Research shows that we may be wrong to drink coffee right when we wake up
Each morning, millions of people reach for a cup of coffee as a part of their morning routine. While we romanticize the idea of a rich, full-bodied cup of coffee, drinking a cup of joe right in the morning might be one of the least effective ways to harness its energy-boosting properties.
When we wake up, our body begins to pump cortisol – a stress hormone – at its peak. This pump of cortisol forces our body to wake up, and helps us get the boost of energy needed to start our days. Cortisol provides our body with a sort of “fight or flight” response when we wake up, similar to what caffeine can do for our bodies. Both cortisol and caffeine stimulate the sympathetic nervous system, which gets our heart pumping and our energy mobilized.
No coffee in the morning?
Coffee in the morning is a bad idea for a few reasons. To begin with caffeine interferes with our body’s production of cortisol. This leads the body to rely more heavily on caffeine for its needed morning boost. Over time, this reliance on caffeine can cause us to become dependent on caffeine to get our days started.
A 2009 study showed that cortisol production increases and decreases throughout the day. As seen in the chart from the study, provided below, our cortisol levels peak around 8-10 am (when most of us begin our days), and begin to drop off as the day goes on. This is one of the major mechanisms of the circadian rhythm. As you can see, the production of cortisol decreases throughout the day, and is lowest at night, when we begin to feel sleepy.
What this research does tell us, is that drinking coffee is best during the first trough in cortisol production. By being caffeinated when cortisol production begins to slow, around 10 am to approximately 1 pm, we are able to achieve energy levels similar to those we had earlier in the day.
Finding Your Caffeine Rthm
Coffee is often considered to be dangerous for people, due to its ability to interfere with sleep and increase heart rate. When used correctly – such as at the right time of day – it can improve energy levels, while providing necessary health benefits. Brewed coffee contains antioxidants, shown to prevent DNA damage and cancer, as well as a number of other beneficial chemicals helpful for our bodies. As well, coffee has been shown to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and even dull post-workout soreness.
Tracking your day and cortisol levels may seem like a difficult science. With Rthm however, you can ensure that the daily actions you take – like drinking coffee – can be optimized for your health and wellbeing.