Is This Your Productivity-Enhancing Drug?

There are things people consume to stay awake longer, become more energetic or somehow increase productivity in other ways. They are usually things that people enjoy consuming – often in large volumes. Coffee, Coca-Cola (and other caffeinated soft drinks), and tea are the global big three productivity-enhancing drugs of choice. Most users think they are such great products that they can’t get through the day without. We suggest that quick energy boosts are a problem and that for optimal long-term productivity, users should kick the caffeine habit.

#1 productivity-enhancing drug: COFFEE

Coffee tops our list as the number one productivity-enhancing drug in the world. More than 500 billion cups of coffee are consumed each year – enough to give every man, woman and child on the planet 75 cups a year. There are some heavy users drink that much each week.

Coffee has been around for over a thousand years and is the most important mass produced performance-enhancing substance in the world. Have you seen any coffee-free workplaces lately? Probably not. Coffee has become the number one drug of choice to keep the world’s offices and factories running.

Wikipedia provides the following statistics on the amount of caffeine found in various types of coffee. Caffeine is the operative ingredient in coffee and it is used in medicine as a heart stimulant.

Depending on the type of coffee and method of preparation, the caffeine content of a single serving can vary greatly. On average, a single cup of coffee of about 207 milliliters (7 fluid ounces) or a single shot of espresso of about 30 mL (1oz) can be expected to contain the following amounts of caffeine:

• Drip coffee: 115–175 mg
• Espresso: 40 mg
• Brewed/Pressed: 80–135 mg
• Instant: 65–100 mg
• Decaf, brewed: 3–4 mg
• Decaf, instant: 2–3 mg

These statistics do not include the “Four Shot Espresso” found at most of the 15,000 Starbucks locations around the world. If everyone started drinking these instead of regular coffee, the world would become a more neurotic place!

#2 productivity-enhancing drug: COCA-COLA

Second on our list of productivity-enhancing drugs is Coca-Cola. This includes both the original Coke that had cocaine in it when it first came out and the modern versions that still boast “secret” formulas but are known to contain substantial doses of caffeine and large amounts of sugar. The main difference between Coke at number two and coffee at number one is that coffee-users can self-regulate the amount of sugar that gets added to each cup. Not so for Coke. The average 355 mL (12 fluid ounces) can or bottle of Coke contains a whopping 10 teaspoons or 40 grams of sugar built into it. This is much more sugar than a coffee drinker, even if theyhappened to be a sugar-junkie, would add to a cup.

For extreme caffeine-hounds, there are extra potent versions like the infamous “Jolt Cola” that boasts “all the sugar and twice the caffeine.” There are all sorts of “energy drinks” now available and most of them are loaded with – guess what? – caffeine and sugar!

#3 productivity-enhancing drug: TEA

Tea is number three on our list of productivity-enhancing drugs. It has a long history, much longer than coffee. Until the last century, tea was in more widespread use around the world than coffee. Tea has just as much caffeine as coffee does. And like coffee, the tea user can self-regulate the amount of added sugar.

But tea has an added bonus. It contains theobromine and theophylline which also affect performance. While theobromine and caffeine are similar in that they are related alkaloids, researchers have found that theobromine has a lesser impact on the human central nervous system and it stimulates the heart to a greater degree. While theobromine is not as addictive, it has been cited as possibly causing addiction to chocolate – turning some tea drinkers into chocolate junkies? Presently, theophylline is not a banned or controlled substance by the International Olympic Committee; however there is research that shows theophylline is an ergogenic aid.

Independently, green tea has been found by Japanese researcher Takatoshi Murase to boost exercise endurance in mice up to 24% while spurring the use of fat as energy. It might become added to the list of substances that baseball players and other athletes are tested for. Dr. Murase estimates that to match the effects on the mice, these athletes would need to drink about four cups of green tea a day over several weeks.

Other Choices

If you are not content to use just these top three productivity-enhancing drugs, there are several other popular ones to choose from. These include beer, wine and other substances that contain alcohol. These are not usually classed as productivity-enhancers. Their depressant properties tend to mitigate the productivity-boosts usually derived from reduced inhibitions. When it comes to boosting productivity, the caffeine and sugar combination beat beats alcohol. Mixed drinks, spiked coffees and various caffeine-laced liqueurs impact productivity in less predictable ways.

Very popular in many countries are sugar-laced donuts and other high fat sweets. The sugar-high from these tend to give only a short term boost, much like the top three do. The problem is that the added fat on top of the empty calories cause moderate to heavy users to become sick and obese. The same could be said for most menu items from the button-popping fast food restaurant chains including McDonalds, Burger King and KFC (formerly named Kentucky Fried Chicken). An occasional quick meal from McDonalds including a Big Mac, Coke and fries might help with finishing projects on a deadline but too many of these over several years will likely clog your arteries.

A diet completely devoid of these productivity-enhancing drugs is the way to go for increased productivity, especially over the longer term. There is a small but vocal and growing minority who advocate avoiding caffeine and sugar as much as possible when looking for an energy boost. Both of he authors of this post are among this group that includes many vegans and other health-conscious folks whom you’ll rarely or never find at a McDonalds and who are less likely than others to land in a cardiac ward. Plain, ordinary, odorless, colorless, tasteless water is a popular beverage among this group. Not much of a productivity-booster but a fairly safe choice health-wise. Stay fit, get enough rest, eat and drink natural healthy stuff, and reorganize your life and daily processes so you won’t need to turn to caffeine and sugar laden products for quick energy fixes. Caffeine is especially good at masking the body’s ability to know where it is really at – not a good thing for those of us who are trying to tune into ourselves better.

Where productivity counts, whether at home, work or play, don’t abuse one or more of the world’s top three productivity-enhancing drugs: coffee, Coke, and tea. Find healthier ways to boost your productivity.

Do you agree, disagree or have other ideas on this topic of energy boosters? Let us know in the comments.

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