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Is it common for people to drink tea/coffee to boost their performance?

  1. Sep 22, 2010 #1
    i always see people carrying a starbucks coffee or bottled tea in library and lectures. My friends said that drinking these can make people feel awake and think faster. Is it true?
    As they are quite expensive and the taste is quite bitter. Are there other alternative/cheaper ways to boost performace?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 22, 2010 #2
    Green tea and coffee (particularly espresso) are very good for your brain.

    You could always make your own tea and add a pinch of sugar to mask the bitterness.
  4. Sep 22, 2010 #3
    Haha my girlfriend is at Cambridge, and she makes the most awful coffee thing in the world - 2 inches of supermarket brand coffee granules and 2 inches of supermarket brand hot chocolate powder in a cup then add water - to assist her with studying. Each one robs her of a couple hours sleep to enable extra studying, and she claims it improves her efficiency too.

    I personally use coffee in a similar way, to stave off sleep, rather than to boost my performance per se. I also use energy drinks for when I'm really tired.

    Instant coffee in a flask would be a much cheaper way than going to Starbucks/any other coffee shop. Supermarket brand energy drinks are usually bearable (i.e. just full of sugar) and reasonably priced, but on the downside don't contain as much caffeine as you'd think (only as much as normal coffee).
  5. Sep 22, 2010 #4
    I drink water. Screwing with the natural processes in your body, especially your brain, don't really seem like a good idea to me. I get regular sleep and I try to manage my time wisely so I usually don't need to be up some night coked up or anything like that. If you regularly get decent amounts of sleep, you should be able to stay up a night or two without feeling so tired to the point that you have to resort to that sort of stuff.
  6. Sep 22, 2010 #5
    Yes. It is a legal drug which can induce mild euphoria. It's effects on performance are probably debatable.
  7. Sep 22, 2010 #6
    Time management can only go so far. If you have three or four problem sheets a week that take you 10 hours apiece on top of 9-5 lectures 6 days a week and you're expected to do extra reading, you can organise all you like, you're not getting enough sleep!
  8. Sep 22, 2010 #7
    Solution: post less on PF and sleep more.
  9. Sep 22, 2010 #8
    This. Although I used to intentionally stay away from stimulants of all kinds for the same reason hadsed gave. But now, having to wake up at 6:30am just so I have enough time in the day to finish my work, I have no problem taking in as much caffeine as it takes to help me get the job done. That said, I don't like the fact that I am, without a doubt, psychologically and physiologically addicted to it. One more thing:

    "A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems."

    -Paul Erdos.
  10. Sep 22, 2010 #9
    I was under the impression that if you were in a situation like this, you probably brought it upon yourself by taking more credits/hours than the average, you were behind, or you were dedicating too much time to non-academic things (sports, clubs, research (although that is somewhat academic, but not in the sense I meant here), etc.).

    I don't mean to offend (supposedly I do this without knowing sometimes..), but I'd like to know how it happens that you have problem sets that take you 10 hours, four of them per week, and lectures every single day from 9 to 5.. including half of your weekend apparently. If you could maybe post the classes you have and your schedule perhaps? I'm genuinely interested because I don't see this happening anywhere except Harvey Mudd/Caltech/JHU/etc.
  11. Sep 22, 2010 #10
    Your post was not in the least bit offensive and like I said, I used to feel the same way you did. I think xGAME-OVERx was most likely exaggerating a bit to prove a point (although maybe not). In any case, I can relate, like many others probably can, in that I consider my schedule pretty demanding. I'm taking undergraduate real analysis honors, a problem solving seminar, 2 prelim. graduate courses, 1 upper-division graduate course, finishing up a research project from the summer, working on a year-long thesis, leading a help session for abstract algebra 5 hours a week, running twice a week in the morning, and lifting three times a week at night. I also manage to see my girlfriend (who goes to school ~90 miles away) once every 2-3 weeks. I am working on homework/research or in class everyday from 6:30AM until at the earliest 8:30PM and at the latest 10:30PM. And let me repeat: I do consider my schedule tough, but there are always tougher schedules. In any case, if I find coffee helps me do all this (it does), I'll use it.
  12. Sep 22, 2010 #11
    Fair enough. However you should remember that most people (undergraduates, that is) don't take graduate courses, and the fact that you're taking a few plus research and an honors math class.. well I would say your schedule is reasonably difficult and would warrant some serious time management skills and perhaps some... 'assistance'.

