Approximately 54 percent of American adults consume coffee every day, and odds are good they're doing it wrong.
Coffee (and, more generally, caffeine) brings with it a host of benefits, but when and how you consume caffeine can have a big impact on your ability to maximize those perks. At its best, the most popular stimulant in America can boost work productivity by improving reaction time, logical reasoning, memory, speed, and attentiveness.
In order to learn how to best utilize caffeine, look to the biohacking movement. Adventurous entrepreneurs and a variety of scientific researchers have experimented with the nootropic in order to gain insight into how caffeine interacts with natural bodily processes and how it can best be put to use.
The following strategies--gleaned from the biohacking movement--will help ensure that you achieve an optimum productivity boost from caffeine.
1. When you wake up, skip the cup 'o joe.
A Harvard study found that approximately 65 percent of American coffee drinkers consume the beverage at breakfast--and all of these people may be effectively shooting themselves in the foot. That's because our bodies' natural circadian rhythms promote the production of energy-boosting cortisol between 8 and 9 a.m.
This means that many of us pile on the caffeine at a time when our bodies are already at their most wakeful, which can actually make it harder to feel alert. For best results, hold off on consuming caffeine until later in the morning.
2. Know when cortisol dips
Assuming adequate sleep patterns, most people's bodies enter peak cortisol production between 8 and 9 a.m., 12 and 1 p.m., and 5:30 and 6:30 p.m. That means the best time to consume caffeine is in between these blocks, when your body's energy is naturally dipping and could really benefit from a boost.
Aim to have your first cup in the late morning (sometime between 10 and 11:30 a.m.).
3. Consume small amounts frequently.
A well-regarded study found that consuming low doses of caffeine throughout the day--instead of one or two grande lattes back-to-back--may be the best way to maintain alertness and improve work performance and cognition.
To put this theory into practice, aim to consume around 2 oz. (a quarter cup) of coffee approximately every hour. Doing so can help maintain a steady release of caffeine into the bloodstream throughout the day, meaning you're more likely to feel consistently alert.
4. Choose the right pairings
Just as when you consume caffeine can have an impact on the substance's effectiveness, so too can what you consume while imbibing. For best results, pair caffeine with foods that are high in flavonoids, such as soy or fresh fruit, which may help caffeine stick around in the bloodstream for longer periods of time.
If possible, avoid pairing nicotine with caffeine--doing so may speed up caffeine metabolism, meaning it will provide less of a boost. In general, eating well, staying hydrated, and taking good care of your body will enable caffeine to work to optimum effect.
5. Play to caffeine's strengths
Caffeine benefits work performance in distinct ways, so it's a good idea to be selective about the tasks you'll complete when caffeine is coursing through your bloodstream. (For reference, caffeine peaks in the bloodstream approximately 30 minutes after it's been consumed.)
Caffeine can improve work speed and focus, but it may not benefit complex cognitive or creative tasks. For best results and maximum efficiency, choose to complete repetitive tasks (such as responding to emails) while caffeine is elevated in your bloodstream.
6. Try a caffeine nap
Bear with some exposition, here: Whenever you're awake, a compound called adenosine naturally accumulates in your brain and eventually causes drowsiness. During sleep, the brain clears out adenosine. Consuming coffee while you're awake can limit the accumulation of adenosine, thereby helping to mitigate drowsiness.
What does this mean for your caffeine consumption? It may be worth experimenting with so-called "caffeine naps," in which you consume caffeine, take a 15-20 minute nap, and then wake up. According to biohackers, this provides an additional energy boost compared to consuming caffeine when adenosine has already accumulated in the brain.
7. Prioritize moderation
The FDA maintains that 400 mg of caffeine per day (or around four cups of coffee) is a safe limit for healthy adults. Go too far beyond that (say, to 500 or 600 mg), and you may feel restless, irritable, or nauseated, or have trouble sleeping.
Because every body is different, it's a good idea to experiment with these tips and modify them as necessary in order to identify the ideal caffeine ingestion strategy for you. Tracking apps (such as Caffeine Zone 2, which was developed at Penn State University) can help you identify patterns by allowing you to input when you consume caffeine and letting you know how long the stimulant will stay elevated in your bloodstream.