At the risk of inciting an international riot for entrepreneur coffee aficionados, science is saying that if we reduce our caffeine intake, it may make us healthier and more productive.

There, I said it. Now allow me to peak at CNN for scenes of looting and mayhem.

But seriously, less caffeine may actually work for you in the long run. Let me hand over the science part to an actual scientist--Emma Seppälä.

Seppälä is a reputable research psychologist, TEDx speaker, and the author of The Happiness Track: How to Apply the Science of Happiness to Accelerate Your Success.

The message she offers all busy people trying to cram 30 hours into a day is a good reminder (and a warning) to cut down on our frantic approach to productivity.

Coffee obviously exacerbates that, even with its oh-so-amazing short-term benefits. (I type this as I mischievously sit at the bar counter of my local coffee shop; old habits die hard.)

While drinking coffee is a necessary cultural norm that keeps us amped and productive, a daily fix can have spiraling effects that wreak havoc on the body.

Here's the potentially dangerous cycle that Seppälä says many of us may find ourselves in:

  • Caffeine being a stimulant, it raises cortisol levels (the natural "stress" hormone the body produces to help us wake up) above normal when we drink coffee. You definitely don't want high levels of cortisol, as it can lead to symptoms that include weight gain, mood swings, high blood pressure, and fatigue.
  • The unusually high levels of cortisol and corresponding jitteriness from consuming too much caffeine make us dependent on the anxiety that now fuels a typical workday. You'll find the same results from stimulants like sugar, energy drinks, and addictive drugs like Adderall that help us stay up and focus for long hours.
  • Now that we're over-stimulated and unable to calm down when we come home, we turn to depressants, like alcohol, sleeping pills, or anti-anxiety medication, to achieve balance. Sound the alarm if you've reached this stage.
  • This back-and-forth between stimulant-induced anxiety and depressant-induced drowsiness places an enormous burden on our already exhausted nervous system.

Seppälä​'s recommendations for better daily energy management come down to finding the right balance: Cut back on stimulants and cultivate calmness through regular daily practices like yoga, nature walks, meditation, deep breathing, and tech-fasts.

Are You Drinking Too Much Caffeine?

There's plenty of research about the dangers related to partial or total caffeine overdose. Whether it's coffee throughout the day or that jolt you get from an energy drink, here are the signs to alert you that it's time to cut down before your health is in jeopardy.

1. Your heart is racing.

2. You have stomach aches/cramps or even worse: stomach ulcers.

3. You're feeling anxious.

4. You can't sleep.

5. Your muscles are twitching.

6. You have bouts of diarrhea.

7. You're now getting regular headaches.

8. You have heart palpitations.

9. You're hallucinating.

10. The worst scenario: Cardiac arrest.

Final Thoughts

If you're now feeling discouraged (or thinking of your first rioting target), don't be. The point is not to stop drinking coffee altogether, as this isn't some holier-than-thou crusade against the wakey juice. (Did I tell you I'm typing this from a coffee bar, with latte in hand?)

Rather, you should strive for moderation, especially if you're on the far end of the spectrum--excessive consumption. Your business, work, productivity, family, livelihood--it all depends on your health and well-being. This is really a case of self-care.

And in moderation, you don't want to fall into the other side of the spectrum either--excessive deprivation. As medical science has confirmed, there are many benefits to drinking coffee. So, choose good habits wisely and "drink responsibly."

Published on: Mar 3, 2017