Caffeine kills my procrastination dead. Why?
February 2, 2006 10:26 AM   Subscribe

My procrastination killer: Caffeine. But why?

I, as it seems many of my generation (born late 70s, early 80s), consider myself the biggest procrastinator in the world. And yet, I've found that caffeine will work wonders for my motivation to actually Do Stuff™ that I usually wouldn't do (think unfinished projects, stuff around the house that I've been wanting to do for ages, etc.). But why is that? What's in caffeine that gives my procrastination the ol' heave-ho? And is it even healthy drinking 1.5l of Coke a day, just to get things done?
posted by slater to Health & Fitness (21 answers total)
Coke or Diet Coke?

Because if it's sugared up, then you are taking in roughly 700 kcal in refined sugar (around 44 kcal per 100g) which is probably not a good thing. But might account for your energy.

Have you considered a caffeine dosing regimen? Just buy the stuff pure and cut up the extremely potent 200mg tablets. Or find lower dosage pills. 50-75 mg every hour can be a good medium between alertness and jagginess.
posted by meehawl at 10:31 AM on February 2, 2006

Sorry, Diet Coke. Which I hear isn't THAT much of an improvement over regular Coke, depending on which way you look at it.

And I've tried getting caffeine tablets, tho haven't been too succesful with those.
posted by slater at 10:35 AM on February 2, 2006

Any stimulant is going to make you more alert, energetic, and consequently productive. For the actual mechanics, HowStuffWorks has an excellent article on the affect of caffeine on the brain, including its interaction with dopamine and adenosine.

And no, drinking a liter and a half of Coke isn't good for you. Even if you're drinking Diet Coke, you're getting a lot of aspartame, and carbonation saps the nutriets right out of your bones. It's not even an efficient delivery system. Coffee and caffeine pills will give you much more bang for the buck.
posted by lunalaguna at 10:36 AM on February 2, 2006

I forgot to recommend Yerbe Mate, which is a South American tea with a high caffeine content. It won't make you jittery like coffee; it's a much smoother rush. I feel like all my neurons are just firing like pow pow pow when I drink it. The traditional way of drinking it is in a gourd with a metal straw, but that's hard to come by and tastes like ass. You can buy tea bags that are flavored and bit more mild. My favorite is a Mate Latte, which some of the coffee shops around here started serving last year. Yummy.
posted by lunalaguna at 11:10 AM on February 2, 2006

As a slight derail to this question, does anyone else know of good alternatives to soda/coffee/caffeine pills, such as mentioned above by lunalaguna?

I am intrigued by what people think of the various effects that different "delivery systems" give them.

(also looking for a new way to keep me up programming all night that isn't so stomach searing as the Dew)
posted by zhivota at 11:20 AM on February 2, 2006

“carbonation saps the nutriets right out of your bones”

/slight derail - does that include stuff like seltzer?
posted by Smedleyman at 11:38 AM on February 2, 2006

(also looking for a new way to keep me up programming all night that isn't so stomach searing as the Dew)

From personal experience:
Hot coffee is better than cold coffee or caffeine pills. The steam and smell give me an initial jolt, and for whatever psychosomatic reason the heat makes me more awake. I didn't really want to self-medicate, the people who I saw doing this seemed pretty messed up in the morning, YMMV.
posted by pantsrobot at 11:39 AM on February 2, 2006

carbonation saps the nutriets right out of your bones

Really? How so?
posted by meehawl at 11:43 AM on February 2, 2006

Caffeinated mints are an option. They're probably not that good for your teeth, but you could swallow them whole . . . .
posted by JanetLand at 11:45 AM on February 2, 2006

Is it possible that you have ADD? Many people don't realize it, but Ritalin is actually a stimulant, and I've heard stories of people self medicating with coffee or soda. Anecdotally, I have ADD and drink a lot of soda and have experiences similar to what you describe.

