Episode 69: Surviving Academia with … Coffee!

surviving academia on coffee


Coffee is a staple in the lives of many academics and PhD students, helping them power through long lab hours and important meetings. In this episode, Suzanne and Jayron dive into the science behind coffee, exploring its benefits, potential risks, and the intricacies of its consumption.

The Complex Composition of Coffee

One of the most intriguing aspects of coffee is its complex composition. Roasted coffee is a blend of over 1,000 bioactive compounds, each potentially contributing to its effects. While naming all of these compounds would be an arduous task, some key active components include caffeine, chlorogenic acids, diterpenes, kafestol, and kahweol. The podcast highlights that caffeine is the most famous and widely studied element, and therefore the focus of their discussion.

Understanding Caffeine's Effects

Caffeine, sourced from coffee beans and also found in tea and cacao beans, is widely acknowledged as the most widely used stimulant globally. Upon consumption, caffeine is rapidly absorbed into the bloodstream, reaching peak levels within 30 to 60 minutes. The substance works by blocking adenosine receptors in the brain, leading to increased alertness and wakefulness. These effects are amplified when individuals are in a state of low energy or arousal, making it particularly valuable for tired academics. However, it’s essential to be mindful of the potential side effects of excessive caffeine intake, such as anxiety, restlessness, and palpitations.

Balancing Coffee Consumption and Health

The podcast delves into various studies examining the association between coffee consumption and health outcomes. Moderation appears to be key, with research suggesting that moderate coffee consumption is linked to a lower risk of all-cause mortality and certain diseases. However, excess coffee intake may lead to detrimental effects on health. Studies indicate that habitual consumption of 3 to 5 cups of coffee per day is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and certain types of cancer. However, there is a tipping point, beyond which the potential adverse effects of excessive caffeine intake become apparent.

Coffee's Cognitive Benefits and Application to Academia

Beyond its physical health impacts, coffee’s cognitive effects and potential benefits in academic settings are explored. Research indicates that caffeine can enhance memory performance, making it useful for tasks that require quick recall and sustained attention. Moreover, it shows promise in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The podcast discusses how the military recognizes the utility of caffeine in high-stress, sleep-deprived situations, showcasing its potential relevance in academia.

Insights into Tea and Comparisons with Coffee

In an interesting shift, the podcast briefly touches on a study comparing the health effects of coffee and tea consumption. The study found that both beverages offer health benefits, albeit with varying impacts on different disease categories. This prompts the consideration of the potential benefits of tea for academics, sparking curiosity about the nuances of tea’s composition and its implications for cognitive function and health.


The podcast leaves listeners with a comprehensive exploration of coffee’s multifaceted effects and its implications for academic life. It reflects on the complexities of caffeine consumption, emphasizing the need for moderation and mindfulness. The episode not only highlights the tangible benefits of coffee but also evokes curiosity about potential ongoing research on tea and its role in academia.

If you enjoyed this then consider checking out our episode on intermittent fasting as well. Or if you’re contemplating  the benefits of cold showers you can also check out episode 23 for more info on that topic.

Also consider checking out our previous episode with Ashley Ruba for tips on how to leave academia for a non-academic career.

Until next time !

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