Whoa, hold on a minute!
Is it possible that coffee, the drink that we all rely on for our daily work, actually could have a negative effect on productivity?
That may sound like nonsense. After all, you’ve been drinking coffee for years, and you’re certain that it’s the primary source of energy on days when you’re feeling mentally slow or struggling to focus, right? RIGHT!?
We’ve got some hard truth for you: coffee might actually be impairing your productivity. Or, at the very least, it’s not giving you all those benefits you believe it is.
Let’s take a look at the cold, hard facts…
We all know that coffee can make us more productive .
Caffeine can block adenosine receptors in the brain. These receptors are sensitive to adenosine, a compound that triggers feelings of drowsiness. By blocking them, they prevent you from feeling the tiredness until the caffeine wears off.
Coffee can give you more stamina and enhance your endurance, which is why it’s a staple ingredient in many pre-workout supplements. Studies have proven that taking caffeine before working out can help you to push your body harder and train for longer.
Coffee can improve your memory and enhance cognitive function. One study  found that combining caffeine with glucose (sugar) helped to improve sustained attention and enhanced memory.
Coffee is known to improve your willpower, especially on the days when you’re feeling particularly tired. You’ll find that it’s easier to make smart decisions thanks to coffee.
Finally, coffee can help you to learn faster. Just 200 milligrams of caffeine per day can improve your performance in learning tests, enabling you to identify new phrases and words faster. It can help to enhance focus and attention, particularly during complex mental tasks.
All of this combines to make you MORE effective as a worker.
The question now is how could coffee impair your productivity?
Coffee triggers a “crash”. Or, more accurately, it stops your body from naturally feeling its tiredness. Because it’s blocking the adenosine receptors in your brain, you don’t feel the drowsiness for as long as the caffeine is active. However, as soon as it wears off, you get the equivalent of a “crash” because you’re significantly more tired than you realized. Rather than gradually feeling more and more tired like you would without caffeine, you feel very tired all at once.
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Of course, that is sometimes paired with a sugar crash. If you drink very sweet or sugary coffee, you’ll get a rush of energy, but that is always followed by the inevitable downswing as your body works to get your blood sugar levels under control. The result is a sugar and caffeine “high”, which almost always ends in a harder “crash” than you realize.
Coffee pushes your body into overdrive. Coffee triggers the release of adrenaline , which gives you that rush of productivity and the caffeine high. However, it keeps that adrenaline production ramped up for longer than normal, and this can burn through your body’s energy stores too quickly, leaving you feeling tired, your body at risk of inflammation, and your mental stores depleted.
Caffeine basically causes your body to burn through the energy that it has set aside for post-work recovery, leaving you drained and exhausted. Worse, it pushes your body into overdrive, than leaves it with none of the resources required to make the repairs and replenish your energy stores. The result is longer-lasting fatigue.
Coffee impairs your sleep. This is one of the most common side effects of caffeine, which is why most people try to avoid coffee in the afternoon. The nervous system stimulating effects of caffeine last for eight to twelve hours, and it can definitely lead to sleep difficulties if you drink it too late at night.
Of course, poor sleep can have noticeable effects on your mental function. Without a full night of sleep, your brain can’t work at 100% capacity. You feel sleepy, you struggle to focus, your attention wanders, and you get tired more quickly. Because of coffee’s effects on your sleep, you can’t be as productive as you would be with a full night of rest.
Worse, poor sleep quality can slow down your recovery even further. Your body is unable to produce sufficient energy, so you’ve got nothing in the tank after your caffeine rush burns through your energy stores. The result is a harder “crash”, worse inflammation, and longer periods of fatigue post-caffeine.
Coffee makes you anxious and restless. We all deal with varying degrees of anxiety at work—over job performance, company changes, financial instability, interpersonal problems, and any number of things. Coffee will just make that worse, as it’s known to increase anxiety. In fact, it’s known to increase panic attacks in vulnerable individuals, and can exacerbate anxiety disorders.
But that’s not all! Coffee can also make you restless, fidgety, and struggling to focus. You’ll find it’s much harder to focus on work when you’ve got to move around, stand up, tap or drum on your desk, or fidget with some object or another. Your racing and anxious mind will find it almost impossible to concentrate, impairing your productivity.
Let’s be clear: we all know that coffee can help us work harder and ignore our tiredness after a busy work day. The benefits are very clear, but it’s also important that you understand the potential drawbacks.
Caffeine is a stimulant and can have very real, very negative side effects. It’s vital that you treat it with the same respect you’d treat any other stimulant, and be aware that it could actually have more drawbacks for your productivity than you realize!
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