People almost all over the world enjoy their morning coffee. Some people also drink it throughout the day. Some even in the evening. But is there actually a “best time” to drink coffee?
Morning, lunch or evening – is there the ideal time to consume coffee? Scientifically speaking, this is still up for debate. Some experts believe it’s better to wait until mid-morning or mid-afternoon to enjoy your first (or second) cup, explains registered dietitian Anthony DiMarino in a post published by the Cleveland Clinic.
When consumed in moderation, coffee has various health benefits. It is known, for example, that it can help reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and offers benefits for the liver.
However, it is often pointed out that some people should not drink coffee on an empty stomach because this could lead to health problems. This applies, among other things, to people who suffer from reflux disease.
However, coffee is not particularly popular because of its effects on health, but rather because of its taste and the awakening caffeine.
“Because caffeine is a stimulant, drinking coffee first thing in the morning helps wake you up,” says DiMarino. One way caffeine does this is by increasing the amount of cortisol in your body.
Coffee, caffeine and cortisol
Cortisol, sometimes called the stress hormone, is the chemical your body releases in response to danger – those fight-or-flight situations. “In the morning, you naturally release cortisol to help you become more alert and aware of your surroundings when you wake from sleep,” explains DiMarino.
Your cortisol levels typically peak between 7 and 8 a.m. and gradually decline throughout the day until they reach their lowest level in the middle of the night while you sleep. In this way, cortisol helps your body maintain its sleep-wake cycle, called circadian rhythm.
But the stimulating effects of caffeinated coffee in the morning can boost your cortisol production. Some people may enjoy this extra jolt to their system, while others may feel more anxious, nervous, or irritable.
“Everyone has a different sensitivity or internal reaction to caffeine,” says DiMarino. Chronic high cortisol levels – caused by stress, too much caffeine or other factors – can lead to inflammation that causes cell damage.
“If your cortisol levels remain elevated, you are at increased risk of weight gain, diabetes, heart problems and other health problems,” he adds.
Drink coffee in the evening
Drinking coffee late at night can be unwise unless you work the late shift. “Caffeine has a half-life of two to 10 hours, depending on your metabolism,” explains DiMarino. In other words, it may take as little as two hours or as long as ten hours for your body to eliminate half of the caffeine in a cup of coffee.
For people with a certain “coffee gene”, a cup of coffee late into the night is no problem. The CYP1A2 gene helps the body break down and eliminate caffeine – and some people actually have two copies of this gene, which helps them break down caffeine more quickly than those who only have one copy.
If you can drink a double espresso at 10 p.m. and then sleep soundly, you probably metabolize caffeine quickly.
Determine the best time to drink coffee
The following is known about the timing of drinking coffee:
Coffee first thing in the morning increases cortisol levels and may make you feel more nervous.
Coffee in the evening may affect your sleep (or not, depending on your genes and metabolism).
So when is the best time to have a cup of coffee? There is no scientific evidence to support a “best time”. But a morning to late morning cup of coffee between 9:30 a.m. and 11 a.m. can help you reap the most coffee benefits. This is when cortisol levels begin to fall and the effects of caffeine are most noticeable.
On the other hand, you might want a cup of coffee at 2 p.m. to fortify you against the afternoon slump. “Many of us feel sluggish or less productive after lunch,” notes DiMarino. If a power nap isn’t an option, perhaps a cup of coffee will help you get through the rest of the day. (ad)