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Productivity and Caffeine

Caffeine consumption may impair your long-term productivity.

Did you drink a cup of coffee today? Are you drinking one now? You may want to read this article later if you want to enjoy that hot cup o’ joe now.

Though there may be health benefits, including an anti-bacterial effect to consuming moderate amounts of coffee and tea (especially green tea), coffee, soda, energy drinks, and even tea can be harmful for long-term productivity.

This may seem paradoxical, as we tend to be more productive after consuming caffeine. It “raises” our energy levels and perks up our mood.

Here’s why caffeine may be something to avoid if you’re looking to increase your long-term productivity:

Caffeine confuses the brain by taking up the receptors for adenosine (which naturally signals your brain and body to slow down when you’re tired) so that you’re tricking your body into thinking it has more energy than it does. When the body later discovers that it doesn’t have the energy it thought it did, you feel that caffeine “crash.” The energy that is normally used to repair your cells and attend to the natural needs of your body has already been used, and so the body begins to break down. Inflammation ensues.

Not only does caffeine cause your body to lie to itself about the energy resources it has, but it also causes your body to release adrenaline, giving you that productive “amped up” feeling. The problem with this is that adrenaline pushes the body into overdrive, further taxing your body’s resources. Adrenaline release is fine so long as your body has time and resources to recover from this stress later, but the caffeine you drank has caused your body to use energy that was earmarked for this recovery.

The final reason that caffeine is bad for healthy energy expenditure is that it affects your body’s natural circadian rhythms, affecting sleep quality, further straining your body’s ability to recover from stress.

In short, caffeine leverages your current energy level at the cost of your future energy reserves. It also dysregulates your bio-rhythms affecting sleep quality, causing inflammation and affecting overall health.

Moderate amounts of caffeine can have a beneficial effect due to the body’s hormetic response. I will talk more about this response in future posts.

Now, let’s say you enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning and the thought of starting the day without it isn’t worth increased productivity. Listen, you do you.

You can improve productivity by:

  • Limiting caffeine consumption
  • Ending caffeine consumption earlier in the day
  • Switching to green tea or herbal teas

The key thing to remember is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to productivity or health. Some people are more impacted by caffeine than others. Try limiting your caffeine intake and see if you experience significant improvement to your productivity.

Read my upcoming Caffeine alternatives article for strategies to decrease or eliminate caffeine consumption.


Burke, T. M., Markwald, R. R., McHill, A. W., Chinoy, E. D., Snider, J. A., Bessman, S. C., ... & Wright, K. P. (2015). Effects of caffeine on the human circadian clock in vivo and in vitro. Science translational medicine, 7(305), 305ra146-305ra146

Ferrazzano, G. F., Amato, I., Ingenito, A., De Natale, A., & Pollio, A. (2009). Anti-cariogenic effects of polyphenols from plant stimulant beverages (cocoa, coffee, tea). Fitoterapia, 80(5), 255-262.

Ferré, S. (2008). An update on the mechanisms of the psychostimulant effects of caffeine. Journal of neurochemistry, 105(4), 1067-1079.

Nawrot, P., Jordan, S., Eastwood, J., Rotstein, J., Hugenholtz, A., & Feeley, M. (2003). Effects of caffeine on human health. Food Additives & Contaminants, 20(1), 1-30.

Sinija, V. R., & Mishra, H. N. (2008). Green tea: Health benefits. Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, 17(4), 232-242.

Ohta, A., & Sitkovsky, M. (2011). Methylxanthines, inflammation, and cancer: fundamental mechanisms. In Methylxanthines (pp. 469-481). Springer, Berlin, Heidelberg.

Toda, M., Okubo, S., Hiyoshi, R., & Shimamura, T. (1989). The bactericidal activity of tea and coffee. Letters in applied microbiology, 8(4), 123-125.

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