With so many due dates, looming assignments and college activities, it’s no wonder students turn to a little pick-me-up in order to stay on top of things. Sometimes though, that pick-me-up can actually be more harmful than helpful.
Why students use caffeine
Kailene Power, senior communication/English major, said she consumes far too much caffeine each day. She listed her main source of caffeine as coffee.
“(I drink) usually a cup or two in the morning and then maybe some later,” Power said.
Power said she gets headaches when she tries to skip drinking coffee, but the headaches are not consistent.
“If I do get a headache, then there are other factors like not drinking enough water or not sleeping the night before or something else that would contribute to that but it’s not solely a caffeine headache,” Power said.
Power admitted to starting her caffeine intake early in the day due to her nanny role during the week. She said she continues her intake throughout the day by studying in coffee shops.
Jared Bonny, junior criminal justice major, said he consumes close to a liter of coffee every day. Bonny said it’s due to the coffee here in the United States being weak.
“Coffee in the States sucks. We have better coffee in Europe,” Bonny said.
Bonny said he doesn’t notice headaches or any adverse effects because he drinks coffee all
“I never stop drinking coffee,” Bonny said.
What caffeine does to you
These students aren’t alone in their consumption of caffeine each day. Megan McGuffey, registered dietitian in the Health Services Clinic, said caffeine is both good and bad.
“When you don’t go overboard with caffeine, you can have increased focus and alertness,” McGuffey said. “They’ve done studies on increased endurance in athletes, if you consume a cup of coffee before you go for a long run. Or things like faster reaction time and decrease in sleepiness, like when you wake up in the morning and you need that cup of coffee to get a pick-me-up.”
McGuffey said a good recommendation of caffeine intake per day is probably about 300mgs the equivalent of two to three cups of coffee. And although she is not aware of being able to overdose on caffeine, there are some side effects from ingesting too much.
“Sometimes you can have some adverse effects like shakiness, irritability, GI (gastro intestinal) discomfort, stomach issues, nervousness, insomnia and things like that,” McGuffey said. “Then there are people who are naturally just sensitive to caffeine and might experience those (discomforts) when they have lower doses of caffeine. If you have high blood pressure or heart problems, you should always talk to your doctor about caffeine intake.”
Where we get caffeine
McGuffey stated some fitness waters also contain hidden sources of caffeine, specifically in the form of Guarana.
“It’s important to note that caffeine is not a regulated substance,” McGuffey said. “All food doesn’t have to have a label on it saying ‘this is how much caffeine is in a product’. So you have to educate yourself on what has caffeine in it.”
McGuffey listed some of the more popular caffeinated items as energy drinks, caffeinated sodas, teas, chocolate, coffee ice cream and coffee desserts.
“If students are having trouble sleeping, I would definitely look at what kind of food or drinks they are consuming that maybe have caffeine in them,” McGuffey said.
The dangers and how to overcome them
For sleep issues, McGuffey suggested stopping caffeine at 3 p.m., because it takes six hours to fully metabolize caffeine.
Caffeine is an upper, it’s a stimulant. But when students are mixing it with alcohol, it’s a depressant, according to McGuffey.
McGuffey said that mixing the upper of caffeine with the downer of alcohol can be risky. Especially for students consuming energy drinks at a social function. Students could have a tendency to drink more than they normally would and potentially put themselves in dangerous situations.
Over consumption of alcohol in an energized state could lead to alcohol poisoning, according to McGuffey, because when students don’t have the boost of caffeine their body will naturally get tired from the consumption of alcohol and will normally go to bed or stop drinking. But when students are stimulated from the caffeine, there’s no mechanism to tell them to stop before it becomes dangerous.
McGuffey said another mention worth noting is energy drinks not only have caffeine, but many of them market themselves as containing B vitamins. B vitamins are good sources of energy but are watersoluble so they flush out of your system as soon as your body has had enough. So although you think you’re paying for the B vitamins, in reality your body might not even be using them.
“Just be weary of the claims made on energy drinks,” McGuffey said. “Always remember that energy actually comes from the foods you eat, like carbohydrates, proteins and fats actually provide the energy.”
For further information about the actual ingredients in energy drinks or in foods in general, McGuffey offers grocery store tours to students wanting to learn more about how to buy quick, easy and healthy foods on a budget. More information about this can be found on the Health Center’s website.