I don’t think I’ve read a productivity blog yet that didn’t suggest kicking the coffee habit. I’ve kicked many bad habits in the last few years, something that seemed impossibly hard at first—such as dumping dairy—but coffee is one thing that I never succeeded with. That’s probably because I never really wanted to.
While it truly is best that you cut caffeine out of your diet or curtail your consumption, for many of us it’s the one thing we’ll hold onto even when making other drastic changes in our lives. Never fear—there are still many benefits to drinking coffee, and I’ll show you how to defend your manic addiction to the world when confronted by an overzealous stampede of crusading lifehackistas!
A Reduced Risk of Disease
Have you seen all those tea advertisements that claim it’s the best source of antioxidants? Apparently, coffee is the number one source of antioxidants in the American diet. Tea comes second. Of course, that’s a statistic measured on the level of consumption rather than the quality of the source.
Antioxidants prevent and slow disease and oxidative damage. When the body uses oxygen, the process creates harmful by-products that antioxidants destroy. This reduces the risk of disease and promotes optimal health.
This is one of the few benefits of coffee not derived from its caffeine content, so if you want to avoid high blood pressure or a heart attack, you can drink decaf without losing any health points—if you have a stomach strong enough to keep it down.
Counter-defense: fruits and vegetables are an even denser source of antioxidants.
Increased Mental Performance
This is why we start drinking coffee in the first place, right? I started binge drinking coffee in order to stay up all night working on various projects, though it didn’t take long for coffee consumption to become a hobby in its own right.
Drinking coffee improves your concentration, alertness and staves off a tired mind. For me, work comes to a halt when I’m missing any of the above, especially concentration or alertness. Ten or twenty minutes after a cup of coffee, I can be back to work for a few more hours.
Apparently coffee improves your short term memory, which indicates that I’m not drinking nearly enough of it. Did I mention that coffee improves your short term memory?
Counter-defense: eating a diet low in meat and dairy and high in vegetables and fruit will provide increased mental performance and higher energy on a more consistent basis.
Make Shift Work Slightly More Tolerable
Shift work forces the body into strange sleeping patterns, or more accurately, a lack of a sleeping pattern. Your body relies on patterns to tune and operate the whole circadian process which tells you when you’re in need of sleep or when it’s time to be awake. Lacking a solid pattern means you’ll be pumping melatonin or adrenaline through your body at very strange times.
I know someone who took their car through a street sign (and escaped without getting caught) because of the way shift work destroys your sleeping patterns, so for these workers caffeine is not as much of a luxury – it becomes a necessary part of safely performing the work and getting there and back. Drink 200mg (two espressos) to keep yourself attentive on the job for a period of five or six hours. If you’ve got a killer twelve hour shift, throw back a few more halfway through.
Drinking 400mg of caffeine in one night isn’t the healthiest thing you could be doing, but neither is shift work.
Counter-defense: become a freelancer!
Improve Endurance and Stamina in Physical Activities
It is well known that coffee improves endurance and stamina in physical activities, especially sports. The last time I played any team sport, I could count my age on two hands. Nevertheless, a cup of coffee before the morning run makes it go that much faster and easier.
If you’re starting an exercise routine (or returning to one) and having trouble with the adaption, drinking a cup of coffee before starting may make it easy enough to get over the hump and make it a habit. If all you need is an adaptation tool you can stop drinking it once you can get through each session on your own.
Counter-defense: with stamina and endurance training, you don’t need a cup of coffee to enable your body – you can apply these traits at any time.
Improve Your Ability to Socialize
A few cups of coffee can really help the introvert or cynic to come out of the shell and enjoy social situations. Coffee houses first formed in the Middle East hundreds of years ago and became popular as social locations, a tradition that has continued to this day. It’s got to do with not only the great atmosphere, aroma and architecture of most coffee houses, but of course, the effects of caffeine kicking your mind into gear and boosting your mood.
There is evidence to show that coffee doesn’t boost your mood so much as reduce stress by eliminating the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is responsible for the frazzled, distressed feeling brought on by day-to-day stress.
This one works well for me—especially for making visits to the wife’s family much more bearable!
Counter-defense: get a life, make some friends!
Truly, there is no substitute for replacing a caffeine dependency with the optimal diet for your body and lifestyle. Drinking too much coffee can wreak havoc on your system, especially your sleep patterns and blood pressure.
The latest research shows that drinking 200mg of caffeine or more a day can double the risk of miscarriage in pregnant women. If you’re pregnant, watch your intake, or better yet, just stop consuming caffeine altogether.
That aside, coffee drinking has a far worse reputation than it deserves; the benefits are real, and in moderation, it’s actually a good idea to get some coffee in your system. Go ahead. Have a cup—you know you want to!