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The Best Time Of Day To Drink Coffee For Maximum Benefits Isn’t First Thing When You Wake Up

Fortune Well June 27, 2024


The Best Time Of Day To Drink Coffee For Maximum Benefits Isn’t First Thing When You Wake Up

A cup of coffee is the quintessential staple of a morning routine. Many eagerly await the jolt of energy and liquid confidence a steaming cup brings before the day’s first meeting.

Globally, coffee consumption has risen, and two-thirds of Americans drink coffee daily, according to 2022 data from the National Coffee Association. And even amid coffee supply-chain issues, people are willing to shell out more money for a cup of joe (and much, much more for specialty coffees like a well-marketed iced oat-milk hazelnut latte). 

While some swear by coffee before their first conversation, others wait until they’ve settled into the office and have had a bite to eat. 

So, is there a gold standard for the best time to drink coffee? 

Neuroscientist and podcast host Andrew Huberman says there may indeed be. He encourages people to delay their morning coffee by 90 minutes to two hours after waking up to “optimize physical and mental performance.” In a podcast episode, Huberman says adenosine, the chemical that makes people feel tired and less alert, builds up after we wake up. Therefore, drinking caffeine, which blocks adenosine, will be more effective a bit later in the morning and help people stay alert further into the afternoon. Other experts say it depends and that consuming caffeine before exercise is a notable exception. 

On average, the caffeine in a cup of coffee kicks in about 30 minutes to an hour after consumption. However, it depends on the individual, their genetics, and whether or not they have eaten a meal beforehand. For some, the effects appear 10 to 15 minutes after consumption, while it can take a couple of hours for others.

“Some people don’t have a good time digesting coffee on an empty stomach,” says Tara Schmidt, a registered dietician of the <a href="https://diet.mayoclinic.org/us/">Mayo Clinic Diet. “Others can’t function without their coffee.” 

Despite natural variability, experts say that the window of 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. may be the best time to consume coffee, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Still, there are a few key considerations about the best time to consume coffee. 

Remember your body clock

The intensity of caffeine’s effects can depend on the time of day you consume it because of the body’s circadian rhythm, or the natural body clock that signals when it’s time to sleep and rise. The body’s cortisol, known as the stress hormone that aids in helping you feel awake, rises about 30 to 45 minutes after you wake up, says Julia Zumpano, a registered dietitian with the Cleveland Clinic Center for Human Nutrition. 

If you consume coffee first thing in the morning, you may have a more intense response because you feel the effects on top of the body’s natural alert response. While some may need that extra push, others may feel some of the coffee’s more unpleasant side effects, like shakiness, an elevated heart rate, and dizziness, due to the stimulant effects on the nervous system, which block the chemical adenosine. 

“Everybody has been at that point where their eyes are bugging out of their head, and they are jittery and unfocused,” says Zumpano. “That stimulates levels of anxiety. Ideally, if you could wait one to two hours [after you wake up] and after cortisol levels rise and start to come back down, that would be the best time to have coffee.” This is also aligned with Huberman’s approach and may also help lengthen the feeling of alertness into the early afternoon when many face the dreaded midday slump. 

If you cannot wait until mid-morning or don’t feel bothered by the effects of coffee first thing, don’t worry. There’s limited research to suggest that delaying caffeine is ideal for everyone. 

For those who need to brew their cup promptly post-alarm, Zumpano also offers certain tips that can help reduce the potential side effects. For example, sipping coffee slowly versus gulping it or drinking it alongside a meal can slow the absorption of caffeine into the bloodstream. Adding a bit of milk can also counter some of the effects. Still, experts say to stay clear of artificial sweeteners and added sugars, which can elevate blood sugar and increase the risk of diabetes and obesity. 

The morning workout 

Studies have shown that coffee can improve exercise performance. One analysis of 46 studies found moderate caffeine consumption improved endurance. If a quick cup of coffee first thing gives you a boost at the gym, then Zumpano says to stick with what works. 

For people who prefer to exercise later in the day but still want that extra feeling of alertness, Zumpano suggests other forms of caffeine that are less concentrated to not interfere with sleep, like green tea. 

Give yourself a cutoff 

Proper sleep is critical for physical and mental health, allowing people to recover so their brains and bodies can fight off disease. Caffeine can disrupt sleep, especially when taken too close to bedtime. “It could be hitting you in the middle of the night. You just don’t know,” says Zumpano. Caffeine can also take up to eight hours to leave the bloodstream. Experts say to stop coffee six to eight hours before bed. If your bedtime is 9 p.m., for example, your last cup should be no later than 3 p.m. 

“For a lot of people, it’s trial and error as to what is ideal,” says Zumpano. “It’s all about what you are looking for out of your caffeine intake.”

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