Coffee: caffeine, how it affects you, and the best time to drink it

The perfect (late) morning pick me up

How many of us wake up bright and early, with the first beverage we reach for is a cup of coffee? That is, besides the folks opting for a bloody mary or the hair of the dog from the night before! Well, you may want to rethink your choice of early morning beverage.

Don’t get us wrong; we love coffee and certainly think drinking it is just the tops. But drinking coffee too early in the day or too late at night may not be ideal. Oh, and at certain time frames in the day too. Anything else? Oh, and how the caffeine can affect you.


Coffee and caffeine: for better or for worse

Coffee, of course, contains caffeine. Yes, even decaf, though a very, very low amount of caffeine. Caffeine can affect our bodies and our brains in a few different ways. Some good, and some not so ideal.

For starters, when it comes to consuming caffeine, make sure to enjoy it on a full stomach or at least grab a bite to eat before downing that americano! This is because caffeine can hit a bit harder on an empty stomach because it is entering our bloodstream a little faster. The same goes for iced coffee drinks.

Now before we get much further into caffeine, let's meet two chemicals, adenosine which slows us down and makes us tired and sleepy, and cortisol, which wakes us up and makes us want to party. Caffeine can inhibit our brain’s receptors for adenosine. Cortisol, on the other hand, well caffeine and cortisol mostly get along except when cortisol is already spiking.

Drinking coffee during the times of day when your body’s cortisol levels are highest won’t affect your cortisol levels or make you feel sleepier or anything like that. But it will increase your body’s immunity to caffeine. This means that while one cup of coffee may help you plow through most of the day, when you drink coffee during peak cortisol times your body will build and develop a higher and higher tolerance to coffee, requiring you to drink more and more of it to attain just that minimum level of awakeness. With all these time frames and limits, when exactly is the best time to drink coffee?


Between the cortisol spikes

The best way to get the most out of your coffee and not waste the amazing caffeine effects of your coffee is to follow a time frame that balances your body’s natural states of cortisol spikes and declines.

In the morning, our natural peak cortisol levels go from 8 am to 9 am. So, hold off on caffeine until 10 am for the most benefits. After this 10 am coffee session, if you still need or want more coffee, then anytime before noon, your next significant cortisol spike occurs again.

Then, at 1:30 pm to 5 pm are also ideal times to drink coffee and get a little caffeine after another big spike and dip of cortisol. But what about the night owls burning the midnight oil? Well, for these folks, be aware that caffeine has a half-life of up to 5 hours. So, if you drink coffee at 8 pm, for example, expect to get some caffeinate-like effects up until 1 am

And while caffeine can enhance our physical performance, keep us alert, boost our mood, and keep us vigilant, it can also lead to anxiety, increased heart rate, and that nasty caffeine crash. So be aware that caffeine has some great effects, but enjoying it too late at night or in too copious amounts for your body may not be the best choice for you!


Caffeine and you

No one knows your body better than you, but for those seeking some guidance about the best times to enjoy caffeine, there are some general guidelines to follow.

For example, not drinking coffee right when you get up but waiting 2-3 hours or start drinking at 10 am or 9:30 at the earliest. Throughout the day, try to wait until about 11:30 and then again at 1:30 before enjoying more caffeine. Otherwise, you may hit a cortisol spike and raise your caffeine immunity. And nobody wants that! So, to get the most caffeine for your buck while also getting enough Z’s tonight, then space your coffee times out appropriately. And as always, please drink responsibly!



Sources:

  • https://coffeeblog.co.uk/coffee-caffeine/
  • Walle, Gavin Van De. “When Is the Best Time to Drink Coffee?” Healthline, Healthline Media, 15 May 2020, www.healthline.com/nutrition/best-time-to-drink-coffee.