Does coffee increase productivity?

The world consumes over 2.25 billion cups of coffee everyday. It’s the second most legally traded commodity in the world, only after crude oil. This magic beverage has found its way into the routines of millions of people, and helps them push through their busiest of days. But why do people suddenly find themselves more capable of pushing through tasks upon having that morning cup of coffee? Does coffee really make one more productive?

The “boost” that coffee provides can be attributed to one of its primary components i.e. caffeine. Caffeine is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug in the world. The effects of caffeine can be experienced minutes after having the first sip of coffee. While it makes one feel more active and alert, it can also exacerbate anxiety and increase blood pressure when consumed in high quantities.

So what exactly happens when you ingest coffee?

Our body is a weird place. It continually produces a substance called “adenosine” throughout the day, until you fall asleep. When adenosine attaches itself to the adenosine receptors on neurons (brain cells), they initiate a reaction which makes you feel sleepy. When you have that awesome cup of coffee, caffeine competes with adenosine and attaches itself to the adenosine receptor, but does not activate it, as it is much smaller in size. So what caffeine essentially does is that by not allowing adenosine to do its job, it makes you feel more awake and alert until it’s stimulating effects wear off.

But how does this affect productivity?

There is no direct impact of coffee on productivity. The reported increase in productivity can be attributed to the cumulative effects of the benefits of coffee (caffeine) consumption.

There are many benefits of drinking coffee. When consumed in the right amounts, coffee can:

  • make you feel more awake
  • improve cognitive function -it can increase alertness and also facilitate memory and learning.
  • improve mood and alleviate stress
  • increase physical energy
  • have long term benefits by reducing the risk of certain diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Type 2 Diabetes, among others.

However, regular coffee drinkers are aware of the fact that over time, the body builds a certain resistance to coffee. One has to consume more and more coffee to experience the same effects. In such cases, increase in productivity can be accredited to the placebo effect of drinking coffee. Other factors such as change of location, taking a small break etc. also contribute to this feeling of increased productivity.

It’s all about how much you consume and when you consume it. Excessive consumption of coffee can overstimulate the adrenal glands making one feel anxious and jittery. Studies suggest that not more than 400mg of caffeine should consumed in a day to reap maximum benefits.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that increases heart rate and blood pressure. It is generally at its peak at three times during the day:

  • 8 am to 9 am,
  • 12 pm to 1 pm, and
  • 5:30 pm and 6:30 pm.

It is therefore suggested that it’s best to avoid consuming coffee in these time periods, to avoid feelings of jitteriness and anxiety. It’s also important to make sure that you don’t consume it too close to bed time, unless you want to spend the night counting sheep.

Does this mean that those who do not drink coffee are unproductive? No. Caffeine provides a boost when ingested. This is not to say that it is a requirement for one to be productive. There is no research that links coffee consumption to an increase in productivity. For habitual drinkers, who find it hard to get out of bed and start their day without a cup of coffee, the performance effect of coffee is related to the withdrawal symptoms they experience upon waking up.

So should you be consuming coffee? There’s no reason not to, unless you’re experiencing the wrath of its side effects and would like to cut down on it. The health benefits of coffee have been controversial. However, newer research suggests that coffee (no sugar. no milk) is not as bad as it was made out to be, and in fact it is high in anti-oxidants and can actually be a part of a healthy diet and lifestyle. The key is moderation.

PS: This post was written under the influence of caffeine.



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