First you feel sluggish, then wildly unproductive and inattentive. Next thing you know, you’re trawling through your high school ex-girlfriend’s wedding photos on Facebook. We know you’re doing it. “The 2–4 p.m. hours are when Facebook usage skyrockets,” says Ron Friedman, Ph.D., author of The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace. It’s the post-lunch malaise. So, is it good for you to power through with a 3 o’clock cup of joe? Actually, yes.
“Caffeine in the afternoon actually improves cognitive function and increases energy,” says Lori Zanini, R.D., C.D.E., a dietician and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. But steer clear of energy drinks like Monster or Red Bull, she advises, and stick to black coffee or espresso. The idea is to avoid sugar, which would quickly lift you—then have you bonk again. (One caveat: If you’re having trouble sleeping, hold off on that late-afternoon java. And check out the column to the right.)
Another benefit to getting coffee: “It’s about ritualization. Whether it’s ‘full test’ or decaf, taking time out to do something relaxing and enjoyable can be beneficial to personal productivity,” says Gregory Freund, M.D., head of the pathology department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Caffeine, of course, is a stimulant that improves alertness. But the process may be more important than the ‘drug’ effect.”