Is Caffeine Killing Your Performance?

Eddie Braverman's picture
Rank: The Pro | 21,212

Mod note: Blast from the Past: "Best of Eddie." This one is originally from 2012.

I would drink at least a pot of coffee a day and usually more back when I was trading. The first few cups were to offset the binge drinking and lack of sleep from the night before, and the rest was to maintain a base level of alertness. But a new study from Johns Hopkins says that if you want to perform better at work, drop the Starbucks.

According to the study, caffeine can have a profoundly negative impact on your emotional intelligence, also known as your EQ. The increased alertness and small "rush" you feel when you ingest caffeine tricks you into thinking you're more focused and effective, when in fact you're merely achieving your normal levels and setting yourself up for caffeine withdrawals to boot.

By controlling for caffeine use in study participants, John Hopkins researchers found that caffeine-related performance improvement is nonexistent without caffeine withdrawal. In essence, coming off caffeine reduces your cognitive performance and has a negative impact on your mood. The only way to get back to normal is to drink caffeine, and when you do drink it, you feel like it's taking you to new heights. In reality, the caffeine is just taking your performance back to normal for a short period.

It's even worse for traders, because the caffeine jolt increases your emotional response, especially anxiety, and we all know that emotions spell doom in trading. It all makes sense, but I couldn't imagine putting in the hours necessary for this line of work without a little chemical assistance, and caffeine is among the most benign "little helpers" if you know what I mean.

I'll admit that I was a full-on caffeine addict for much of my adult life, so I know how hard it would be to work without it. Now if I have two cups in the morning (on an empty stomach) I get the jitters and feel nauseous.

How do you guys deal with it? Are you mainlining Starbucks every day? Red Bull? White Crosses? (okay, that last one is a reference only us old timers would get) Or have you found a better way to stay "up" without all the deleterious effects of caffeine?

Comments (58)

Sep 10, 2012
Sep 10, 2012

Love my coffee. I usually have 2 cups in the morning and another in the afternoon.

I found an app, Caffeine Zone, a few months ago. You input how much coffee or tea you drink, when you drink it, and how quickly and it tracks how caffeinated you are throughout the day. It was really surprising to see how easy it is to be "over caffeinated".

http://www.businessweek.com/articles/2012-02-23/ca...

Sep 10, 2012

1 8 oz Cup in the morning
1 8 oz Cup in the afternoon

Should be set for the rest of the day. Keeping the coffee you drink at a low amount limits the up's and down's of energy levels and doesn't nurture dependance - as much.

Sep 10, 2012

God help you if you try and take my coffee away during the day. haha. Though I will say that I have been attempting to cut back on the constant ingestion of caffeine, and i've noticed that sometimes if you slip in a cup or two of decaf you will pick up a placebo effect and trick your body into thinking it's getting caffeine. I know some guys will take aderall and other types of stuff, but I haven't really had to do that yet to keep up.

I definitely think there is a point where caffeine offers diminishing returns, especially once your body gets used to it and your ordering triple and quadruple shot espressos just to keep pace. But I actually enjoy coffee so it isn't too big of a deal.

Sep 10, 2012
Addinator:

God help you if you try and take my coffee away during the day. haha. Though I will say that I have been attempting to cut back on the constant ingestion of caffeine, and i've noticed that sometimes if you slip in a cup or two of decaf you will pick up a placebo effect and trick your body into thinking it's getting caffeine. I know some guys will take aderall and other types of stuff, but I haven't really had to do that yet to keep up.

I definitely think there is a point where caffeine offers diminishing returns, especially once your body gets used to it and your ordering triple and quadruple shot espressos just to keep pace. But I actually enjoy coffee so it isn't too big of a deal.

Well said. Just started FT and I've never had a cup of decaf until recently. After cup 2 or 3, there are noticeable instances of diminishing returns. I've been trying to limit myself to 2 "shots in the dark" (10-12 oz cup w/ shot of espresso) of caffeine a day, but with these new NFL season Monday hangovers, it's going to be tough.

Sep 10, 2012

I never drink coffee or caffeine unless I'm unusually sleep deprived. I just never feel the need to. However I probably don't have to work the same kind of hours as most of you.

Sep 10, 2012

I don't really need coffee. I like it, I mean it goes well with a cigarette, and it wakes me up but I don't feel that I can't function without it.

It's weird actually. During undergrad and my MSF I drank at least 5 cups of black coffee without sugar each day, because it was there and during my MSF it was free, and right next to the 24-hour computer room.

