeine gives intense competition to Adenosine. Caffeine does not let Adenosine to bind certain receptors in the brain. Adenosine stimulates other brain chemicals like Glutamate, dopamine (the feel-good chemical), and serotonin. These 2 chemicals stimulate the brain and offer energy and pave way for a positive mood. Hence a morning cup of coffee makes you happier and more energetic.
Caffeine also prevents dopamine, from getting absorbed into the body. Caffeine is like that person at the party who doesn’t let the people go home and who keeps the party alive.
The disadvantage that caffeine offers in terms of providing energy is that with time your brain needs more doses of caffeine to give the same results. The brains of people who drink a lot of coffee develop more adenosine receptors with time. It’s like the more your intake, the more you will need to take to have the same effect. The sad news is that it makes you dependent on it and studies have shown that if you avoid caffeine, it prevents you from thinking sharply and clearly. This also shows why people get so grumpy when they don’t get enough coffee. That’s because the brain gets used to the stimulant. This makes it even more difficult for someone to leave this addiction. The brain understands the artificial effects of caffeine and quickly adapts to the trick.
Hence, it is important to keep the intake level within a certain range. For example, if you have 2 per day but with time you see this going up to 4 per day. Once you reach this threshold, try bringing it back slowly to 2 a day.
2. Do not drink coffee on an empty stomach.
For many people, their day can’t even start without a cup of coffee. According to coffee consumption statistics, about 64% of people prefer to drink coffee in the morning. And according to Statistic Brain, the total percentage of US coffee drinkers who have a cup within the first hour of waking up is around 68%.
But to work with our bodies natural cycles, we must avoid drinking coffee at one of the most common times of day - first thing in the morning. This is due to the body's circadian rhythm, which acts as our internal body clock, telling us when to sleep and, more crucially, when to wake up. Our bodies release a hormone called cortisol when we wake up. Cortisol is regarded as the stress hormone because it is released in large amounts when we are under stress, but it also provides us with a natural boost to help us get up in the morning.
Caffeine impacts cortisol in two ways when we drink it too early in the morning. For starters, it disrupts the body's production of cortisol. As a result, the body produces less and relies more on caffeine. As a result, rather than contributing to the boost that cortisol provides, we end up needing more caffeine since it increases our tolerance to it. It eventually leads to a vicious cycle.
Also, coffee on an empty stomach disrupts digestion, acts as a strong appetite suppressant, and also depletes serotonin. According to New York City nutrition consultant, Barbara Mendez, “If you have it on an empty stomach, that quick delivery to the bloodstream leads to more anxiety and stress."
So what can you do instead? This point brings us to the third point -
3. Have coffee in intervals and drink water in between.
One must drink coffee in intervals, that is have a break between 2 cups of coffee. According to the FDA, the effect of caffeine is at its peak within one hour with traces of effects staying there for the next four to six hours.
So start the day with water… then have coffee for productivity. Then again water…. And then another cup of coffee if you want.
Well, that’s a lot of liquid. Yes, you will probably be making lots more trips to the bathroom, but just consider it a great way to get your steps in.
Drink lots of water between coffee – Drinking coffee makes one feel dry and dehydrated. Water is anyways a great energy booster hence having water in intervals is a perfect choice. The more water, the better. Staying hydrated also keeps your organs functioning properly.
4. Avoid caffeine before going to sleep.
One study examined the effects of caffeine consumption zero, three, and six hours before bedtime and discovered that caffeine consumption six hours before bedtime could shorten sleep time by one hour.
You should not have coffee before going to sleep for a very simple reason - it interferes with the quality of sleep. Sleep is one of the great energy boosters and tampering with it can cause you to feel low, lazy, demotivated, and unproductive the next day.
Find what works best for you.
The best advice is to start slowly and see how your body reacts to the caffeine in a single cup of coffee, which ranges between 90 and 200mg. From there, you can adjust your dosage. If a single cup is too much for you, consider warm tea instead. If that's not enough, try adding a shot of espresso to your coffee. The considered safe quantity for adults is up to 400 mg per day.
If you are a habitual coffee drinker and notice that the effectiveness of a cup of coffee has started to decrease, try switching to a decaf brew or green tea in the afternoon. Both decaffeinated coffee and tea contain caffeine, although in far lower concentrations than a typical cup of coffee.
Whatever strategy works best for you, it's never a good idea to rely on one thing - especially an addictive and increasingly expensive stimulant - to get things done, even if the smell and taste of coffee are impossible to ignore.