Three Things You Need to Know About Coffee and Productivity

Short on time? For the key points on coffee and productivity, stick to the bold text and the conclusion.

3 lessons on coffee and productivity:

Lesson 1: Productivity boosts

The number of benefits obtained from coffee consumption is endless. Coffee, thanks to its working element caffeine, regulates mood and wellbeing. Although the research is not conclusive, moderate coffee consumption has been related to lower suicide rates versus low or extremely high consumption. [1]

Moreover, it has a positive effect on a range of mental functions:

  • sense of energy
  • alertness
  • mental focus
  • attention
  • memory
  • willingness and motivation to work memory
  • improved information-processing speed
  • boosted self-confidence
  • awareness and vigilance
  • reaction time [2].

Many of these productivity-enhancing effects are down to a couple of interesting neurochemical reactions. Caffeine blocks adenosine receptors preventing this hormone’s function: regulating arousal and inducing sleep. [3]

At the same time, caffeine increases responses from dopaminergic receptors which affect many body functions, such as hypertension, hormonal regulation, voluntary movement and reward systems. [4] In total, there are five types of dopamine receptors with various functions, including memory and attention in D1, and decision-making and cognition in D5.

Caffeine also leads to an increased release of several other hormones, such as dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin. These hormones, or neurotransmitters, are related to mood, motivation and concentration, among other mental functions. Not surprisingly, they are also involved in the flow cycle

Caffeine regulates mood, boosts attention and even enhances learning.

Lesson 2: Endurance Enhancement

Thanks to the above-mentioned neural mechanisms, caffeine has a positive effect on physical performance as well. Even though coffee consumption hardly gives you energy, caffeine administration aids the body’s endurance in various ways. 

The so-called ergogenic effects of caffeine include a higher perceived sense of energy by avoiding fatigue and even slightly enhancing oxygen intake. [2] Another endurance effect of coffee is its ability to reduce the perception of pain and fatigue, allowing you to keep going for a longer amount of time. [5] 

The best time to consume coffee or take caffeine supplements is between 30 and 60 minutes before your performance. Consuming caffeine both before and during activity has been found to have an even better effect. [5]

Caffeine intake has a positive effect on your perceived energy-levels, boosting your endurance.

Lesson 3: Caffeine dosing

For most effects of coffee to kick, you need to consume a dose of al least 75 mg of caffeine. The required dose, however, varies according to body weight and individual responses to caffeine; with experts advising a dose of 3 to 6mg per kg of bodyweight. 

On the other side of the spectrum, over-consumption of coffee may lead to negative effects. Some of these side-effects are restlessness, anxiety, agitation, muscle tremor, insomnia, headache and increased heart rate. Long-term overexposure has also been related to several chronic diseases.

For the regular coffee consumer, there’s no need to worry, though. “Over the last decade, Food Regulation Authorities have concluded that coffee/caffeine consumption is not harmful if consumed at levels of 200 mg in one sitting (around 2½ cups of coffee) or 400 mg daily (around 5 cups of coffee).” [6] Fortunately, it’s not likely coffee consumption will get you killed immediately either. The legal dose of caffeine is considered to be at least above 5g/kg of body weight in a day, meaning you’d have to drink about 50 cups of coffee. Don’t try this at home. 

Regular coffee consumption of fewer than five cups per day is generally associated with plenty of positive effects and few side-effects.

Conclusion about coffee and productivity

With the correct dosing, of about two to three cups per day, coffee is a perfect productivity enhancer. Besides, it also has multiple other benefits, including anti-inflamatory properties and positive effects on prevention of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimers. If you’d like to learn more about coffee and productivity, I highly recommend you to read the primary source of this article. 

Questions from the audience:

Jeff: What would you say about time of last cup of coffee? Sometimes I need one in the afternoon but worry it will affect my sleep.

In adults, regular consumption of coffee during the day does not appear to affect sleep quality. Even close to bedtime, a smaller cup of coffee (up to 100 mg of caffeine) is very unlikely to interfere with your sleep.

Stronger coffee does affect sleep. Side-effects like increased body movement and more spontaneous awakenings during the night are common.

Below you’ll find a graph with the average caffeine content per 100 ml of coffee according to several brewing methods. Keep in mind that the amount of caffeine also depends on water temperature, the amount of water and coffee, the type of roast and the origin of the beans, among other factors.

coffee and productivity: how much caffeine per brew?
How strong is your coffee?
Source: https://www.mdpi.com/2306-5710/5/2/37/htm [2]

Loki: Does it help to have a rest day or short tolerance break?

For most effects, there is little difference between regular consumers and low consumers. [7] However, it is dangerous to generalise.

In certain areas, such as sleep quality, frequent consumption builds tolerance but overconsumption is also dangerous.

In terms of productivity benefits, the regularity of consumption doesn’t seem to have a big influence either. [2] And although there is still some fog around the effects of abstention on physical performance, most studies point in a similar direction. ‘Sudden caffeine cessation is unlikely to lead to withdrawal symptoms, any of which are likely only to be moderate, whereas the previously mentioned studies showed that caffeine withdrawal of up to 4 days does not influence exercise responses to an acute dose of caffeine supplementation in habitual caffeine consumers.’[8]

In conclusion, the effects of caffeine are similar in regular consumers and low consumers. A one-day break is thus unlikely to make a significant difference on your body’s reaction to caffeine.

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Written by Kjell

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Sources about coffee and productivity

  1. Jane V. Higdon & Balz Frei (2006) Coffee and Health: A Review of Recent Human Research, Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, 46:2, 101-123, DOI: 10.1080/10408390500400009
  2. dePaula, J.; Farah, A. Caffeine Consumption through Coffee: Content in the Beverage, Metabolism, Health Benefits and Risks. Beverages 20195, 37. – https://www.mdpi.com/2306-5710/5/2/37 
  3. Dr. Ananya Mandal, MD  April Cashin-Garbutt. News Medical – https://www.news-medical.net/health/What-is-Adenosine.aspx 
  4. Bhatia A, Lenchner JR, Saadabadi A. Biochemistry, Dopamine Receptors. [Updated 2020 Jul 26]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK538242/
  5. Ganio, Matthew S; Klau, Jennifer F; Casa, Douglas J; Armstrong, Lawrence E; Maresh, Carl M Effect of Caffeine on Sport-Specific Endurance Performance: A Systematic Review, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: January 2009 – Volume 23 – Issue 1 – p 315-324 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31818b979a
  6. Nehlig A.Effects of coffee/caffeine on brain health and disease: What should I tell my patients? Practical Neurology 2016;16:89-95.- https://pn.bmj.com/content/16/2/89.short
  7. Smit, H., Rogers, P. Effects of low doses of caffeine on cognitive performance, mood and thirst in low and higher caffeine consumers. Psychopharmacology 152, 167–173 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1007/s002130000506
  8. Gonçalves LS, Painelli VS, Yamaguchi G, Oliveira LF, Saunders B, da Silva RP, Maciel E, Artioli GG, Roschel H, Gualano B. Dispelling the myth that habitual caffeine consumption influences the performance response to acute caffeine supplementation. J Appl Physiol (1985). 2017 Jul 1;123(1):213-220. doi: 10.1152/japplphysiol.00260.2017. Epub 2017 May 11. PMID: 28495846.

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