Believe it or not, you’ve probably been drinking your coffee all wrong. The time that you consume coffee has a huge effect on how much it will energize you. If you’re drinking the second most traded commodity on Earth primarily to wake you up, the time you imbibe can actually affect how tired you’ll feel later on.
The secret is you’ve got to let your body do its thing. Your body produces a stress hormone in the morning, cortisol, to wake you up naturally. Upon waking, cortisol levels gradually rise by about 50 percent, no matter what time it is. From there, due to our natural circadian rhythms, they peak between 8 and 9 in the morning. So naturally, this is when you should be most alert. If you stopped drinking caffeine for a period of time, you’d ideally notice this gentle shift in energy and alertness about an hour after you wake. However, this generally coincides with the time that most people chug down their cafe au lait.
We tend to override our instinctual functions with coffee, and that just confuses everything. The problem is that drinking caffeine doesn’t actually assist in waking you up when cortisol levels are already high. It doesn’t give you extra juice—your body is already operating on full alertness. In fact, cortisol actually diminishes the desired effect of the caffeine and works to build up an even greater tolerance to caffeine over time—making that morning jolt harder and harder to obtain with just one cup. So drinking coffee when cortisol levels are high is counterproductive.
So what can you do to allow your body to do its thing and enjoy your precious cup of joe? The best scenario would be to wait an hour after you wake up to enjoy a cup of coffee, when your body has stimulated itself a little bit. Or, enjoy coffee after 9 am, and allow yourself to get along without coffee for the first couple of hours in your morning. It may be difficult at first, but your body will be much better off and balanced in the long run.
Other times cortisol levels spike is generally between noon and 1 pm, as well as 5:30 to 6:30 pm. So, those times, along with the 8 to 9 am window, are actually the least effective times to drink caffeine, as your body is already naturally releasing its own stimulant. You’re better off sipping it in the interim to enjoy longer, more sustained energy. It’s also good to allow your body to create its own hormones as it needs them, rather than overwhelm its process with a shot of coffee.
When do you usually reach for a cup of coffee (or tea)? Do you think you could get through the first few hours of your day without it? Check out this video for more science-based coffee facts.