Does coffee help you study? Yes. Yes it does.
And don’t let anyone tell you your caffeine addiction is some huge problem. It’s not. Drinking 10 cups of coffee a day is excessive, and cutting back is a good idea. And sure, even with a 2-cup-a-day habit you might get a headache for a day or two if you decrease how much you take, but it is literally an insult to the insane withdrawal people addicted to actual drugs experience when they stop taking them to call a caffeine headache “withdrawal from an addiction”. /endrant
Now, I’m a coffee aficionado and I’m not at all apologetic about it. The smell of my mom’s coffee was one of my favorites growing up. So maybe I’m biased?
But I’m also a trained scientist and I have a background in public health. A quick literature review led me to an excellent review article from 2010 from the journal Nutrition: Caffeine – Not Just a Stimulant. Now, I’m really just talking about one study in this post, I didn’t do a whole actual literature review. But I do want to share the study’s findings with you, because I thought they were fascinating. Here are two fun benefits: caffeine speeds up your metabolism and it also increases endurance in exercise. Both of these are nice, but they won’t help you ace the exam.
What WILL help is caffeine’s ability to increase blood flow to the brain. It stimulates working memory and, the study notes, “caffeine acutely increases the functioning efficiency of neuronal networks in the human cerebral cortex.” Essentially – it makes your brain work better. Win.
Caffeine makes you a better problem solver, helps you concentrate, and increases alertness. These effects are all found to be the case over and above placebo, so decaf coffee is not going to help you study in the same way that the “real” stuff is. (But do I still love decaf? Yes. Yes I do.)
Caffeine straight up makes you feel GOOD. It gives you a better, more energetic and clear headed mood and it’s also been shown to decrease anxiety. These effects last for at least 6 HOURS after consumption and are actually increased by taking caffeine regularly.
Caffeine is also SAFE. From the study: “moderate intakes of caffeine pose no health risks.” I have a Master’s Degree in Public Health, so hear me when I say that a study claiming that something has NO risks is super rare and almost always means that the subject has been heavily studied (otherwise how could you claim that?) The only caveat to the “no risk” language is that during pregnancy, it’s a good idea to limit caffeine intake. Even then, though, a small amount is still considered perfectly fine.
The answer, then, is this: caffeine will absolutely help you study. It’ll actually just make you a better, more alert, happier human.
So now that we’ve established that caffeine will absolutely help you study, how do you go about GETTING your caffeine?
Well, while caffeine itself is totally safe, soda is not. It rots your teeth, is super sweet, and has bad effects on weight whether or not you’re drinking the diet stuff. Coffee and tea, on the other hand, are much safer. Tea even has great effects on longevity if you’re drinking it black.
So, let’s assume you’re now going to be a coffee and tea connoisseur on your campus. How do you manage that without breaking the bank?
1. Avoid the coffee shop, unless you’re going there to study for awhile
Coffee shop coffee is a whole lot more expensive than making it at home. So skip the line and make your own coffee to save a whole lot of money. If you are going to a coffee shop, go for the experience, not just the cup of joe.
2. Pack your own teabags.
McDonalds, Starbucks, and Tim Hortons (and, I presume, other fast food joints that are plentiful on campus) will hand out free glasses of hot water if you ask, no purchase required. If you bring your own teabag, you can brew yourself some tea at a HUGE savings. I’m personally a huge fan of orange pekoe black tea but my husband adores earl grey. Whatever your favorite tea variety, put some bags in a ziplock and you can have free tea whenever you want. I used to do this at the Tim Horton’s on campus every day. (Note: some stores will make you pay for a cup, but that’s usually about a 10 cent charge, which is a lot better than the $2 it takes for me to get a coffee at Tim Hortons.)
3. Invest in a travel mug
Get a good travel mug so that you can stay . My mother-in-law adores her zojirushi travel mug and my mom is a huge fan of Kleen Kanteen. Find your own favorite brand, or jump on the bandwagon with one of them. It’ll keep your coffee hot all day.
4. Avoid energy drinks or caffeine containing sodas
Look, I’m all for caffeine. But I’m not a fan of sugar-water… and that’s what energy drinks and sodas are. While CAFFEINE in moderation doesn’t pose health risks having large amounts of sugar on the regular does.
Overall, maybe there’s a reason college students often start a coffee habit in school. And if you’re worried about overindulging and having trouble if you don’t have coffee, just stay within the recommended daily allowances.
What’s your favourite treat to drink or eat while studying? Are you a coffee drinker, or no?