Scientists Tell us When it’s Best to Drink Coffee

Lifestyle: Young man with espresso machine making coffee and cappuccino at home

If you have anxiety, you may find that drinking coffee makes things worse. Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world. It contains a very popular stimulant called caffeine. Many people reach for a cup of this caffeinated beverage right after waking up, while others find it better to wait a few hours.

This article explains when is the best time to drink coffee to maximize benefits and minimize side effects.

Cortisol and coffee

Many people drink a cup or three of coffee when they get up or shortly after. However, it is believed that drinking coffee too soon after getting up reduces its stimulating effect, as the levels of the stress hormone cortisol are at their peak at this time. Cortisol is a hormone that increases alertness and concentration. It also regulates your metabolism, immune system response, and blood pressure.

The hormone follows a rhythm specific to your sleep-wake cycle, with high levels peaking 30-45 minutes after getting up and slowly declining throughout the rest of the day. That said, it has been suggested that the best time to drink coffee is mid to late morning when cortisol levels are lower.

For most people who get up around 6:30 am, this is the time between 9:30 and 11:30. While there may be some truth to this, to date, no study has observed any stronger energy effects when postponing your morning coffee compared to drinking it immediately after getting up.

Another reason you should postpone your morning coffee is that caffeine from coffee can increase cortisol levels. Drinking coffee when your cortisol levels are at their peak can further increase your cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol levels over time can weaken your immune system, causing health problems.

However, no long-term studies have been conducted on the health effects of elevated cortisol from coffee consumption. Moreover, caffeine-induced increases in cortisol levels tend to decrease in people who consume caffeine regularly.

However, if you prefer to drink coffee upon waking up rather than a few hours later, there is likely no harm. But if you want to change up your morning coffee ritual, you may find that delaying your coffee for a few hours can give you more energy.

Coffee can improve performance

Coffee is known for its ability to induce wakefulness and increase alertness, but it is also an effective exercise performance enhancer due to its caffeine content. In addition, coffee can be a much cheaper alternative to caffeinated supplements such as pre-workout powders.

Several studies have shown that caffeine can reduce exercise fatigue and improve muscle strength and power. While it may not make much difference whether you enjoy your coffee after you get up or a few hours later, the effects of caffeine from coffee on exercise performance are time-dependent.

If you want to improve the beneficial effects of coffee on physical performance, it is best to consume the drink 30-60 minutes before your workout or sporting event. This is the time when caffeine levels in the body peak. The effective dose of caffeine for performance enhancement is 1.4-2.7 mg per 3-6 mg per kg of body weight.

For a person weighing 150 pounds (68 kg), this corresponds to about 200-400 mg of caffeine or 2-4 cups (475-950 ml) of coffee. Anxiety and sleep problems caffeine in coffee promotes wakefulness and increases performance, but it can also cause sleep problems and anxiety in some people.

The stimulating effect of caffeine from coffee lasts for 3-5 hours, and depending on individual characteristics, about half of all caffeine consumed remains in your body after 5 hours. Drinking coffee too often before bed, for example, with dinner, can cause sleep problems.

To avoid the disruptive effects of caffeine on sleep, it is recommended that you avoid caffeine consumption at least 6 hours before bedtime. In addition to sleep problems, caffeine can increase anxiety in some people.

If you have anxiety, you may find that drinking coffee makes it worse, in which case you may need to consume less or give up the drink entirely. You can also try switching to green tea, which contains one-third of the caffeine in coffee. The drink also contains the amino acid L-theanine, which has relaxing and calming properties.

How much coffee is safe?

Healthy people can consume up to 400 mg of caffeine per day, which is equivalent to about 4 cups (950 ml) of coffee.

The recommendation for pregnant and lactating women is 300 mg of caffeine per day, with some studies showing that a safe upper limit is 200 mg per day.

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Written by Emma Miller

I am a registered dietitian nutritionist and own a private nutrition practice, where I provide one-on-one nutritional counseling to patients. I specialize in chronic disease prevention/ management, vegan/ vegetarian nutrition, pre-natal/ postpartum nutrition, wellness coaching, medical nutrition therapy, and weight management.

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