    For the normal student and even the somewhat above average student, I'd say it's unnecessary because the likely problem is that they just have bad time management skills.
  13. Sep 22, 2010 #12
    I completely agree. I have several friends with extraordinarily light schedules who do nothing during the day and drink energy drinks to stay up until 3AM or later working on homework at the last minute. It's quite the bad practice.
  14. Sep 22, 2010 #13
    Well, it's not my schedule, it was my girlfriend's in the previous year. She was an undergraduate, first year Natural Sciences at Cambridge - taking four courses is compulsory. She went out far less than everyone else, and Cambridge have lectures on a Saturday. She did spend an hour a week on one non-academic club, but that was it.

    I'm not exaggerating - one of the units required essays instead of problem sheets thinking about it, but she spent a similar amount of time on those. Also may have been the odd hour gap here and there, but it was more or less 9 - 5, and sometimes later!

    I was just trying to make the point that it is not impossible to find oneself in a situation where you need to cut down on sleep to get everything done. Some people at some universities may find that they can't get all the need to do done and get a good 8 to 10 hours every night.
  15. Sep 22, 2010 #14
    I only usually get 5 hours sometimes 6. It is horrible but I don't have any time with all my studies.
  16. Sep 22, 2010 #15
    I've noticed with myself that most of the times, coffee doesn't seem to help at all. In fact i've fallen asleep on my books on days i had some coffee..

    What I find helps me concentrate and makes me feel refreshed if i go for a swim in the morning. I've heard that exercise has been shown to help in study.
  17. Sep 23, 2010 #16
    I find that coffee can help to keep me from falling asleep- although at the same time I do not feel genuinely awake. It doesn't restore my complete mental function only slightly stimulates it
  18. Sep 23, 2010 #17
    If by "improve performance", you mean "wake up in the morning", I'd have to say yes.

    Personally, I find I get very little accomplished while I'm asleep.
  19. Sep 23, 2010 #18
    personal preference from a life of balancing athletics/academics

    by importance for balancing psych/physiological well-being:

    exercise >= sleep > coffee > drugs (legal or not)

    and, obviously, time management governs all of these.
  20. Sep 23, 2010 #19
    I found the discussion http://lesswrong.com/lw/1w1/coffee_when_it_helps_when_it_hurts/" to be helpful. Speaking from personal experience, caffeine and stimulants in general noticeably improve your short term memory and focus, and several studies agree with this. I wouldn't be surprised by gains in working memory depending on the person. I've certainly felt that my working memory capacity was increased when on caffeine and I usually have quicker recall of facts.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
  21. Sep 23, 2010 #20
    Weirdly enough, I drink tea to help me fall asleep...but maybe that's just me. A hot beverage in the morning usually does help wake me up, though, but as far as staying awake? There's nothing like a quick, midday nap - I can't get through my day without them.
  22. Sep 24, 2010 #21
    I just want to add that caffeine pills are always going to be the cheapest way to get your fix (unless you want to get really extreme and buy pure caffeine powder in bulk and measure out the doses yourself). 150-200mg in the morning gets me right up.
  23. Sep 24, 2010 #22
    Really? I would have thought that a jar of even good quality instant coffee would contain more caffeine than a similarly priced pack of caffeine tablets. Maybe need to do some research.
  24. Sep 24, 2010 #23
    Jesus.. caffeine PILLS in the mornings?? You guys realize you are drugging yourselves regularly which leads to dependence.. just like cocaine.
  25. Sep 24, 2010 #24
    hadsed, bold words don't make you more correct, they just make you seem like you are resorting to scare tactics. Besides, 150-200mg of caffeine is common in specialty coffees, and even more than that comes in a Starbucks Grande size which many people drink daily. The delivery mechanism is irrelevant. And what is this bias against "PILLS"? They're useful, convenient, and cheap.

    xGAME-OVERx, I need to clarify what I meant. The price of a unit dose of caffeine is lower if you buy the pills in bulk than if you buy coffee (even in bulk). Any brand of coffee you can buy in a store (Folgers, etc) has only 70-100mg of caffeine per cup, so you have to use 2x-3x as much to get the result of 1-200mg pill.

    Pills have the advantage of giving you a much more accurate measure of how much caffeine you're getting at once, plus pills are instantly available and don't require the purchase of a coffeemaker, filters, and "I'd rather be golfing" mugs. And on top of all that, avoiding coffee which comes overflowing with whipped cream, chocolate, caramel, etc. is better for your health.

    Like I said, the real savings start if you buy caffeine in powder form. If you have an accurate enough scale, this is definitely the way to go. I've seen bulk-order websites that have as much as 1.5kg of caffeine powder for about $90 (that's 7500-200mg pills or cups of coffee at a unit cost of less than $.02).
  26. Sep 25, 2010 #25
    That's also what I meant, I would have guessed instant coffee give you more caffeine per dollar/pound/whatever than caffeine pills. But this may well not be the case with filter coffee. Still haven't done the maths though!
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