A quick google search turns up these two articles about self medicating ADD with caffeine.
posted by chndrcks at 11:46 AM on February 2, 2006

Sorry that I don't have time to find the proper citation and/or research for my carbonation statement. But yes, carbonation neutralizes stomach acid and prevents the proper digestion of nutrients. Also, many carbonated beverages contain certain acids (I believe phosphoric acid) that prevent the absorption of calcium. Just plain mineral water doesn't contain phosphorous, though.
posted by lunalaguna at 11:52 AM on February 2, 2006

CO2 in water forms a small amount of carbonic acid. Carbonic acid does not sap the nutrients out of your bones. Sodium bicarbonate is a corresponding weak base (baking soda, Tums, Alka-seltzer, etc....) and nobody seems to be afraid of it...

The pH of carbonated beverages is around 5.6 or a bit lower. Orange juice is 3.0. So if you're worried about acids, better stay away from the OJ, which is 100 times more acidic...

Sufficient quantities of any acid can rot your teeth - bulimics occasionally manage to do this with stomach acid. But soda isn't likely to do much.

For the original question: stimulants of all sorts are known to aid concentration. Ritalin for ADHD is nothing but a stimulant...
posted by jellicle at 11:57 AM on February 2, 2006

I used to drink about 1L of regular (Canadian, if it makes a difference) Coke every day during my first years of undergrad. My doctor took blood work at some point for a random check up (free health care, she wasn't looking for anything in particular, just checking) and found high triglyceride levels. I guess triglyceride is the fancy word for blood sugar and more. Something like that anyway.

I was nearly off the scale at the age of 20, she told me I'd be dead of heart disease or diabetes by the time I was 40 if I didn't stop with the sugar.

Now I get my caffeine from penguin mints (which have no sugar). I also dropped about 10 pounds when I stopped with the cola, and that was pretty much the only thing I changed at the time (I was already exercising).

So the moral of the story (from my experience) is that 1L of cola a day is way too much and will make you die young.
posted by tiamat at 1:16 PM on February 2, 2006

sustained release Ritalin (concerta) was working great for me, but I thought I was developing a slight twitch and quit taking it. I'm fishing about for a replacement.

the SR ritalin had none of the crashing or jitters associated with caffeine.

Caffeinated mints are hard to find with sugar, as opposed to aspartame.
posted by craniac at 1:17 PM on February 2, 2006

Caffeine makes you stop procrastinating for the same reason that ritalin does. Or adderal. Or crystal meth. Or cocaine.

It's a fairly strong central nervous system stimulant.

That's why stimulants are so popular with college students; it helps them to buckle down and study, study, study.
posted by Justinian at 2:11 PM on February 2, 2006

I self-medicated with stimulants all my life, until being diagnosed with ADHD last year. The ADHD meds (currently Adderall) stop my procrastination instead of just making me more hyper. In a weird way I almost feel slower because I can follow one thought as long as I need to instead of my brain hopping all over the place.

Stimulants made me want to accomplish *something* but not the ability to plan and see it through the way I can now.
posted by Mamapotomus at 3:56 PM on February 2, 2006

Third the ADD or ADHD reason. Stimulants can "calm" the wandering mind enough to focus and get something done. A lot of procrastination can be chalked up to the inability to limit one's thought process at coming up with endless possibilities.

Stimulants like caffeine can focus you enough to just follow one thought process all the way through. Many ADD sufferers used to (still do?) self medicate with cocaine which, rather than made them hyper, made them highly focused.

I used to do it with Mt Dew, but the calories caught up to me.
posted by qwip at 8:13 PM on February 2, 2006

I think that's a bit misleading when it comes to the effect of stimulants on non-ADD people. People without attention disorders can also become focused when using stimulants such as amphetamines or cocaine (that's why they are so popular, as I said, with students who need to cram for finals).
posted by Justinian at 9:08 PM on February 2, 2006

Our bodies have relatively massive and constantly replenished reservoirs of both bicarbonate and phosphoric acid. I remain to be convinced that carbonated drinks pose any sort of risk to a healthy body in metabolic homeostasis.
posted by meehawl at 9:18 PM on February 2, 2006

Personally, I do pseudoephedrine.
posted by RikiTikiTavi at 10:14 PM on February 2, 2006

That HowStuffWorks article contains so many blatant, outright errors that it's not worth reading.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:41 AM on February 3, 2006

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