Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Caffeinated Coder – Short Circuiting Your Body

In 16 years of my professional career, if there is one thing that’s common between all companies where I worked, then it’s certainly the high amounts of coffee consumed by programmers and other engineers. Understandably, developers need frequent energy boosts to stay focused and productive in this demanding and challenging line of work. 

I was doing the same thing – drinking 3-4 cups of coffee per day, and was considered “low” coffee drinker compared to other coffee-addicts that consumed 6+ cups a day. Then, with the age, I developed IBS, which, in my case, prevented me from drinking coffee. After stopping drinking coffee, I felt extremely low energy and had serious difficulties concentrating and working with any degree of intensity. It was much like any other addiction: when you stop it, it hurts.

Then I discovered the mid-day exercise. The building where I work has an excellent gym, and I decided to try it at lunchtime. I wanted to go there to work on my back pain, but, to my greatest surprise, I discovered that doing intense exercise during the day, gave me more energy than any amounts of coffee that I used to consume. After coming back from gym, I’m full of energy, don’t need any coffee or tea, can concentrate, and generally feel significantly better.

It almost feels like by consuming coffee we short-circuit our brain into feeling energy. Of course, it’s unscientific and speculative, but, based on my own anecdotal evidence, I can recommend at least to try substituting some of the caffeine with a more healthy alternatives like mid-day exercise. The same, by the way, applies to using caffeine as a substitute to decent sleep. Yes, it’s possible to get a temporary boost, but I can’t imagine that in the long run this is sustainable or healthy.

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