Caffeine Consumption

This is a “Science of 1” post. I have experimented a lot with my caffeine consumption. Until the age of 20, I never drank coffee. When I studied abroad in Spain, I started drinking coffee for the cultural elements of it. After getting a summer internship,  I started drinking coffee daily to help me focus / wake up in the morning. In the beginning, coffee had a very large positive effect on my ability to concentrate. Eventually, I found myself drinking 2+ cups in a day with a very marginal impact. I wasn’t sleeping as well though.

I began working full time almost 2 years ago and decided it was time for me to find the right coffee drinking pattern for me.  There was an article that cited a John Hopkins study that rang true. It claimed that most of the positive impact of caffeine was withdrawal being relieved. The theory was that if you controlled for overall caffeine consumption, coffee did not actually improve any cognitive functions or mood. Basically, daily coffee drinking lowered people’s baseline mood and cognitive function and then restored it when people drank it. I could not find the cited study. However, I wasn’t looking for peer reviewed proof. In fact, something could credibly pass science’s tests for the general population, but still fail to help me. Instead, I experimented with different caffeine habits on myself. A few things quickly emerged:

  1. Drinking coffee after lunch makes it harder for me to fall asleep.
  2. Each day, I’d need to drink a little more coffee than I did the previous day to get the same effect.
  3. If I went a little while without drinking coffee, it would once again have a strong impact.
  4. I drank black coffee long enough to enjoy the taste and never considered milk or sugar an option.
  5. I hate feeling like I “need” to drink coffee to just wake up.

Through some experiments, I settled on four days as the maximum number of days per week I can drink coffee. At four days per week, I feel a noticeable boost on days that I drink coffee. On days, I don’t drink coffee, I feel fine and don’t particularly miss it. The easiest days for me to skip is Saturday, Sunday and Monday. Like most habits, it was hard to do it at first, but now feels like second nature. When I do drink coffee, I drink it early in the day to minimize its impact on my ability to sleep. Sometimes, I wait an hour or two after I get in to drink coffee. That hour is reminder that I don’t need coffee to function. It’s just a boost.


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