The Best Time to Drink Coffee

best time to drink coffeeSo you’ve got the best grinders on the market, you’re beans are flown in direct from the hills of Columbia daily, but you’re still trying to make the most of your daily cup of coffee.

This ultimately brings us to the last variable under your control, the time of day you decide to consume that bold beverage.

Thus, we question if one should start pouring the black magic right when they wake up, bright and early, or is there some sort of a grace period to allow your mind and body a chance to get on the same page. Certainly there’s a cut off for the caffeine before but we’re really interested in when the best time to drink your brew is.

Timing your First Cup of the Day

If you thought brewing coffee was a science of a process, then you’ll be very impressed at the amount of research that goes into the best time of day which we should drink coffee, and when we should stop (heresy).

The science itself is called Chrono-pharmacology, which is the interaction of biological rhythms and drug interaction. This applies very much to drinking caffeinated beverages because of several key factors.

When To Drink Coffee

One of the most important biological rhythms is your circadian clock. Everyone has this biological 24-hour clock. It’s what is responsible for the majority of behavior and how your body processes information and substances like caffeine or alcohol. This affect on your internal clock is what affects the development of dependancies, resistances, and most importantly tolerance. Okay, so the big factor in the case for optimum caffeine consumption time is a hormone called cortisol.

Cortisol is a stress hormone that has many implications on our physical and mental health, but for our purposes, we will discuss how it makes us feel awake and ready for the day. It’s production is directly linked to our levels of awareness.

Therefore, if we are drinking caffeine at a time when your cortisol is at a peak, you probably should not be drinking it because the chances of the cortisol doing job properly isn’t likely. So when are those peak cortisol times?

For the average person working a nine-to-five job, the typical cortisol peak for your 24 hour rhythm is between 8 and 9 AM. Most people are found drinking caffeine at this time, and our bodies are already approaching the maximal level of alertness naturally. Does coffee just taste best at this time of day, or have we been tricked into believing that this is when we need caffeine most?

So now we know that many people are having their first cup of coffee on the way to work, and their bodies are actually “naturally caffeinating”. Worse still, according to scientist Steven L. Miller, who is the active expert on this topic , “By consuming caffeine when it is not needed, your body will build a faster tolerance to it, and the buzz you get will greatly diminish.”

Tolerance, remarkably so in the case of caffeine as it is such a common stimulant, really impacts how we react to coffee and it’s affects on us.  The same cup of morning coffee will become less effective.

This lends itself to the need for additional coffee over time. Cortisol levels peak between 8 and 9 am, and again between noon to 1 pm, and between 5:30 to 6:30 pm.

So the best time to drink coffee in the morning then, would be most effective between 9:30 am and 11:30 am, when your cortisol levels are dropping. Timing your “coffee breaks” to take advantage of your natural awareness then becomes a practice of will and perhaps even setting an alarm. It’s a habit that we all might take some adjusting to get into.

Historic Coffee Break

Actually, coffee breaks were originally designed to fill the gaps of our peak ‘awake’ times. Maybe they were more in tune with our circadian rhythms back when. So 10 am and 3 pm you would find a lot of work environments (maybe you still do in some exotic places) to have a break in order to consume coffee at these times to make employees feel better. Caffeine just tends to be that important in the work place. Just make sure you’re offering your employees some good coffee.

It’s also good practice to avoid drinking coffee after those hours. Many experts say you need to stop caffeine intake after two in the afternoon.

As the current studies show, late-afternoon caffeine can cause problems for your sleep, even if you aren’t aware of it. Many of us get into a habit of drinking coffee all day, we’re pretty into our coffee. But in order to get the most out of sleep, without the disruption of caffeine, restricting caffeine consumption to primarily to the morning hours is a worthwhile pursuit.

If you gotta get through that mid-day slump, make sure to have your coffee before 2 p.m. The trend here is that the more coffee you drink to feel awake the more you’ll feel like you need it.

However, know one must question: do the times we drink coffee have more to do with when we wake up or the actual time of day? The answer might surprise you!

Sunlight or the Late Night Shift

Best Time of Day To Drink CoffeeIf the morning cup or ten aren’t really doing the job then perhaps the solution is in the science.

Many of us are up well before the typical nine-to-fivers anyways. So what does that mean for this group of early risers or late nighters. How does caffeine effect them?

Cortisol levels for these individuals are likely very low compared to when the sun rises and it’s natural effect increases these levels in the morning. However, there is a phenomenon called the Cortisol Awakening Response that results in an approximate 50% increase in cortisol upon just awakening and removing yourself from bed.

Since this phenomena exists in us anyway,there’s basically a golden rule to follow for the optimum caffeine consumption time:

Wait one hour before consuming caffeine in the morning. This sounds wholly difficult of a task, but it’s likely the best option for your overall well-being.

What is the best thing to drink in the morning?

Coffee In The Morning

Okay, so we’ve stated that it’s best practice to wait for an hour or so after waking. While you wait to have that first cup of coffee (it’s always gonna feel like forever, trust me) there are some things you can do to pass the time. Don’t let that picture tempt you too much!

