Fueling your finals week

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Graphic by Spencer Light | The Broadside (Contact: slight@cocc.edu)

By Emma Kaohi | The Broadside (Contact: ekaohi@cocc.edu)

Finals week. Two words that, when put together, can make even the toughest person squirm in their shoes.

​As Central Oregon Community College winds down on its fall term, students set to prepare for final tests and exams. Often times, finding themselves in a whirlwind of sticky-notes, highlighters, notes and yes, empty cans and cups from your favorite caffeinated beverage. Whether it be coffee, Red Bull, a rebel from Dutch Bros, or a rockstar from the Human Bean, caffeine is a finals week staple in majority of college students lives.

​“I drink probably three or four energy drinks a day,” said first-year student Jake Howell, “I’ll usually get a Red Bull, but I also really like NOS, they just usually don’t sell that in the [campus] market.”

​Although the daily dosage can vary by individual, about 400 milligrams (mg), which roughly equates to about four cups of black coffee, ten cans of cola, or two standard energy drinks appear to be safe for most adults.

However, according to a study done by the University of Kentucky, 78 percent of first-year college students consume above the recommended amount of caffeine per day. So, what is all that caffeine doing to your body?

​“If you’re over caffeinating, depending on the individual, it can lead to an individual being anxious, restless, or irritable,” said nutrition professor Ricky Virk, “It can cause an upset stomach, which I wouldn’t want to walk into an exam feeling that way. You probably feel some of these emotions from nerves because of the exam, you don’t want to feel it from the caffeine, too.”

​Caffeine is also addictive. According to the fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), a caffeine withdrawal can come with side effects including fatigue, headaches, and difficulty focusing.

​“Days where I wouldn’t drink [a caffeinated beverage], I can’t focus in class and I get tired a lot earlier in the day. Sometimes, and it doesn’t happen often, I get a headache or dizzy. Not often, but it happens,” Howell explained.

​After ingesting caffeine, it is absorbed through the small intestine and dissolved in the bloodstream. Caffeine is both water and fat soluble, which means it can be dissolved in both the bloodstream and cell membranes, therefore it is able to enter the brain.

Closely resembling a molecule called adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter that makes you feel tired, caffeine is able to attach to the receptors that would usually bind to the adenosine. By doing so, caffeine blocks the adenosine from binding and producing a tired feeling.

​“It’s similar to math, where if you multiply two negatives you get a positive. You have an inhibitor of an inhibiting chemical, so caffeine is inhibiting the adenosine,” Virk said.

​In addition to the high amounts of caffeine, energy drinks such as Red Bull, which contains about 80mg of caffeine, and NOS, which contains about 160mg of caffeine, they both contain high amounts of sugar and sugar substitutes. This can lead to weight gain, tooth decay, swelling and type two diabetes according to a study done at Harvard Medical School.  

​Another major ingredient found in most notable energy drinks is taurine, an organic amino acid found in animal tissue.

However, according to an article by Deborah Lundin, although there is evidence that taurine can improve your memory, concentration or mood, there is no evidence that it will provide any energy.

​Caffeinated drinks may not be all bad, though, “Caffeine can definitely help with attention, so if you’re a student studying for an exam and you need help focusing, it may be beneficial for you,” Virk stated.

​When finding your fuel to get through finals week, keep in mind your daily caffeine and sugar intake, as these can have more negative than positive effects, varying on individual. Instead, Virk encourages exercise and proper preparation.

“Exercise decreases stress and getting a good night’s sleep reinforces the material you learned. Also, just relax. That’s hard for students to do, but if you’ve done your work in advance, you should just be looking over your notes or the test material,” Vicks said.

For more information on caffeine consumption contact nutrition’s professor Ricky Virk at rvirk@cocc.edu. ■

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