As college students, we can all agree sometimes we need that extra boost of energy, especially during midterms and finals. Even though coffee can be healthy when consumed in moderation, students must take into consideration how much and when they drink it.
If taken in the right amounts, without additional flavors, coffee is a wholesome form of caffeine. It has some great benefits, such as working to boost short-term memory and curb the risk of liver and kidney cancer. But experts say there is one downside that’s often overlooked: Coffee consumption can get in the way of a good night’s sleep.
If you’re interested in the health benefits, you must drink your coffee black, without sugar, cream or flavorings, and not in excess. Drinking coffee after 2 p.m. can also be unhealthy for your body.
In 2002, about 25 percent of 18 to 24 year olds reported drinking coffee sometime within a two-week period. But by 2012, the percentage of young adults drinking coffee in that same time frame increased to 39 percent. Like anything, coffee should not be used in excess. However, studies have failed to prove that moderate coffee consumption increases your risk for cardiovascular disease or any other serious illness. If consumed properly, it actually has benefits. Adding sugar and creamers to your coffee, however, will certainly ruin any of the health benefits discussed above by spiking your insulin levels.
The downside to drinking coffee after 2 p.m. is that studies have linked high caffeine use to decreased rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
If college students are getting too little sleep, or poorer quality sleep, it’s likely to have negative effects on academic performance. So what’s the smartest way to consume coffee for the boost without losing a good night’s sleep?
Pay attention to how much you drink, and when you drink it.
The half-life of caffeine in the body can range from 2 1/2 hours to 12 hours — because of genetic differences, some of us metabolize caffeine much more quickly than others.
The caffeine content of coffee varies widely depending on where you buy it. McDonald’s coffee, for instance, has approximately 100 mg per serving, which is significantly less than Starbucks, which has 260 mg for a similar serving size. Dunkin’ Donuts coffee is somewhere between the two.
Coffee can be quite beneficial if consumed before exercise.
Ori Hofmekler, author of The Warrior Diet, said that, “Coffee before training allows you fast energy to initiate your workout. For people who train in the morning, having coffee before training is a great advantage.”
Coffee can increase your metabolism by as much as 20 percent.
In order to maintain the health benefits of this energy booster, you should drink it in moderation and at appropriate times. Even if you need to stay up late to finish a project or study for an exam, drinking coffee would benefit you most in the early afternoon because caffeine typically stays in the body for about 10 hours. Drinking caffeine too late at night will affect your central nervous system and you will forfeit a good night’s REM sleep which offsets the positive effects of the coffee.
As a sophomore at Cal Poly, I have been through four rounds of finals weeks, and multiple weeks of midterms and other projects. I am not a big coffee drinker throughout the quarter, but I usually cave in to a cup or two when I need to stay up late. I don’t necessarily drink coffee for the health benefits, but I do understand that drinking it in excess, or late at night, is harmful to your health.