7 Reasons Why Coffee Sucks for Taking Tests

Introduction: Why do students drink coffee before taking tests?

Coffee is the most widely used nootropic and especially by college students when studying for tests. Exams seem to get more and more difficult every year. With the increasing pressure to do well and limited energy, most people will go for a cup of coffee. Let’s face it, coffee is delicious, cheap, widely available, and pretty much integrated with our society. As of now, 8 million college students are consuming coffee to help them with their exams[1]. So what is the harm? What if we told you that by drinking coffee, you are stacking the deck in favor of your failure? So let’s talk about some of the effects of coffee and why it may be time to switch to something better.

1. Coffee is a vasoconstrictor

Caffeine is known to constrict blood vessels in the brain[2]. While it may not be the first thing on your mind when trying to decide what flavor to get at starbucks, it can severely impact your mental performance and even cause migraines (a disorder caused by lack of blood flow to brain cells that causes the brain to temporarily stop working and is usually associated with extreme pain). When the blood vessels in your brain constrict, little blood can get through these tight tubes, thus blocking vital oxygen, glucose, and other nutrients from entering your brain cells. Your brain uses the oxygen and glucose to make ATP, which is the energy molecule for your cells. If your cells don’t get enough ATP, they literally slow down in all their biological processes including synaptic firing. Synaptic firing is when one brain cell creates and electronic charge that travels down a long connecting arm called a dendrite to the nearby brain cells. This is the fundamental of what creates thinking. Stop the ATP, stop the thinking. Furthermore, your brain cells require other nutrients such as minerals to send electricity, vitamins to produce more signalling chemicals, and antioxidants to protect your brain from free radical exposure.

2. Coffee increases anxiety

In recent studies, participants have been shown to have an increase in anxiety due to drinking caffeine[3]. This is likely due to the over excitation of neuronal firing due to an imbalance between adrenaline and GABA (your brain’s natural way of calming itself down). Increased anxiety is associated with a lack of focus, nervousness, and unclear thinking. There is already a lot to be nervous about when showing up for a test. Why make it worse?
In this study as well as a few others, it is concluded that even a single regular dose of caffeine in the day can cause big deficits in sleep quality[4]. Sleep is the most important nootropic of them all. Improved sleep is linked to increased creativity, alertness, reaction times, focus and mood. Anything that disrupts sleep can be counterproductive to studying. Even studying too late without caffeine, and getting little sleep can cause a huge lack of performance on test day.

Coffee can cause you to lose sleep

In this study as well as a few others, it is concluded that even a single regular dose of caffeine in the day can cause big deficits in sleep quality[4]. Sleep is the most important nootropic of them all. Improved sleep is linked to increased creativity, alertness, reaction times, focus and mood. Anything that disrupts sleep can be counterproductive to studying. Even studying too late without caffeine, and getting little sleep can cause a huge lack of performance on test day.

4. Coffee can cause dehydration

Caffeine is in a class of substances called diuretics[5]. Diuretics, when taken cause the body to excrete its water stores. In normal dosages (below 200mg) caffeine doesn’t have much of an effect on dehydration[6]. However, even a slight off-balance in one’s electrolyte levels is enough to disrupt the delicate electrochemical balance of the brain. Dehydration is associated with lethargy, clouded thinking, poor judgement, and a loss in cognitive performance.[7] All things that keep you from doing well on a test.

5. Coffee decreases creativity and abstract thinking

Caffeine is also known to decrease one’s creativity. This is due to the way it activates certain areas of the brain. Because it gives laser like focus, it removes the ability to grab ideas from outside of the scope of the problem. There have been no studies on caffeine’s effect on creativity because of its difficulty to measure, however, it is a common side effect among many users, and could be true for you as well.

6. Coffee can “crash” you in the middle of a test

Caffeine acts by blocking the adenosine channels which leads to an increase in mainly adrenaline, secondly dopamine, as well as a few other neurotransmitters. Adrenaline is like NOS for a race car. It is great for a quick burst, but has damaging effects long term and must be moderated. Along with adrenaline is the release of other hormones that are associated with stress such as cortisol. Cortisol tells your body how stressed you are and causes you to seek rest and healing. Which is great if you are. However, improper timing on your coffee intake could lead to having a hard time when taking your test. These effects start immediately, but usually are not felt until the caffeine starts wearing off after about 8 hours or so. So if you drink a cup of coffee at 7am for example, 3pm might be a really bad time to have an exam.

7. Coffee impairs memory

Caffeine is shown to improve memory only when you are doing menial activities such as taking out the trash. However, as soon as your mind is in a high demand situation, such as taking a test, or cramming through a textbook, then memory and recall abilities drop like a rock. Caffeine isn’t shown to have any significant changes in long term memory, but if you are trying to gather facts to write in your notes, or trying to remember answers to a specific question on a quiz, good luck.

Conclusion: What can I do to better my results

So we have shared with you 7 reasons why coffee sucks for taking tests. At this point you may be saying to yourself, “Well, its certainly better than no coffee! What else could I do?” Don’t worry, we aren’t going to just drop the bomb and not clean up the mess. We are here to share information to make your life better. The first thing we will say is that the best way to reduce the side effects of caffeine is to reduce the intake. Eliminate if you feel comfortable. Secondly, one can take a supplement with stimulants that work to increase mainly acetylcholine (the neurotransmitter responsible for learning) rather than adrenaline (the neurotransmitter responsible for stress induced action). Thirdly, adaptogens are very complimentary to stimulants in reducing stress related side effects. Three adaptogens that are popularly combined with coffee are bacopa monnieri, L-theanine, and ashwagandha. Fourth, taking a supplement like cordyceps sinensis (in a small dosage) might also reverse the vasoconstriction too. Fifth, drinking coconut water or gatorade can restore electrolytic balances and rehydrate the body. Sixth, if you do choose to drink coffee or some other stimulant, not taking it 8 hours before bed time could help improve your sleep and improve your testing performance.
One thing to note is that for each of the side effects mentioned in this article, we have a product called THRIIV that (despite it’s small dose of caffeine) was designed to have significantly reduced all of the side effects of caffeine listed here, all the while producing more effects that are contributive toward learning by delivering increased cognition, mood, learning speed, and memory formation and recall. To learn more, click here.

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