The Downside To Drinking Coffee: One Workaholic’s Experience

Drinking coffee has its pros and cons. With the amount of work I do during the week, whether it be producing a podcast, writing new blogs, working on my latest story ideas or any of the countless other tasks I set for myself, I constantly expect to maintain a state of full focus and concentration. This is of course not possible! I learned the hard way that there is a downside to drinking too much coffee.

When walking passed any multitude of cafés and coffee shops around here and smelling the rich aroma of freshly brewed coffee, the temptation to grab a coffee can be compelling. That wonderful buzz from drinking coffee is enough to sharpen my brain perfectly for any number of tasks I want to knock off during the day. There is; however, a major downside.

To state the obvious, and what countless others have discussed, coffee gives you a fake high. It pumps you up at the expense of a later crash. This may be okay once or twice, but after you are addicted, the constant comatose state you feel on a daily basis as you keep drinking more and more is nothing short of terrible (at least in my experience). Rather than talk about the facts and the downside of drinking too much coffee in a clinical way since that’s been done to death, I’ll just give you a quick overview of one of my experiences with coffee.

I directed a no-budget feature film back in 2004. The shoot was mainly on weekends, and I held down a day job during the week. For a 3-4 month period, I was in effect working on average between the day job and the film 10-14 hours a day, 7 days a week. I hadn’t been a big coffee drinker before, but I decided to start during this time to get some help with keeping up my focus and concentration. This turned out to be a huge problem.

Initially I had a great pick up that would last most of the day, but over the course of a few weeks, the net benefit was gone. I found my overall energy level dropped sharply, and my focus and concentration actually went backwards. Once the caffeine hit wore off after each coffee, my mind would become very foggy and unclear. By the end of the shoot, I was dead tired by 6pm, and I had a lot of trouble sleeping through the night which would in turn make it worse for me the next day. My body also felt terrible. I felt stiff in my shoulders and upper back and had no desire to engage in any physical activity whatsoever. This was after having a maximum of two, albeit strong, coffees each day.

I knew I had way more energy than that, so I decided to quit coffee cold turkey. This turned out to be very tough. For about two weeks, I had constant harsh headaches and a foggy mind, which resulted in my complete inability to focus and do any of the work I wanted to do. I desperately wanted my focus and concentration to come back. Eventually it did; I woke up one morning and it was as if the clouds lifted and I could see the wonderful blue sky again. I felt my energy had returned to normal and my brain was functioning in its proper state again. It felt great to be back!

I have tried to drink coffee only once in a while after that experience. I have had a few smaller binges since then, and each time I have been reminded harshly about the downside of drinking coffee. You may be lucky if coffee doesn’t have this effect on you, but tread carefully if you decide to drink it on a regular basis.


Image Credits: [Sydney Morning Herald] [Body and Soul]