How to fuel your PhD

By Dave Papendorf

Any PhD student knows that any writing session is only as good as the drink that nourishes the author throughout the process. But which drink to choose?  What is the best get-you-through-this-chapter/paper elixir?  Which drink will give you the right balance of taste, performance, and greatness?  As someone who has experimented with all the beverages listed below, I’ll give my thoughts.  Be sure to respond back with your thoughts, arguments, suggestions, and concoctions!  And just one caveat:  we are, of course, excluding any…um…“adult” beverages.  Though you may feel like reaching for one from time to time as a PhD student, save it for when you are away from your keyboard.  Okay, here we go:

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

1.    Tea – Tea is wonderful.  It comes in so many varieties, warms the soul, and can even transport you to another part of the world with its aromatic curls steam.  Tea contains just the right amount of caffeine to give you a boost, but also comforts you when you’re feeling not so great concerning your work.  Moreover, it is a cultural experience that pairs well with cookies, biscuits, or whatever it is that you’d like to call them.  Moreover, tea is a little softer on the pearly whites than other drinks, and you can drink tea all day without getting caffeine overload (and those stinking caffeine withdrawal headaches).


2.    Coffee – Ah, black ambrosia!  Coffee is the classic go-to drink for pretty much everyone. It packs a caffeine punch, is available in both gourmet and chewy mud variety on every university campus, and it is truly the fuel that makes the world go ‘round.  Who hasn’t wasted way too much of their money at Starbucks already? This one is a no brainer, and it is likely the most drank drink (does that make sense?) of the bunch – even if it is not confessed to be the favorite.  Try to imagine a pot of coffee being brewed and not get in the mood to roll up your sleeves and get to work.


3.    Pop – CMU is in the Midwest after all, and here we drink “pop”.  With a low crackling fizz that energizes the taste buds and tingles the nose, pop provides the right kind of boost when writing.  It keeps you buzzing as you hear it beside your computer, and it comes in so many varieties!  Who cares about concerning levels of acid and corn syrup – this stuff just tastes great. Just try to pour a can of pop over ice and resist.  Moreover, pop is a cold alternative that helps you beat the heat when you’re in front of a warm screen during the summer months.  Can coffee or tea top that?

photo courtesy of

photo courtesy of

4.    Energy drinks – This is the no-nonsense answer. Energy drinks deliver what they promise: an alert, awake, and sometimes-twitchy author.  If the purpose is to fuel your writing, this is the most direct way to get there.  Why ring the doorbell when you can drive through the gate with a tank, right?  Energy drinks also come in a variety of forms, including variations of all of the above-listed drinks.  With those options, where could you go wrong?


5.    Water – The healthy option.  Not to make you feel bad, but you’re probably not drinking enough water as it is already.  Water is not just good for brain function and energy levels, but it is good for all major organ systems, keeps your skin clear, and aids in digestion.  Water is also free, which is a major plus.  They say that you ought to divide your weight in half, and drink that many ounces of water a day…are you there yet?  Not to be indelicate, but lots of water also helps you keep moving back and forth from your desk.  This can afford you the proper short-term break(s) you need before sitting back down to the keys.

So, what do we think?  Do we have a consensus?  Have a left any key player out?