It is a good practice for the body and digestive system to drink a cup of warm or hot water first thing without anything in it. It is the best way to break-the-fast from the night and cleanse. Drink warm or hot water as it is gentler on the empty stomach. It is important that the water has nothing in it so that is passes through right away.

Although, it’s also known that some coarse Himalayan pink salt can add trace minerals that you may have lost from being so dehydrated. Many people wake up and consume coffee, a diuretic, first thing in the morning, often forgetting to drink water then and further, throughout the day.
The best drinks to boost your sleep:

  • Cherry juice have shown to help as a sleep aid
  • Chamomile tea is actually shown in studies to help people with a sleep that is more restful.
  • Warm milk is colloquially said to help people fall asleep.

If you’re interested in lowering your cortisol levels, to stave off the effects of too much caffeine:

  • Music therapy has been studied and reported to reduce cortisol levels.
  • Massage therapy is thought to have a relationship with lowering cortisol.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are helpful in this right as well.

How Long Does Caffeine Affect You?

The amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee varies widely by the type of coffee and the preparation technique.

According to the International Coffee Organization, the automatic drip method produces a beverage containing an average of 115 milligrams of caffeine per five ounces of liquid brew. Instant coffee delivers significantly less (don’t say we didn’t warn you) an average of 65 milligrams per five ounces of liquid.

Manual coffee preparation, such as the wonderful French Press, yield an average of 80 milligrams per five ounce liquid brew. Still, those averages are mostly dependent on the kinds of coffee bean being used.

Robusto coffee beans, tend to have the most caffeine. In fact Arabica beans, on the side of the coin, contain half the caffeine of their robusto counterparts. Check out our post on what coffee has the most caffeine here.

Still, you can’t drink more of a less caffeinated beverage and expect to get away from the negative effects of caffeine. Caffeine’s stimulant effect on the central nervous system is very much dose-dependent.

So, if you have a 10-ounce cup of coffee at 7 a.m. containing approximately 250 milligrams of caffeine, by 1 pm your body will still have 125 milligrams of caffeine in circulation. If you’re a regular smoker, then the half life of caffeine in the bloodstream is reduced to only three hours, which may offer insight into why heavy smokers are often also heavy coffee drinkers.

For smokers, the half life of caffeine in the bloodstream is only three hours, which may offer insight into why heavy smokers are often also heavy coffee drinkers.

How Does Caffeine Work

Caffeine gets the majority of it’s wonderful power by blocking a neurotransmitter called adenosine, which is a central nervous system depressant and has a calming, slowing effect on the brain.

When adenosine is blocked, the adrenal glands begin secreting adrenaline, which is why coffee users experience an increase in heart rate, body temperature, elevated blood sugars and the like. These effects associated with a dopamine increase is what counts for the love of coffee worldwide. Coffee simply makes you feel great, and gets you ready to go!

How Long Does Before Caffeine Takes Affect?

Once you’ve started sipping your morning beverage you’ve got about fifth-teen to forty-five minutes before you’re likely to feel the effects. As c in your bloodstream. Caffeine has a half-life of approximately five to six hours, meaning that it takes this long for its concentration in your bloodstream to reduce by half.

Amounts of caffeine up to 250 milligrams show very few ill effects and may help individuals feel more alert. Doses exceeding 1,000 milligrams may affect sleep and cognitive performance. Side effects of quitting caffeine appear roughly 12 to 24 hours after cessation of coffee consumption and may include headaches. That truly begs the question then, does coffee cause headaches or does it help rid us of headaches?

Coffee isn’t without it’s safety risks either, it’s thought to cause acid reflux, fact check this with us though, we discuss the debate about coffee and acid reflux here.

Consuming too much caffeine can be a real concern: It even comes with a set of side effects. At lower doses:

  • Irritation
  • Increased urination
  • Restlessness

If you’ve ever been prepping for a job interview and drank too much coffee beforehand, leading to an influx of nervousness, then you’ve probably experienced a side effect of caffeine that is less than desirable.

Ten cups of coffee a day is considered an excessive amount by most experts (this is probably my daily intake) but further research shows that more than three a day will reveal some side effects. Also be aware of other forms of caffeine you may consume on a given day, and plan accordingly. Caffeine is prominent in things like soda, tea, chocolate and aspirin.

Caffeine does have it’s limits and it’s very possible to consume too much of it in a given period of time. There is such thing as too much caffeine.

IF you can wait to drink your morning brew for just a little longer than normal, after this awakening state is wearing off, it will be much more effective. You’ll end up feeling alert and productive much longer. An additional benefit is that it will help keep you from consuming too much caffeine throughout the day, which would have interfered with your sleep the following night.

Keep in mind you don’t have to finish the entire carafe of coffee (roughly ten cups), the coffee will be good for leftover use the next day and beyond.

Now you’re on a road for a better feeling, better performing you. Abide by these coffee drinking commandments and you’ll likely see an improvement in wakefulness and cognitive ability.

Brian Mounts

Head blogger, editor, and owner of "Top Off My Coffee", a website that has been educating readers about coffee brewing techniques and equipment since 2012.

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