As the computer screen swam out of focus and the words blurred, my eyelids drooped taking my head with them. A second later, I woke up with a start. Gazing intently at my screen, I tried desperately not to meet my manager’s amused eye.
You can get it from black or green tea, coffee and of course energy drinks.
But why does it work and how?
The simple science of caffeine
Caffeine prevents the brain from receiving sleep signals and interferes with sleep patterns. In moderate amounts, no more than 300-500 mg a day, it can deliver a strong boost to the brain. Too much more, and you’ll end up with a case of the jitters and a jackhammer in your head. Irritable, anxious or restless? You’ve had far too much.
Coffee is a popular drink especially first think in the morning. The caffeine in it can make you feel alert, sharpening your mental focus and concentration. And it will help you stay hydrated.
Dubious energy drinks
Research suggests energy drinks can make you feel like the energizer bunny – an unstoppable force with a razor sharp mind. However, they contain far more caffeine than the average cup of coffee. They also contain large amounts of sugar, which dramatically increases energy levels but does nothing for your health.
If you’ve ever tried an energy drink you’ll know it makes you feel wide-awake, helping you work faster and concentrate better. You probably also know that this euphoria tends to be short-lived, sometimes lasting less than an hour. The subsequent crash leaves you grumpy, sleepy and completely unable to concentrate.
Meanwhile, the minuscule quantities of other ‘miracle stimulants‘ found in energy drinks do virtually nothing (expect add to the marketing hype of course).
You’d be much better off drinking tea, green or black. The caffeine in tea will keep you awake and alert while the antioxidants in it will keep you healthy. Studies show there are ten times more antioxidants in tea than in fruits and vegetables. You can have up to ten cups of tea a day; switching to decaf halfway won’t reduce its health benefits. Equally importantly it will keep you well-hydrated; it’s a myth that caffeine is a diuretic (unless of course you drink too much).
Hydration, hydration, hydration
And then there’s water. Since 60 percent of our body weight and 80 percent of our brain are water, losing a mere 1.5 percent of it can upset the balance of mineral salts and sugars in the body and reduce blood volume, thereby reducing the amount of blood and oxygen reaching the brain. At this point you’re officially dehydrated and will probably have a headache to boot.
All of this affects your mood, energy levels and ability to concentrate and think clearly. If you want to work smart, you’ve got to stay hydrated.
How much should you drink to stay hydrated?
How much you need to drink to stay hydrated all depends on your lifestyle, your work, health and the climate where you live. Experts recommend six to eight glasses of fluids a day to stay hydrated and alert, whether those fluids come from drinks, fruits, vegetables or regular meals.
They do, however, point out that plain old water is your best bet. (Just don’t let it get out of hand.)