Advice on how to best use caffeine — from a neuroscientist:
1) Consume in small, frequent amounts.
Between 20-200mg per hour may be an optimal dose for cognitive function.
2) Play to your cognitive strengths while wired.
Caffeine may increase the speed with which you work, may decrease attentional lapses, and may even benefit recall – but is less likely to benefit more complex cognitive functions, and may even hurt others. Plan accordingly (and preferably prior to consuming caffeine!)
3) Play to caffeine’s strengths.
Caffeine’s effects can be maximized or minimized depending on what else is in your system at the time. (Definitely add sugar. Grapefruit juice may prolong the effects of caffeine, while nicotine may speed up the body’s metabolism of it.)
4) Know when to stop – and when to start again.
Although you may not grow strongly tolerant to caffeine, you can become dependent on it and suffer withdrawal symptoms. Balance these concerns with the cognitive and health benefits associated with caffeine consumption – and appropriately timed resumption. (For some, withdrawal from caffeine addiction can set in after 12-24 hours and last 2-9 days. Keep in mind that recall is best when the retrieval state matched the encoding state, i.e. if you were caffeinated when you learned it, be caffeinated when you’re trying to remember it.)
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