As soon as I moved in both cases, I stopped drinking without really even noticing that I stopped. Basically, I'm not going to make effort to get coffee. At most, I'll get it if the coffee machine is quick and not more than 50 paces from where I am.

And this is after 3.5 years of drinking every day, half a years break because I moved and forgot about coffee, and then another year of drinking several cups per day.

I'm addicted to coca-cola though. : /

Sep 10, 2012

ive dropped all caffeine a year ago, feel fantastic without it. I just wake up in the morning and I am good to go, i couldnt do anything without having a cup previously lol

Sep 10, 2012

I enjoy coffee more than my coworkers for the time being. At this point, caffeine is my work wife, even if it isn't making me more productive.

Sep 10, 2012

2 8oz cups in the morning, 2-3 8oz cups in the afternoon, and 8oz after 6 pm.

Sep 10, 2012

1 cup of coffee (2 espressos, 2 Decaf espressos for the taste, water + creamer). Reheat it all day.

Most days I don't even finish it.

But Rhaegar fought valiantly, Rhaegar fought nobly, Rhaegar fought bravely.

And Rhaegar died.

Aug 10, 2013

This happens to me all the time and I love coffee.

Brb epresso and need to reheat it because I got caught up working
brb go to drink coffee and it is cold because I forgot I had it

Sep 10, 2012

Coffee never got hold of me. Although, I do drink soda for the better part of the day. I've begun to taper off a bit though and am drinking water more (with something in it for flavor though). Can't go totally off the carbonation though.

"Now go get your f'n shinebox!"

Sep 10, 2012

Down to one cup in the morning for the last few months. It feels like a constant, ten year panic attack is ending. Only downside: need sleep, lots of it. For a while, it was approaching several pots a day, I was on a first name basis with every barista within a two mile radius and no one cares how much coffee you take when you're working in a restaurant. When I was a bartender, I worked with more than a few cokeheads and even they asked what I was on.

Coffee is part of the American nightmare: caffeine all day to keep you up doing some brainless task, drugs/alcohol to knock you down at night. Side note: nicotene is a synergist to caffeine, and functions like a mood stabilizer, so you're wired but somewhat more focused, and they go well together. They're not as expensive per dose as hard drugs, but they bleed you financially: Starbucks, Anheiser-Busch, and Phillip Morris are making a killing by nickel and diming people...or rather, dollaring people. That lifestyle is killing far more people than hard drugs, just not as quickly.

If you must drink caffeine, drink tea: it contains L-theanine, which has a LOT of properties of modern psychoactive drugs and fosters focused alertness. Ever wonder why asian people are kicking your ass at math? Six cups of tea a day is average in eastern cultures. It's non-addictive, cheap as dirt, and even helps potheads with their anxiety. Side note: an overwhelming majority of potheads are bipolar or suffer undiagnosed/untreated anxiety disorders... and the 'alternative' pothead lifestyle just further clusterfucks up their psyche. (P.S. not hating on weed). Back to the topic at hand: I'm about the last person who ever thought I'd say it, but green tea is a superior product. Check it out for yourself:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/L-theanine
You're absolutely right in pointing out that after a while, caffeine brings you up to what should be your normal baseline. I saw this a few months ago and it kind of hit a nerve:
http://www.coffee.co.uk/images/spider.jpg

Sep 10, 2012
UFOinsider:

You're absolutely right in pointing out that after a while, caffeine brings you up to what should be your normal baseline. I saw this a few months ago and it kind of hit a nerve:
http://www.coffee.co.uk/images/spider.jpg

UFO - Here's the video of the spider study study:

Sep 10, 2012

what about all positive studies about coffee? i.e. antioxidants, higher immunity levels, etc? anyways, good post, because i would agree one can overdo it on the sweet black bitter elixir. i am a coffee fiend, no doubt about it. and everytime i think of going off coffee or caffeine altogether, a wave of fear envelops my mind. i cannot bear the thought. that said, i feel i can drink less coffee, instead of as much i do, thereby achieving an equilibrium, whether real or perceived.

"Everything comes to those who hustle while they wait."
-Thomas Edison

Sep 10, 2012

one or two red eyes a day. no cream or sugar because I have a penis

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Feb 20, 2016
happypantsmcgee:

one or two red eyes a day. no cream or sugar because I have a penis

+1

Sep 10, 2012

Avg 5 hours of sleep, hate mornings, but never drink any caffeine of any sort. If you eat, drink, and exercise right, (easier said than done) you don't really need any of that shit.

