July 29, 2022

Caffeine and College Studies: Help or Hindrance?

By B&SC Blog Team

Caffeine and College Studies: Help or Hindrance?

Caffeine seems part and parcel with several walks of life – work, parenting, and definitely college. It can provide an energy boost when it’s most needed, but what about the crash?

There’s a lot to take into consideration, as some caffeinated beverages provide noteworthy health benefits. We dive into the nuances of caffeine – especially as it relates to college – below:

Common Caffeine Sources & Their Benefits

When determining how caffeine consumption might fit into your lifestyle as a college student, keep in mind that a lot depends on which types of caffeine you consume. Green tea, for example, is a lot different than an energy drink. The following are among the most common caffeine sources:

  • Tea. For millennia, tea has been the drink of choice not only for its health benefits, but also, because it offers a small boost with its modest caffeine content. Green tea is a great option for overall health, but you’ll also find plenty of caffeine in black or white tea. Depending on the type of tea and how it’s brewed, it could contain anywhere from 20 to 50 mg per cup.

  • Coffee. Featuring a far higher caffeine content than tea, coffee can provide a greater boost to help you through long study sessions or get you out of bed in time for a tough exam. How much caffeine you get, however, depends on how or where the coffee is brewed. Typically, a cup contains 100-150 mg, but a brewed coffee from Starbucks will get you 180 mg in just eight ounces.

  • Soda. Many – but not all types – of soda contain caffeine. Examples include Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, and Dr. Pepper. Color does not, as some drinkers assume, automatically indicate the presence of caffeine – so look closely at the label or you might be disappointed. Often, soda addicts are surprised to discover that their favorite products don’t actually have as much caffeine as coffee. A single can of Diet Coke, for example, has just 46 mg of caffeine. As such, it may take three cans to achieve the same effect as a cup of coffee.

  • Energy drinks. Caffeine content varies dramatically from one brand to the next, but in general, it’s safe to assume that an energy drink will live up to its name when you need it most. You may be surprised, however, to discover that coffee remains just as cram-packed with caffeine as several energy drinks. In fact, you’ll find more caffeine in a cup of coffee than in a can of Red Bull, which has just 80 mg.

Harmful Effects of Caffeine

We’ve already discussed some of the potential perks of caffeinated beverages, but what about the pitfalls? Regardless of the form it takes, caffeine can be problematic at times. Some forms of caffeine, however, are better from a health perspective than others. We’ve once again broken down the ill effects by type, along with the negative implications of drinking caffeine in general:

  • Soda. Unfortunately, moderate soda consumption can cause a whole host of issues for your physical health, such as insulin resistance, belly fat storage, and dental damage. Research links soda (even just one or two cans a day) to an increased risk of heart disease and pancreatic cancer. In the short-term, soda – even diet soda – could cause you to gain weight quickly while failing to provide any important nutrients.

  • Energy drinks. Unfortunately, these beverages typically include questionable ingredients that could be harmful to your long-term health. As with caffeine content, however, each product is dramatically different. The most damage comes from excessive sugar or sugar substitutes, but B vitamins are also frequently used in high quantities. Instead, these should be supplied by a healthy diet.

  • Coffee. Although generally deemed one of the safer and healthier sources of caffeine, coffee comes with its own set of issues. Many of these – such as sleep disturbances – will be covered in detail below. Beyond this, some coffee drinkers find that it makes them jittery, nervous, or downright anxious. Over time, too much coffee can also stain the teeth.

Other Effects of Caffeine

Jitters

Have you ever noticed that, after drinking a huge cup of coffee or sampling a new energy drink, you feel jittery? Accompanied by a racing heart rate and a whole lot of nerves, this uncomfortable sensation can be blamed on an excessive boost of adrenaline. In most cases, this can be prevented simply by consuming caffeine in moderation. Some people, however, are extra sensitive and may need to swap high caffeine options such as coffee for green tea.

Sleep Disturbances

Whether you favor energy drinks or coffee, beverages with high levels of caffeine can do serious damage to your sleep habits. Consumed after 3 pm, caffeine may make it difficult to fall or stay asleep at night. Yes, this may seem desirable when you’re preparing for a major exam – but over time, your failure to get a solid night’s sleep will make it difficult to concentrate in class or stay committed to your studies.

Instead of chugging caffeinated beverages all day, aim to limit intake to the morning – and try to arrange your schedule so that you can be as productive as possible before evening. If you need to focus at night, try the energy-boosting alternatives mentioned later in this guide.

Dependence

Caffeine withdrawal is an unpleasant sensation – and one that many people can expect if they attempt to go even a few hours without their morning coffee. This phenomenon may involve plummeting energy levels (even after a great night of sleep), plus irritability and a headache. For some people, this isn’t a big deal – simply avoid the problem by drinking more caffeine. Those looking to cut back on harmful sources of caffeine, however, may be dismayed when withdrawal rears its ugly head.

Healthy Alternatives

As crazy as it may seem, caffeine is not a critical component of the student experience. While there’s nothing wrong with drinking a cup or two of coffee a day, it’s best to limit unhealthy sources of caffeine or steer clear of excessive amounts that cause you to miss out on sleep. When you’re struggling to get enough energy, try these alternative habits instead:

  • Exercise. Even a few minutes of moving your body can have a dramatic impact on energy levels while also reducing anxiety. When possible, take a brisk stroll before class or prior to sitting down for an intense study session. Take breaks at least once an hour to move around some more.

  • Natural light. The dark corner of the library you frequent could be sabotaging your study efforts. Several studies link exposure to natural light to increases in energy, and ultimately, productivity. Sitting by a window can help, but as mentioned above, taking a walk outside during the day is even better.

  • Natural sugars. Instead of turning to sugary beverages when you feel your energy dipping, try natural sources of sugar, such as fruit. While the cliché about replacing your daily coffee with an apple is overstated, that piece of fruit can provide a temporary boost without causing the crash of, say, a candy bar.

Start Your College Journey Today

Your need for a caffeinated lifestyle depends largely on where you attend college and how you’re able to structure your schedule. Ideally, you will enroll at a college that challenges you without forcing you to lose sleep. Bryant & Stratton College is a great option. Contact us today to learn more about our academic programs and wide range of scheduling options.

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