Being someone who drinks coffee only once a day, I never really questioned my relationship with caffeine. Like most people, I always take it in the morning because that's when I feel I need it the most. It never really occurred to me that I could be doing something wrong, but apparently, I am.
In a recent story by CNBC, they asked medical and nutrition experts about the best time to drink coffee. And by the best, they mean the time our bodies can absorb the shot of energy most efficiently.
"Definitely limit coffee when you first wake up," registered dietitian Laura Cipullo tells the website. That's because apparently, our bodies produce more cortisol (a stress hormone) the moment we wake up. So when we drink coffee, the caffeine triggers our cortisol levels to increase even more, setting us up for a huge dip in energy later in the day.
Her solution? Delay your fix for at least three hours. "Have coffee when the body is producing less cortisol, about three to four hours after waking," Laura continues. This means that if your alarm chimes at 7AM, you'll have to wait until 10AM for that coffee sesh to stay energized.
We asked Dr. Margarette Pajanel about her take on this caffeine schedule, and she confirms that cortisol is indeed the stress hormone that wakes us up and makes us feel active. "It also drops by midnight, making you feel sleepy or tired," she says. What she doesn't necessarily agree with is the proposed relationship between coffee and the stress hormone. "Caffeine, like adrenaline, has stimulatory effects but doesn't have much of an effect on cortisol," she explains. And to keep your energy up, just drink coffee when your energy is low—no need to count your post-waking up hours. "Pattern your coffee intake with your energy dips," as she says.
Also, according to the doctor, the best time to drink up is midday, which is usually when your cortisol levels are lowest. Dietitian-nutritionist Lisa Lisiewski from the CNBC story aligns with this, saying that this is the time that we actually benefit from the stimulant.
So yes, caffeinating right after waking up is probably not the best choice for staying wide awake. Except if you're someone who gets up 4AM, because your cortisol levels have yet to rise at that hour and you might need the energy to get going.
Lastly, the story stated that we should also probably focus more on how much coffee we consume than when we drink it. Nutrition expert Melanie Dellinges says that we shouldn't have more than four cups a day. Even if you take that espresso shot at the right time, downing five a day is not the best thing for your body.
Are you up for midday caffeinating? Try it and let us know if you feel a difference!