The Science Behind Coffee and Productivity

Whether the workday starts for you in an office cubicle or a virtual Zoom meeting, chances are, your attention span is fueled by a morning coffee habit. In fact, a 2020 survey from the National Coffee Association has found that 62 percent of Americans drink this caffeinated elixir on a daily basis, with the average person downing about three cups each day. 

But does this beverage actually make you feel more productive, or is it just a placebo effect? The answer might surprise you, but as it turns out, this link between coffee and productivity is not in your own imagination—and the science exists to prove it. So whether your preference is a caramel macchiato from Starbucks or a pour-over brew from your kitchen, consider the following data just the reason you need to have that second cup (or fourth)!     

The Cognitive Benefits of Coffee

In recent years, the coffee bean has earned “superfood” status due to its nutrient profile of beneficial antioxidants such as flavonoids, lignans and polyphenols which reduce inflammation and oxidative stress to boost overall immune function. But while this is reassuring news in the era of COVID-19, that’s not all java consumption can do for your health. The cognitive benefits are equally powerful and robust. 

Because this beverage is a natural source of caffeine, it will sustain energy levels for a much longer period of time than synthetic caffeine without the blood sugar crash that comes with many other artificial drinks or stimulants. As a result, coffee helps to accelerate your brain’s neurotransmitter chemicals such as adrenaline, dopamine and serotonin to counteract mental fatigue and enhance the ability to focus, according to the Nutrients Journal

This bioactive compound release of antioxidants, caffeine and neurotransmitters ultimately join forces to sharpen the mind—therefore, boosting productivity. In other words, there’s a reason coffee is such an ubiquitous part of so many office cultures. The impact it has on cognitive function (not to mention, the bold, smooth flavor that’s nearly impossible to resist) makes coffee the ideal morning jump-starter, afternoon slump-fighter, and just about every other workday essential in between. Cheers to that, am I right?!

Maximize Coffee’s Impact on Productivity.   

So it’s been established that coffee deserves its well-earned spot in your morning routine, but when and how you consume java is important too. Chris Bailey, business consultant and author of The Productivity Project shares a few action-steps in his book on how to maximize this coffee habit to achieve the mental performance outcome you’re looking for:    

  • Aim to drink coffee between the hours of 9:30 and 11:30 AM, as this is the window of time when your brain needs the most help staying alert. 
  • Limit your intake of creamers, syrups, extracts and other sugary coffee additives that will energize you in the short term, but then lead to a subsequent crash. (Pro tip: If you’re not able to stomach the taste of black coffee, lighten it with a splash of plain non-dairy milk and one packet of natural stevia, coconut sugar or monk fruit.)
  • Finish your last cup eight hours before your normal bedtime, otherwise the caffeine will cause over-stimulated brain activity and make it hard to fall asleep.   

Well, there you have it…coffee and productivity are a data-backed match. So if you need an excuse to take your java obsession to the next level, science has you covered.

What is your morning coffee ritual, and how does it impact your focus, alertness, energy and overall work performance? Spill the—ahem—beans in the comment section below! 

About Author

Mary-Elizabeth Meagher is a freelance writer, social media marketer, travel enthusiast, musical theatre nerd and self-described bohemian. She lives and seeks adventure in the Arizona desert, and she also blogs over at Health Be a Hippie—her personal contribution to making the internet a more authentic, vulnerable and empowering place.

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