Sep 10, 2012
WreckEmFinance:

what about all positive studies about coffee? i.e. antioxidants, higher immunity levels, etc?

Studies indicate one/two cups of coffee per day. Caffeine is also useful in preventing alzheimers and limited use improves IQ scores by several points...it literally makes your brain work better in small infrequent doses. The accompanying lifestyle of heavy coffee drinkers more likely than not negates any marginal antioxidant consumption just like overindulgence in alcohol kind of defeats the purpose of any benefits of red wine flavaniods.

happypantsmcgee:

no cream or sugar because I have a penis

LOL if you have time to sip it, you're not busy enough? Argument could be made that real men don't need chemical enhancement in the first place. Will agree that GOOD coffee should be black, don't ruin it with other flavors.

Sep 11, 2012
UFOinsider:

Studies indicate one/two cups of coffee per day. Caffeine is also useful in preventing alzheimers and limited use improves IQ scores by several points...it literally makes your brain work better in small infrequent doses. The accompanying lifestyle of heavy coffee drinkers more likely than not negates any marginal antioxidant consumption just like overindulgence in alcohol kind of defeats the purpose of any benefits of red wine flavaniods.
.

for sure. most things in moderation...very few things in excess. easier said than done right? bottles and babes bottles and babes! flavonoids. goodness i love that word. flavonoids. just saying it makes me feel healthier.

"Everything comes to those who hustle while they wait."
-Thomas Edison

Sep 11, 2012
WreckEmFinance:

for sure. most things in moderation...very few things in excess.

I think you've got that backwards.

    • 1
Sep 10, 2012

Just use Provigil.

Sep 10, 2012
Vontropnats:

Just use Provigil.

Yea because that shit isn't insanely monitored and controlled.

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses - Henry Ford

Sep 10, 2012

Just make sure your girlfriend is not taking it: you should know that modafinil (Provigil) may decrease the effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives (birth control pills, patches, rings, implants, injections, and intrauterine devices).

Sep 10, 2012

Don't you have to be a narcoleptic to use that?

"Now go get your f'n shinebox!"

Sep 10, 2012
JimmyDnFFX:

Don't you have to be a narcoleptic to use that?

Narcolepsy, excessive daytime sleepiness, or shift work disorder.

Sep 10, 2012

I have never had a cup in my life. Nor do I consume any caffeine of any kind. This is my personal bias view but any dependence you have on an outside substance is just a glaring individual weakness. I know people who literally can't get their day started without a cup of coffee and it is really really sad.

Sep 10, 2012

"I'm so excited... I'm so exciteeeed!... I'm so... SCARED!"

Harvey Specter doesn't get cotton mouth.

Sep 10, 2012
ScoobyDoobie:

"I'm so excited... I'm so exciteeeed!... I'm so... SCARED!"

And there's the White Crosses I mentioned...

Sep 10, 2012

I usually go running for 45 minutes in the morning after waking up. Makes me feel pretty awake after it and therefore have no need for coffee unless I am really really really sleep-deprived. Works good for me so far.

Sep 10, 2012

I used to be a huge caffeine addict during my freshman and sophomore year. I would wake up to a cup or two of coffee and for the rest of the day I would down Redlines and Monsters like water. One day my arm wouldn't stop shaking, so I ended up going to my doctor to see why. He told me all the caffeine was messing with me and giving me tremors. At first I didn't care, till it started happening more frequently. I ended up giving up caffeine cold turkey at the end of my sophomore year. The withdrawal was a bitch. You feel sluggish, get mild headaches, and just want to nap. But after a while when I started feeling better I found waking up early, exercising, and eating a good breakfast made me feel much more awake. I still have some tea in the morning but the even the sight of a Redline makes my stomach churn.

Personal wealth is not how much you have in the bank or the worth of your portfolio. But, rather how you've used the wealth to make your life and those around you better.

Sep 10, 2012

didn't embed - here it is:

Sep 11, 2012
villalobos:

didn't embed - here it is:

HILARIOUS

Sep 10, 2012

trying hard not to jump onto my second cup after having read this.. eventually will give in today but hopefully slowly over time I can reduce my caffein intake - have heard from several people the negative effects it can have similar to what you mentioned

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Sep 10, 2012

trying hard not to jump onto my second cup after having read this.. eventually will give in today but hopefully slowly over time I can reduce my caffein intake - have heard from several people the negative effects it can have similar to what you mentioned

WSO's COO (Chief Operating Orangutan) | My Linkedin

Sep 10, 2012

Switch to green tea. Tastes gross but does a better job than coffee and is much better for you.

