Caffeine Intake & Studying: What You Should Know
If you’ve ever consumed caffeine while studying, you likely have experienced one of two extremes. The caffeine either powers you to the end of a victorious study session or too much caffeine can cause you to lose all ability to focus. So what’s the verdict: does caffeine intake actually help while studying? In general, the answer is yes—but it’s not that simple.
Caffeine and your body
Before we discuss caffeine’s effect on studying, let’s first discuss how it interacts with the body.
The efficacy of caffeine will depend first on the amount you drink. When it comes to coffee, 3-4 cups of coffee per day (100mg per cup) is perfectly healthy for an average adult. That said, the recommended caffeine intake for teenagers is 1 cup, according to a 2017 study by the University of Michigan. Anything beyond the recommendation for your age is a bad idea. Not only will you go into hyper-caffeinated overload, ruining the coffee’s chances of having a positive effect, but you also may experience other short-term health problems, such as stomach pain, irregular heartbeat, anxiety, and shortness of breath. If you’ve ever been over-caffeinated (perhaps at a diner that offers endless coffee refills), you know the feeling.
The recommended caffeine intake for teenagers also depends on the size of a person’s body. Much like with alcohol, those with a higher body mass tend to be able to handle larger amounts of caffeine. This doesn’t mean that you should go overboard—too much caffeine will be a negative thing for anyone no matter their size. Rather, it’s just another factor to take into account. So do enjoy your coffee, but enjoy it slowly and don’t chug.
Too Much Caffeine or Just Right?
So long as you’re sticking to a caffeine intake that’s healthy for you and your body, yes, it can help you study. According to a 2014 study by Johns Hopkins University, caffeine has the effect of “strengthening memories and making them resistant to forgetting”. In other words, caffeine boosts your memory. That said, it’s tough to say how long the memory boost lasts. The Johns Hopkins study tested subjects’ memory after 24 hours at the most. So, we don’t know much about how long the memory boost lasts beyond that time frame. This is still an exciting development and still means that caffeine will certainly improve your study sessions. But don’t expect 1 big cup of coffee and a day of cramming to guarantee you a breezy final.
Remember: not all caffeinated drinks are created equal. The recommended caffeine intake for teenagers will shift depending on the drink. Coffee, espresso, and energy drinks all have more caffeine than most teas. Even caffeinated teas like matcha have minimal caffeine compared to say, Red Bull. The less concentrated a caffeinated drink is, the more its effect is mellow, smooth, and long-lasting. Also, beware of highly sugared drinks. Together, caffeine and sugar create a perfect storm of frenetic distraction and are sure to worsen your productivity. So it’s time to put down the 5-hour Energy and refrain from pouring three packets of sugar into your cold brew. This way, caffeine can have it’s best effect.
If you do choose to drink caffeine while studying, try consuming it at least 15 minutes before you begin. That way it has time to diffuse into your bloodstream. To avoid stomach trouble, it’s best to eat before you consume caffeine.
Most importantly, it’s essential to stay hydrated. For every cup of caffeine you have, you should also be having a tall glass of water. This will also help prevent you from becoming over-caffeinated, and keep your mood lifted throughout the day. The caveat to all this, however, is that caffeine is in no way essential to performing well academically. The recommended caffeine intake for teenagers who consume caffeine might be 1 cup, but for those who don’t drink caffeine, there’s no need to start now. You don’t need a cup of coffee to ace your exam. But if you’re a coffee-drinker having a slow day, it might just be the boost you need (and taste delicious while you’re at it.)