Today is a productive day, and it’s only 10 am. Yes, I have been up, focusing on getting work done, and having the capabilities of being able to finish everything because of the wonderous effects of caffeine. Unfortunately, I am at a place in my doctorate program where I heavily relying on caffeine to get me just to 12 pm without falling asleep. It’s a blessing and a curse. So today, I want to discuss caffeine use in grad school. Kind of a new and weird concept. But, I think, it’s a very important topic. Let’s get into it.
How much is too much caffeine in grad school
I was reading a blog post about a grad student that has never had a caffeinated drink in his life. Here’s the article if you are curious. Of course, this is quite the anomaly in grad school. Many people are extremely dependent on caffein usage. I am one of those people, unfortunately. See, I made the mistake of drinking caffeine, in high amounts, as an undergrad. Because of this, I became extremely dependent on caffein consumption, just to get through the day. But as an engineering student, I really needed the extra boost or I wouldn’t have done as well as I did.
I hit the limits of caffeine consumption that one can get to. As I have written before, I am an avid gymgoer. My caffeine consumption came from preworkout to get me through those crazy workouts before class. The more I took, the more I needed just to get by. There were days where I would hit about 1g of caffeine. On average, a cup of coffee is about 100 mg. So I was consuming 10X that amount a day. The problem with this is not just the heart palpitations or the anxiety, it’s getting used to that amount and relying on that or else you get the worst headache of your life.
Why we drink so much caffeine in grad school
We all know that grad school is tough. It’s mentally and sometimes physically demanding and the hours are long. People don’t quite understand this sometimes and they don’t really understand the struggles that grad school brings. Caffeine us in grad school is high because we need it to get stuff done. Grad school does not have a schedule and you will have quite a few nights in the lab and have to wake early for class. Many times, I will come in to my lab at 6 or 7 am and not leave until 11 pm, then have to come right back in at 7 to finish an experiment. This is one of the reasons grad students love caffeine so much and rely on it.
Another reason why grad student rely on caffeine is because it brings clarity and innovation. Imagine, for a moment, you get results back from an experiment that you did. You are looking at all of the data and have to come up with a reasoning of why this is happening. What fundamental scientific principles are at play and do these results even make sense. Drink a cup of caffeine right before and you may just have a few “aha” moments. Most of my great ideas have come from either long walks around campus or moments of intense caffeination.
Is caffeine good while in grad school?
I think the daily cup of coffee is actually quite good for grad students. It helps with productivity, learning, and just puts people in a better mood. I think when you become dependent on caffeine is when things get a little shaky. If you are able to limit yourself to less than 300 mg a day, I think that is a good amount for peak optimization of grad school potential. Any more than this and you may start feeling the negative effects of caffeine (headache, falling asleep at 1 pm, crankiness).
I think caffeine is a great thing in grad school. It has helped me significantly and given me the motivation to continue the long tasks that I need to do to finish my program. Having too much is bad though. Quite like grad school, you need to do an experiment and find out where you are most productive and what level of caffeine you need to hit this spot. If you have too much, you’ll be too jittery to do anything, too little and you’ll fall asleep at your desk.
What to drink in grad school
Coffee is the way to go. Sometimes I drink energy drinks, but those tend to make me extremely jittery and anxious. Both are very bad in grad school. Coffee has been my go to ever since I started. I try and limit the amount to 2 cups a day but often find me making a third cup. If you want to read more about coffee in grad school, go check out my blog posts about it. You can find one here and here.
Try and stay away from caffeine pills or anything similar. These can lead to overconsumption of caffeine which can cause some problems. I say, if you want caffeine, stick with tea or coffee. Some people absolutely hate the taste of coffee. In that case, tea is the way to go. You can find a billion different flavors of tea with various amounts of caffeine.
I want to thank coffee for the wonderful 4 years in grad school and the amount of motivation it has given me. It really is a wonderful thing, caffeine is. I always look forward to my cup of iced coffee in the morning and definitely look forward to my second and third cups. Let me know in the comments what your favorite form of caffeine is? Are you a coffee, tea, energy drink type of person? Let me know.
Now comes everyone’s favorite segment, grad school memes!!!! Today I want to give you two. I know I haven’t posted in a while, so I want to make it up to you guys and gals. Enjoy!