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Can Caffeine Decrease Productivity?

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By: burgundy bug

Can caffeine decrease productivity?

Source: The Burgundy Zine

Pulling all-nighters to finish your homework, finals, work presentations. We’ve all been there – and we’re usually not alone during these late-night escapades. You’re probably accompanied by a good ol’ cup of coffee. Or perhaps some tea, a soda, an energy drink. Pick your poison.

After all, there’s nothing quite like a caffeine buzz. It’s notorious for getting you through long nights, Monday mornings, and hangovers.

But there’s a point at which too much caffeine begins having a paradoxical effect. Rather than a surge of productivity coursing through veins as you down yet another cup of coffee, research shows it may actually decrease your productivity.

A Bit of Context…

Caffeine is the world’s most popular drug, according to Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. It can be found just about anywhere: in coffee, tea, soda, energy drinks, chocolate, supplements, and so forth.

These substances can have beneficial effects on your health. For example, The BMJ reports roasted coffee contains over 1,000 bioactive compounds. Some of these compounds have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer properties.

Black tea and green tea have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties as well, according to the International Journal of Health Sciences and BioMed Research International respectively.

Meanwhile, cocoa has more antioxidant compounds than most foods, says research in Antioxidants & Redox Signaling.

So, where does that leave caffeine?

How Caffeine Affects Your Brain and Body

Your body is optimized for caffeine consumption, according to a Neuroscience and Behavioral Reviews study. In most people, the substance is rapidly absorbed within an hour. Caffeine readily crosses the blood-brain barrier and is distributed throughout all tissues.

Once caffeine has flooded your brain, it begins working its magic by blocking adenosine receptors. This causes you to feel more awake, alert, and focused.

Blocking adenosine receptors also fiddles with the neurotransmitters released in your brain. Serotonin release is inhibited and dopamine production is stimulated.

Read: The Role of Serotonin in Your Daily Life

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Dopamine is often touted as “the feel good hormone.” It’s released whenever you do something rewarding, be it listening to your favorite song, chowing down on your favorite food, or having sex.

Various drugs – including caffeine, nicotine, amphetamines, and cocaine – release dopamine. It’s stimulating, mood-enhancing, and addictive.

However, dopamine isn’t the “devil’s lettuce…” Err, “devil’s neurotransmitter,” rather.

Dopamine plays a critical role in learning, motivation, and promotes movement, explains a Nature Neuroscience review. Increasing dopamine in some individuals can alleviate symptoms of attention-deficit disorder, depression, and Parkinson’s disease.

But excess dopamine can have adverse effects on your health, too. Increased dopamine function in parts of the brain is associated with psychosis and schizophrenia, according to a Translational Psychiatry review.

Now, couple the effects of excess dopamine and a lack of adenosine and you get the perfect storm for the caffeine paradox.

The Caffeine Paradox

Let’s Start With The Brain

How caffeine affects your overall cognitive performance depends on both dose as well as your state of arousal prior to consuming it, the Neuroscience and Behavioral reviews study continues.

If you’re sleep-deprived and down an energy drink, the effects of caffeine will hit you harder than if you were well-rested.

… But only to a point. As caffeine consumption increases, performance effects decrease, regardless of prior arousal.

Instead of increased vigilance, attention, and reaction time, your brain becomes overstimulated. Thus, you dissolve into an anxious, nervous, jittery swirl.

Fry pours himself another cup of coffee, despite his caffeine jitters

Source: Giphy

As For Physical Performance…

Remember when caffeine was on the banned list of substances in sport by the International Olympic Committee?

That ban was lifted in 2004. Since then, caffeine has been include in the World Anti-Doping Agency’s Monitoring Program instead.

Why was it banned? Well, caffeine promotes movement. In some individuals, caffeine functions like a performance-enhancing drug, the Neuroscience and Behavioral reviews study explains.

Caffeine can increase endurance and performance during high-intensity workouts. It can also reduce perceived pain during exercise.

However, caffeine is diuretic. In other words, it can make you piss like a racehorse until you’re dehydrated. This, in turn, can lead to muscle cramping, fatigue, confusion, and fainting, says WebMD.

Caffeine Intoxication

At this point, it’s worth noting the risk of caffeine intoxication.

According to a Nutrients journal review, symptoms of caffeine intoxication include:

  • Agitation
  • Anxiety
  • Gastrointestinal disturbances
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Psychomotor agitation
  • Tremors
  • Restlessness
  • Seizures

Oh, and death. Don’t forget death.

In most cases of fatal caffeine intoxication, individuals had consumed it in the form of an over-the-counter supplement or powder.

Due to caffeine being legal, these supplements aren’t regulated. And consumers probably don’t realize the serious cardiovascular risks associated with taking excess caffeine.

Yes, drinking too many cups of coffee, tea, or energy drinks can kill you. But you’ll probably start experiencing other symptoms first that’ll cause you to cease consumption before it gets to that point.

Your body also has to go through the process of metabolizing the beverage’s caffeine and there’s a chance you might start puking it up, too.

Whereas caffeine pills are going directly into your body all at once. It’s not like you’re drinking it throughout the day.

Without realizing the potential harm of caffeine pills or powder, consumers could find themselves in life-threatening circumstances.

If you believe you may be experiencing caffeine intoxication, seek medical treatment immediately.

In Conclusion

“Coffee” by Jack Stauber

Source: Coffee – Jack Stauber (Extended Fan Edit) | CassieWho?

Caffeine can have positive cognitive and physical effects. However, its potential is limited by the paradoxical effect of overconsumption and overstimulation.

You don’t have to quit caffeine cold turkey. But next time you’re feeling a caffeine buzz and think, “Gee, if I feel this great, imagine how I’d feel after another cup,” take a step back and drink some water instead.

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burgundy bug


A cynical optimist and mad scientist undercover, burgundy bug is the editor, graphic designer, webmaster, social media manager, and primary photographer for The Burgundy Zine. Entangled in a web of curiosity, burgundy bug’s work embodies a wide variety of topics including: neuroscience, psychology, ecology, biology, cannabis, reviews, fashion, entertainment, and politics. You can learn more about working with burgundy bug by visiting her portfolio website: burgundybug.com

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