How diet and coffee consumption affect your driving ability

Graham Wood 02/15/2019 Driving Tips

Whether you’re a fleet driver, handling a fleet or are simply an everyday motorist, it’s easy to be blasé about the effects of diet and coffee consumption on driving ability.

“East bound and down, loaded up and truckin', We're gonna do what they say can't be done. We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there.”

We all know Jerry Reed’s classic tune East Bound and Down from Smokie and the Bandit (shame on you if you don’t). But, trying to do “what can’t be done”, in terms of long-distance driving, is extremely dangerous. And that’s without factoring in things like coffee and diet.

It’s a fact that when you eat heavy food, especially that which is full of fat and carbohydrates, you will feel sleepy. Driving requires that you have your full attention on the road at all times. So you can respond and react quickly.

Optimizing your driving ability is all about balance, and following some guidelines that may sound obvious, but are sometimes easily passed over.

Tips to make sure your driving ability is on point

Let’s make ourselves clear. We don’t condone long driving hours. The police have a specific task force on interstates and highways, checking fleet vehicles for just that. What we want to stress is how to use the allowed driving time wisely. Here are some key tips to bear in mind.

Food intake

When you eat before driving any type of medium to long distance, you have to take care with what you put into your body. Well you need to do that as a general rule. But it’s even more important for your driving ability. Especially if you’re driving late at night or overnight. The term “carb coma” exists for a reason. And that reason is simple.

Food which is high in carbohydrates and fat can accelerate fatigue. So if you are driving long distances, make sure you have a meal which is not heavy weighted with carbs or fat. And also, carry energy-boosting snacks with you, such as mixed nuts, dried fruit, goji berries, etc.

But first, coffee?

I realise that these days most of us are coffee lovers. More often that not, you wake up to drink coffee rather than drink coffee to wake up. The key with mixing coffee and driving is this: use it mindfully. What do I mean by that? Just don’t overdo it. And this is sound advice from a general health standpoint, not just for when discussing the impact on driving ability.

Set a limit (number of cups of coffee per day) and stick to it. Drinking too much can make you more on edge or nervy. Too less (than your usual daily intake) can make you feel less alert or give you headaches. Nurturing yourself with the right diet and showing your car some love will definitely make your long trips a gratifying experience.

Rest and relaxation

As any good fleet driver worth their salt knows, getting enough “R&R”, also known as rest and relaxation, is vital. So make sure you get enough sleep, especially when you are taking breaks when driving long distances. Your mind and body needs adequate rest to be able to simply stay awake; let along be alert and make sure your driving ability is on point.

To help, you can along things like wet wipes to rub on your face if you get a case of sleepy eyes. Moreover try to adjust AC temperature so that you create a pleasant atmosphere within your car. That will make your trip enjoyable and will also help you cut down your fuel costs.

Adapt your trips to your style

For professionals, such as fleet drivers this one is perhaps a tough one. You will not be in control of the schedules you will have and the timings of the trips you need to make. If possible though, it’s a good idea to request certain times when you know you are at your best. If you’re planning a road trip as a tourist or for any other reason, it’s a good idea again to adjust your program. Arrange things so you can start your trips early in the morning when you feel fresh, rather than late at night for example.

Be smart, be safe

If you apply the above tips to your planning on the road, then it’s a given you will not go far wrong. At the end of the day, driving ability is always going to be subject to outside influences such as coffee and diet. Because your body and mind, just like your vehicle, need the right fuel to perform at their best.

And so as Jerry Read says, “You got to keep that diesel truckin'. Just put that hammer down and give it hell.” Well, maybe forget about the second part, unless you want to have a run-in with the law enforcement authorities. Happy driving!