"You stop being an asshole when it sucks to be you." - IlliniProgrammer

Sep 11, 2012

one cup of coffee a day in the morning

getting a nespresso machine for christmas tho

Sep 11, 2012
Unforseen:

one cup of coffee a day in the morning

getting a nespresso machine for christmas tho

Just bought my gf the nespresso will the milk frother. The pods are pretty expensive, even compared to a k-cup, but she is still saving a ton on Starbucks.

Sep 11, 2012
duffmt6:
Unforseen:

one cup of coffee a day in the morning

getting a nespresso machine for christmas tho

Just bought my gf the nespresso will the milk frother. The pods are pretty expensive, even compared to a k-cup, but she is still saving a ton on Starbucks.

I've cut my consumption way back, but I couldn't live without my Nespresso machine.

Sep 11, 2012
duffmt6:
Unforseen:

one cup of coffee a day in the morning

getting a nespresso machine for christmas tho

Just bought my gf the nespresso will the milk frother. The pods are pretty expensive, even compared to a k-cup, but she is still saving a ton on Starbucks.

Should they make necocaine machines too? So then we can put that in our stockings. I suppose a milk frother wouldn't be required though.

Sep 11, 2012

I wonder if over caffeinating on a pro-longed basis will kill brain cells like binge drinking.

I've been downing about three 16oz cups a day since sophomore year in high school.

Sep 11, 2012
ST Monkey:

I wonder if over caffeinating on a pro-longed basis will kill brain cells like binge drinking.

I've been downing about three 16oz cups a day since sophomore year in high school.

Impressive

"Now go get your f'n shinebox!"

Sep 11, 2012

Decaffeinated green tea.

Sep 11, 2012

I didn't actually start drinking coffee on the trading floor till winter 2009. FYI , I began work in Aug 2008 though , but from Aug 2008 ish , the daily adrenalin shot I received courtesy of the financial crisis was more than enough. I didn't really want coffee to add its own 20 bpm to the mix. But eventually , things settled down and I went back to the old pick-me-up.

Sep 12, 2012

Yep people need to re-appraise their caffeine use. A lot of people's bodies are normalised to it, so they get no benefit, and in fact it makes their thinking more shallow and less well grounded.

Many people feel they cannot 'get going' in the morning without caffeine; in reality they are just experiencing withdrawal from not having ingested any over the previous hours.

Withdrawal is hard, but possible.

Just read the 170+ pages of comments of people trying to get off caffeine here; http://coffeefaq.com/site/node/11
And the research referenced here; http://caffeineevaluation.blogspot.co.uk/

Aug 10, 2013

Hm. I think I will drop coffee. What about tea, are there any negatives to tea?

Aug 10, 2013
happypantsmcgee:
Vontropnats:

Just use Provigil.

Yea because that shit isn't insanely monitored and controlled.

And yet everyone on campus seems to have access to it

Aug 10, 2013

Adderall for the win :-)

Aug 10, 2013

these are the sort of studies that I pretend I never read, just so I can continue on guilt free without changing anything about my life.

Aug 10, 2013

Eye-opening read, thanks Edmundo!

Aug 10, 2013
happypantsmcgee:
Vontropnats:

Just use Provigil.

Yea because that shit isn't insanely monitored and controlled.

It's really not. Not nearly to the extent of Adderall...more to the level of Viagra. It's supposed to be non habit forming.

Aug 10, 2013

I definitely agree with Eddie that too much caffeine by itself is not good for mental performance. That's why I only mega dose first thing in the morning before the gym. That way I burn off the energy and don't get the crash part. Also I like to stack caffeine with other stimulants and ride them like a bicycle.

"It's very easy to have too many goals and be overwhelmed by them... The trick is to find the one thing you can focus on that represents every other single thing you want in life." -- @"Edmundo Braverman"

Aug 10, 2013

5hr Energy FTW

Aug 10, 2013

I used to be addicted to video games. 5 hours of sleep is a lot. What's coffee?

'Corruption? Corruption is government intrusion into market efficiencies in the form of regulations. That's Milton Friedman. He got a goddamn Nobel Prize.'

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