Is drinking coffee for studying bad for you?
Faced with long school hours, looming deadlines and other extracurricular commitments, more and more students are relying on caffeine to get them through the long days and late nights. As someone who drinks coffee on a daily basis during my internship and exams, I began to wonder: is drinking coffee to study bad for me?
There are numerous effects of drinking coffee while studying or working; while we regard it as the best drink for focus and concentration, it also makes us feel more jittery or results in a caffeine crash.
With caffeine slowly becoming a staple in the typical student diet (alongside tears, instant ramen, and existential dread), we have compiled some information on coffee to help understand how we should regulate our caffeine consumption.
How much coffee should I drink?
This is a rather controversial question to ask most students. Most people I ask usually drink a cup of coffee a day.
The US Food and Drug Association has stated that 400 milligrams of coffee is a rather safe amount for the average healthy adult to consume. This adds up to about 4-5 cups of coffee.
What is the best time to drink coffee?
Most experts agree that you should drink coffee for studying right after a cortisol peak. Cortisol is regarded as a “stress steroid” that your body produces that helps boost alertness and awareness.
Your body produces cortisol throughout the day, but its peaks usually occur in the morning and the afternoon. Hence, it is usually recommended to drink coffee around 9-11am and 1-5pm to maximise the cortisol peak.
What are the benefits of drinking coffee for studying?
Caffeine is regarded as the best drink for boosting focus and concentration. This is because it affects adenosine receptors in our brains; this organic compound is regarded as the “sleep signaller” in our brain.
Caffeine works by affecting it such that it tricks the brain into thinking that we have just rested, giving us a sense of alertness upon consumption. This certainly helps students stay awake during long hours of studying.
Some studies even suggest that drinking coffee helps studying as it improves one’s mood, and in the long term, may even improve long-term memory. However, this is also largely dependent on the individual’s reception to caffeine and is subject to further research.
What are the negative effects of drinking coffee for studying?
Everything should be consumed in moderation, and caffeine is not an exception. Drinking too much coffee for studying results in various negative effects such as anxiety, nausea or even headaches.
Over-reliance on coffee can also reduce its effectiveness over time. The US Food and Drug Administration recommends that consumers stick to the recommended daily intake of caffeine, and not consume it too late in the evening as this would result in insomnia.
Is instant coffee bad for me?
You have probably met a self-proclaimed coffee connoisseur
proclaim argue that “instant coffee isn’t real coffee”. Instant coffee has less caffeine in comparison to regular coffee, but do the differences stop there?
Some research shows that instant coffee has a higher acrylamide content than regular coffee. Acrylamide is a type of chemical compound that can be found in starchy foods that have undergone high-temperature cooking.
While there is no direct evidence that it causes cancer in humans, most regulatory bodies recommend reducing our exposure to it in food. This is due to evidence that acrylamide can cause cancer in laboratory animals.
While the acrylamide content in instant coffee is still at acceptable, healthy levels, one should still consume it within moderation.
Coffee, tea or energy drinks — what’s the difference?
All three drinks are perceived to boost focus and concentration. While they all provide caffeine, the main difference is that the flavour profile and sugar content usually differs.
For instance, energy drinks are sometimes regarded as the less healthy caffeine drink due to higher sugar content. On the other hand, tea is regarded as the healthier alternative to coffee, given that it has no sugar content (provided that you drink it without milk or sugar).
While energy drinks can match the caffeine levels of coffee, tea is considered to have lower caffeine levels than coffee. This is primarily because tea involves brewing leaves, while coffee involves brewing the entire coffee bean.
Hence, when deciding between coffee, tea or energy drinks, we would recommend basing your decision on how much caffeine and sugar you would want to ingest for that day.
What is it like to drink coffee every day?
So what’s the verdict on coffee for studying? I sat with E, a friend from university who has been drinking 2 to 3 cups of coffee on a daily basis, to find out more about his experience with caffeine.
E shares that coffee helps him study by keeping him awake, but is mindful of drinking it in sips throughout the day. Consuming large quantities sporadically usually results in a “caffeine crash”, “jitteriness” and would “affect sleep quality”.
Despite drinking coffee on a daily basis, since E has his intake under the recommended caffeine limit, he does not really feel any signs of withdrawal on days he chooses not to drink coffee.
E also states that drinking coffee serves more than the purpose of keeping him awake — he enjoys the experience of making coffee, its taste, and exploring different cafes and their beans.
So… is coffee for studying a yes or a no?
Overall, as long as we watch our caffeine intake and take note of the time we are consuming it, drinking coffee for studying should be rather beneficial for us.
Other than using coffee for studying, we can also pair caffeine with other positive experiences such as having meaningful conversations with friends over a cup of coffee. Alternatively, we can also find a cosy studying spot to drink while studying to improve our caffeinated study sessions.