For many, caffeine becomes a not-so-optional part of law school survival. Whether it is coffee or some other energy drink, law students frequently turn to caffeine for a physiological or psychological boost. But, come bar prep time, with increased schedule flexibility, should you carry your caffeine habit into your bar prep or try to cut it out of your routine? I will limit the discussion here to coffee, but the discussion likely also covers your caffeinated beverage of choice. Of course, check with your doctor for caffeine consumption advice, but as a coffee-loving layman, here are some pros and cons to regular coffee consumption during bar prep:
During bar prep, sticking to your study plan can make all the difference. This means developing a sustainable routine. For many, nothing is quite as motivational in the morning as a nice, piping-hot cup of their favorite coffee. If coffee is what it takes to get you out of bed and get you productively studying, coffee could be key—even if just psychologically—to your study routine. Likewise, if you are forced to study at night because you are working during bar prep, for example, a caffeine boost may be necessary to keep you focused and awake to ensure your studying is as efficient and effective as possible.
- Comfort food Drink
If coffee is something you enjoy, taking a break to brew a cup or taking a trip to your local coffee shop could be a positive thing for your sanity during bar prep. While caffeine can increase anxiety, a coffee break may reduce your stress levels enough to compensate.
- Health Benefits?
The experts are never in full agreement on this point and there are tradeoffs, but in the proper quantities, there may be some health benefits to drinking coffee. For example, Kelli Miller, writing for WebMD, explains that the presence of Phytochemicals in coffee add healthy plant antioxidants that “reduce inflammation and help cells grow better.” There are also studies suggesting long-term benefits, but those won’t particularly help you perform on the exam. Miller does report that the FDA recommends no more than 400 milligrams of caffeine a day—roughly five cups of coffee.
- Exam-like Practice Conditions
On the flip side, an important part of preparing for the bar exam is practice in exam-like conditions. If you can’t take your coffee into the bar exam room, you are not preparing yourself as well as possible for the conditions of the exam where breaks can be few and far between if you always have coffee on hand during bar prep, especially when you are taking practice tests. For those with serious caffeine dependences, a caffeine crash midway through an afternoon essay portion would be bad news. Be sure you know how your caffeine habit will affect you during a full-length exam session before the big day.
- Health (and Sleep) Concerns
Bar prep is not a time to let your health go. You need to be at the top of your game for the bar exam. Optimizing your bar prep nutrition may mean minimizing your caffeine intake. If you are not anxious enough, adding caffeine to bar prep can make you even more anxious. Maintaining a positive mindset is crucial to your bar exam success and anxiety is the enemy of that healthy mindset. Additionally, sleep is important. During bar prep and during the exam itself, sleep is vital. Caffeine can impair a good night’s rest and thereby impair your success. Long-term effects aside, just considering anxiety and sleep, the side effects of excess caffeine could be detrimental to your bar prep and bar exam performance.
If you use coffee breaks as an excuse to get out of studying, that would be a negative. Like any obsession, coffee can become a distraction. If you know you don’t study well at a busy coffee house, but your love of the brew keeps you coming back, consider an alternative. If your need for coffee forces you to leave the library mid-study session, think about cutting back. Bar prep is demanding and you cannot afford to waste quality bar prep time, even for the sake of coffee.
As with most things in bar prep, there is no one right answer. The key is to be conscious of the decisions you are making and try to put yourself in the best position to succeed. Whether you would perform better with more sleep and no coffee, whether you should limit your coffee to two cups in the morning, or whether you could drink three cups at nine o’clock and go to sleep peacefully at ten, intentionally consider your caffeine intake. Assess these pros and cons and see if tweaking your level of coffee consumption could improve the quality of your bar prep!