It’s happened to you over and over. You sit down at your desk on a Monday morning, turn on your computer, and thirty emails pile in to your inbox. You decide that now is the right time to step away and grab a coffee to start the day. You know that, in some vague sense, it’s going to help you push through the day (and if you’ve been drinking it for a while now, you may need a few more before the day is over). But have you ever thought to yourself, what is caffeine actually doing for me?
Though caffeine provides a feeling of stimulation, it is not a true stimulant. Rather than waking you up, the drug actually blocks certain sleep receptors in your brain and prevents you from falling asleep. A 2010 study revealed many positive effects of moderate caffeine consumption, such as increased energy availability, increased motor/cognitive performance, decreased feelings of fatigue and increased feelings of energy. Waking you up, however, was not one of them, though the feeling of being woken up is definitely evident amongst the positive effects.
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University have recently discovered that caffeine can have a positive effect on long term memory. The particular cognitive process being enhanced is called pattern separation. It’s the brain’s ability to recognize items that are similar but not quite the same. So, when you’re in your first meeting of the day and the President asks: “Did Julie send you these reports last week or no?” hope that you had your coffee last week, because enhanced pattern separation is going to give you a better shot at identifying whether or not those reports are the same as the ones you got on Friday.
Another study, also done in 2010, suggested that at low doses caffeine had a positive effect on general mood, and reduced anxiety. At higher doses, however, these mild arousals became too much and ended up increasing feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and jitteriness (we’ve all been around someone who we know has had too much coffee). So how much is too much? Here’s a breakdown of the caffeine content in a few popular drinks:
Coffee (8oz): 163mg
Espresso (1.5oz): 77mg
Black Tea (8oz): 42mg
Green Tea (8oz): 25mg
Mountain Dew (12oz): 54mg
Coca Cola (12oz): 34mg
Red Bull (8.5oz): 80mg
Monster Energy Drink (16oz): 160mg
5 Hour Energy (2oz): 200mg
Caffeine Informer recommends that, for a person who weighs around 180 pounds, it is safe to drink up to 3 cups of coffee per day (489mg of caffeine throughout the day). And believe it or not you can also overdose on caffeine, because after 75.4 cups of coffee, that same person would be pushing up daisies.
Interested to find out a safe consumption of caffeine that applies to you? Visit www.caffeineinformer.com/death-by-caffeine to find out.