Maybe you definitely shouldn’t have gone to that party last night. Maybe you just forgot. Maybe you’re the lazier than The Dude from The Big Lebowski. Maybe you’re the center of the rapidly collapsing universe. No matter how you got here, you have WAY more things to do than a standard 8 hours of sleep allots for. Unfortunately, you also exist on a different plane of reality than Homework Machines and time-turners. You have two options: suffer through the following hours with a migraine and the deteriorating strength of your own will, or grab some caffeine and own this thing.
What is caffeine, really?
Bad news first. Caffeine is a drug. A real drug, that shares similar functions with amphetamines, cocaine and heroin, including addictive and tolerant properties. It’s found in many different kinds of plants, where it serves as a natural pesticide, killing most insects that ingest it.
So…uh…why is it totally legal and used by 90% of adults in the United States? Can you die from a caffeine overdose? Technically, yes. But liquid caffeine is a natural diuretic, and by the time you’ve ingested a fraction of the amount needed to kill you, your body will have already gotten rid of it. Our peeps over at Energy Fiend have created an incredibly entertaining app called Death by Caffeine that spits out the lethal dose that corresponds with your weight and beverage of choice. Good news, folks. A 130-pound human would have to drink 82.53 cups of coffee to start pushing up daisies. Experts cite about 500mg of caffeine as the absolute daily limit, which translates to a little over 11 Diet Cokes, 3 Rockstars, or 2 tall Starbucks coffees.
What does it do?
Like other stimulant drugs, caffeine creates a sense of reduced fatigue, increased alertness, clearer flow of thought, heightened focus, and improved body coordination.
Where do I get it?
A friend of mine once said that you don’t start drinking alcohol because it tastes good, you drink it for the effects, and eventually begin to tolerate/even enjoy the taste. The same seems to go with coffee. I remember Christmas mornings as a little girl, when my mom would offer me a bite of her biscotti dipped in coffee. I always spit it out and demanded that she eat them plain. I must’ve grown up sometime since then, because I’m pretty sure that a spontaneous blood sample would indicate trace amounts of espresso.
If you’re not interested in midnight-hued sludge, coffee comes in a variety of more palatable forms. Standard interpretations include: Café au lait, half brewed coffee and half milk; Latté, shot(s) of espresso with a lot of milk and a little foam; Cappuccino, shot(s) of espresso with a little milk and a lot of foam; and Americano, espresso and hot water.
Whether you’re British or just want to take it easy on caffeine, tea is a mild and diverse option for bleary-eyed students everywhere. I didn’t get into drinking coffee until about two years ago, but I’ve been downing tea by the pot since my grandmother gave me my first petit-four.
The caffeine content of tea varies based on the type of leaf being brewed. For a standard 8oz cup, black tea has more caffeine than oolong, which is more caffeinated than green, which is stronger than white.
We’ll save the discussions about real sugar and artificial sweetener for another article, but in terms of straight-up caffeine quantity, diet and regular sodas prove to be essentially equal.
4. Energy Drinks
Are they good for you? Not really. What are they even made of? We don’t quite know. What do they taste like? Chemicals and cotton candy. Are they effective? Heck yes. Do we recommend them? The Prospect will endorse a good night’s sleep and that’s as far as we’ll go.
The average Monster, Nos, or Rockstar beverage packs the same punch, with approximately 160mg of caffeine a can. Redbulls are a definite outlier with only 80mg of caffeine per serving.
Believe it or not, chocolate is natural source of caffeine, with 23mg per square of baking chocolate, 14mg per square of Ghirardelli dark chocolate, and 1.3mg per Oreo cookie. Though none of these products contain enough caffeine to “feel the buzz,” they’ve inspired companies to create a host of artificially caffeinated foods, including oatmeal, sunflower seeds, brownies, potato chips, gum, and even beef jerky. Quirky e-retailer Thinkgeek has you covered from caffeinated hot sauce to electrified gummi bears, but simply picking up a Clif Bar is a simpler and healthier energy option.
Wow, sleep is for the weak.
HOLD IT RIGHT THERE. The Prospect Staff did not just tell you to pillage your local gas station for any and all caffeinated beverages. Caffeine is an addictive substance that requires you to drink responsibly, and preferably with parental consent. Dependency on caffeine really happens, and so do the unpleasant withdrawal symptoms that are so not worth the trouble. If you do choose to consume caffeine in any manner, make sure to balance the risks with the rewards, even if quitting costs you a few headaches and blurry mornings.
Caffeine statistics are sourced from our friends at Energy Fiend.