Picture the scene. It’s crazy o’clock in the morning, and you’ve got a busy day ahead of you. Maybe it was a busy night, with the kids up at all hours. We’ve all been there. It’s no wonder we have that instant reflex to reach for the coffee pot and basically inhale that first cup. Yet the guys in the white lab coats are saying that this isn’t the best time to drink that golden elixir. Read on to have your world of coffee rocked.
Science of coffee
Let’s jump straight into the science behind this game-changing fact. Cortisol is a hormone that is naturally occurring in our bodies and rises when we are stressed. It affects our metabolism rates, blood pressure, memory, and controls our blood sugars. This important hormone peaks and dips throughout the day, depending on where we are in our circadian cycle and what we’ve eaten. One of the times it naturally peaks is as soon as we wake up in the morning. High levels of cortisol make us feel awake and alert, while lower levels of cortisol make us feel sleepy – sounds familiar, right? Cortisol is basically our body’s very own ‘homemade coffee’ hormone.
You are more likely to get the jitters when you drink coffee during one of your cortisol peaks. This is because your body does not need the caffeine you’re putting into it, and tries to process it as stress instead. This can be seen outwardly as the jitters or shakes, elevated heart rate, and that feeling of stress or anxiety. Having a coffee when you’re full of cortisol would be like filling up a car with gas that already has a full tank- pretty pointless.
Not with breakfast
It’s also not advised to drink coffee when having breakfast due to its effect on iron in our blood. A lot of our favorite breakfast foods, including cereals, tofu, and whole-grain breads, have a high level of iron in them. When you have a coffee with your breakfast, the polyphenols in the coffee attach themselves to the iron in your food, preventing the iron from being absorbed and doing its job properly.
Drink your coffee later
To get the most out of your cup of coffee, wait 3 hours after waking up. By then, your cortisol levels are starting to dip. When you have your coffee now, instead of jitters, your body processes the caffeine intake as a welcome energy boost – your tank is finally low enough to need the extra gas you’re putting in. You’ll feel like you can get more done and take on the world, with no shakes or anxiety following your drink. Success!
Wait until you need it
Simply put, our bodies have enough of their own juice in them when we wake up to not need a cup of coffee. If we only drink coffee when our bodies actually need it, you’ll be drinking between 9:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and later in the afternoon from 1:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. A big plus if you have a single cup coffee maker in your office to enjoy your afternoon coffee break.
Unfortunately, there is another downside to drinking coffee later in the day that you’ll need to bear in mind. You don’t want to let your cuppa joe interrupt your sleep – stop drinking coffee 6 hours before you’re planning to hit the hay, and the caffeine shouldn’t affect your beauty sleep.
Coffee (at the right time of day, of course) isn’t actually bad for us. However, caffeine is addictive. It’s recommended that we limit ourselves to 4 cups of coffee a day. Yet despite the addiction, there are numerous studies on the effects of caffeine and the health benefits of drinking regularly. This includes the reduced risk of diabetes and liver cancer. So let’s raise a glass to the awesome cup of coffee, especially during those cortisol dips.
The best time
So what is the ideal situation for the best cup of coffee? Let’s imagine that it’s the weekend, mid-morning, and you’re about to make your first coffee (after being up for a few hours and finishing your breakfast). Your cortisol levels have had a chance to drop, and the iron in your food has been digested. Get out your coffee beans and any desired extras. Make sure you have the highest quality machinery possible if grinding your own beans. You’ll get that barista-style fresh taste and can enjoy your coffee to the fullest. If using instant coffee, don’t forget to put your milk in first (if having) before adding the hot water. This stops the granules from burning by the hot water. Once made to your satisfaction, just sit back, relax, and sip away – you’ve earned it!
Repeat again in the afternoon, and you’ll coast through the day. Limit caffeine intake in the evening, and your sleep won’t be affected, giving you the full health benefits of a good night’s sleep. You’re still getting that delicious brew each day, but making it work better for you. Ahh, perfection!
Do you like lattes? Try out this recipe for an overnight latte. Prepare it the night before and it will be ready in the morning
*Disclaimer: mums-to-be are advised to limit their caffeine intake during pregnancy