Caffeine’s Legal High – Slow Down Or Break Down! The effect of Caffeine on the entrepreneur is a concern. Caffeine is probably the most used nervous system stimulant globally and like every other drug, is subject to inadvertent abuse.
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Have you ever met an entrepreneur who had time to spare? There is a popular saying that entrepreneurs often need more than 24 hours every day to get tasks done. Often, dawn morphs very quickly into dusk without even noticing when one juggles emails, telephone calls, meetings, chats, news, logistic glitches, and finicky customers. Especially in a city like Lagos. You need to bring your A-game all day and every day. And I mean that literally.
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My friend runs a fledgling logistics business in Lagos and he often has to constantly manage three time zones on a daily basis to keep the value chain buoyant. His partners in China are usually up and about while he is in bed in Lagos while his suppliers in the U.S are just rounding up the day’s business at about that same time. So, he gets caught in this continuum of sleeplessness where he is up till the wee hours of the day and on the road a few minutes later to beat Lagos traffic and meet deadlines. Of course, he cannot keep going without some kick and so he gets high legally. Caffeine!
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Effect Of Caffeine On The body
Caffeine is probably the most used nervous system stimulant globally and like every other drug, is subject to inadvertent abuse. But hey, it is legal in virtually every part of the world. So when my friend is not knocking back Red Bulls or Power Horses, he is sipping coffee from a small metallic flask he carries around in his car. He needs the rush to keep awake – to keep going. His case is not particularly isolated.
Consider that a study done by John Hopkins University found that over 80% of North American children and adults had developed a habit of taking caffeine and you get an inkling of just how big the problem may be. Typically, there are no figures for the trend in these parts of the world but I assume the picture is only slightly better, if it even is at all, among young people here.
I recall vividly how much caffeine my classmates and I abused as medical students. We would attempt to cheat Mother Nature by pulling all-nighters with our books after consuming unhealthy doses of caffeine. I have even met young people who mix their energy drinks with alcohol during outings and nightclubbing just to remain alert. I find this particularly amusing given that they whip up cocktails of CNS depressants i.e. alcohol and stimulants – caffeine. What then is the net effect I wonder?
So just how deleterious are energy drinks and coffee bingeing on long-term productivity and ultimately, the health of the entrepreneur. The first thing to consider is the effect on the body’s biochemistry.
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Caffeine induces the release of adrenaline, the on-edge hormone, which makes hearts race and sets off body alarm systems. What this means is that you are instantly fired up. Now, this would be beneficial if you were in combat or fleeing from a fracas but totally unnecessary when you are interfacing with your customers! This is because this edginess is likely to make you more irritable, anxious, and impatient – all antithetical to good customer service delivery.
Imagine trying to address the concerns of a fussy customer with unhealthy doses of caffeine coursing through your veins. You are more likely to ‘snap’. This nervousness and frank anxiety are inimical to sound judgment and decision-making which may have a potentially significant impact on the bottom line.
Caffeine abuse is peculiar in the manner in which its dependency develops. The ‘high’ it seemingly gives is, in fact, a withdrawal symptom. Wait, I will explain. You see, what happens is that as the caffeine in your bloodstream starts to wear out, you begin to feel moody with a dip in mentation. Bingo! These withdrawal symptoms push you to consume more caffeine to counter them and before you know it, a full-blown vicious cycle has been established where you crave even more caffeine to tackle the primary problem.
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Another worrying effect of chronic caffeine indulgence is its well-documented effect on the body’s blood vessels. You see, there is a normal diameter that allows free flow of blood from the heart, and this vessel diameter, as ordinary as it sounds, plays a major role in how the blood pressure of an individual is regulated.
So imagine that water is trying to flow through a big tube and a small tube, you will find that you need less pressure to push the fluid through the wider opening than through the smaller one. This is basically what happens in the body also and stuff like caffeine and cholesterol both narrow blood vessels, albeit by different mechanisms. So it is easier to understand how caffeine will raise an individual’s blood pressure, especially in the presence of other risk factors.
The National Health Service in the U.K warns against drinking more than four cups of coffee per day as a lifestyle modification to ward off hypertension. A study done in the Carnegie Mellon University not only supports this assertion but goes further to expound on the effect of caffeine on the blood vessels in the brain. According to them, the narrower the vessels, the less blood supply and hence oxygen supply to the brain and subsequently the higher the chance of poor judgment and concentration lapses. This may be quite costly in the business domain where the devil is very often in the details.
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Sleep is to the human body what the AC chargers are to the Li-ion batteries in our phones. It is during sleep that our bodies reset, recharge, and repair. Quality sleep is therefore essential to prevent wear and tear. Unfortunately, caffeine adversely affects the most critical phase of the sleep cycle thus producing cranky and fuzzy-minded individuals the next morning. It does not help that a quarter of the quantity consumed in the morning may remain in the bloodstream at bedtime. Now imagine having a can of Redbull at 6 p.m. Yes, you may close your eyes in bed to sleep but rest, which is an entirely different concept, will not be achieved.
Research findings published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology suggested that caffeine users were less likely to achieve deeper stages of sleep, were more easily aroused from sleep and therefore woke more frequently and also slept an average of 2 hours less.
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Lastly, caffeine is also notorious for stimulating the production of the digestive juices in the stomach. Usually, these juices are produced in response to feeding and are essential in the breakdown of food to nutrients. What caffeine does is that even when the stomach is empty, the highly acidic juices are copiously released and eventually begin to digest the walls of the stomach since there is basically no food for them to work on. Soon, heartburns become persistent. While schools of thoughts differ on caffeine’s role as either an instigator or an aggravator in peptic ulcers, there is clearly an appreciable link and as the saying goes, better to be safe than sorry.
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Caffeine is not absolutely necessary to get by and so can be done away with. It is thought to have no nutritional benefits like kpomo. So one must wonder if the risks outweigh the benefits, (if there are indeed any at all) why bother? Proper time and personal management may help reduce the need for the kick. And no, power naps are not as grave sins as once thought.
Do not hesitate to take a power nap once you sense your performance is sub-optimal. In fact, in 2015 some German researchers found that taking 45-minute power naps enhanced memory by as much as 5 times! Additionally, it is recommended that if you must take caffeine, it must simply be because you enjoy it and not for improved performance and productivity. Moderation, as with every other vice, is paramount.
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So now that you know better, do you still think Redbull gives you wings?
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