The Best Time To Drink Coffee
Your coffee matters. How you make your coffee, and what goes in it, matters. Now we're finding out that when you drink it matters just as much, at least if you want the maximum effect from the caffeine in your beans.
In the midst of all the other coffee-based scientific research that's gone on these last few years, someone got the idea to research exactly when was the best time to drink coffee, God bless 'em. The researchers found out that most people start their day with a steaming cup of coffee; no big surprise there. The surprise, at least according to the Washington Post, is that most people -- present company included -- are doing it wrong.
Here's why: cortisol -- a hormone that most of us associate with anxiety and stress -- is also a key component in regulating our circadian rhythms, the body's natural internal clock. Under normal circumstances, the cortisol is what's helping you get out of bed in the morning. Drinking coffee first thing in the morning short-circuits that natural cycle by causing the body to rely on the caffeiene rather than producing cortisol. Because of the way caffeine works, however -- it doesn't wake you up, it just keeps you from getting more tired -- that means starting your day feeling grumpy, tired, and sluggish, as well as developing a tolerance for caffeine, which means even the coffee won't work as well as it used to.
Put away your pitchforks and torches. That doesn't mean you have to give up your coffee. However, it does mean that you need to be mindful of when and how you drink it. Cortisol levels are typically highest in the early morning hours and again in the late afternoon (if you're on a normal sleep schedule, that would be around 9 AM and again around 1 and 2 PM).
Of course, not everyone's on a regular sleep schedule, whether because of work schedules or because they've been drinking coffee all this time and their circadian clock is verkackte. In that case, don't go by the clock on your nightstand; just adjust your coffee schedule to fit your sleep cycles, drinking coffee a few hours after you wake up, or a short time before the body's next typical cortisol release in the late afternoon. That way, you'll get the pick-me-up you're looking for without interfering with your body's natural processes. The result is that you'll stay alert longer, with fewer energy spikes and crashes.
Further Reading: Washington Post's Wonkblog: Why the Worst Time to Drink Coffee is Actually in the Morning Refinery29: Here's Exactly When You Should Drink Coffee For The Most Energy And a handy video explainer from the folks at AsapSCIENCE: