If you’re like a lot of us and need that coffee buzz first thing in the morning, you may be missing out on many of the positive effects.
Research from the University of Bath shows delaying the timing of that first brew by an hour can magnify the effects of caffeine.
Your body has several natural pick-me-ups to get you going throughout the day. In the morning, the stress hormone cortisol naturally spikes along with adrenaline, giving your body the jolt of energy it needs to get out of sleep mode and active.
“We know that nearly half of us will wake in the morning and, before doing anything else, drink coffee – intuitively the more tired we feel, the stronger the coffee,” Professor James Betts, co-director of the Centre for Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism at the University of Bath, said in a statement.
“Up until now, we have had limited knowledge about what this is doing to our bodies, in particular for our metabolic and blood sugar control.”
Immediately adding caffeine to the cortisol is actually a bit of overkill, and can lead to an overabundance of these energy-giving chemicals, which in turn can produce negative effects such as the ‘jitters’, the research noted.
Nutritionists recommend waiting until the cortisol peak has subsided before drinking caffeine to ensure the chemicals aren’t competing in your body.
“There is some science behind isolating caffeine and peak cortisol so they don’t go head to head and have negative compounded effects in the body,” nutritionist Tracy Lockwood told HuffPost.
“So in order to experience the true caffeine buzz, you may want to wait a beat before sipping your coffee, which will allow cortisol to mellow out.”
There are some who swear that coffee is a stomach irritant, particularly when empty, and increases symptoms of everything from acid reflux to irritable bowel syndrome. But research conducted by the University of Leipzig found there was little evidence to back up these negative theories.
Others, including cardiothoracic surgeon Dr Steven Gundry, say the coffee-cortisol combination has its benefits and is an excellent way to get a huge energy burst for a workout for instance.
“Cortisol generally starts to rise around 4am, as does epinephrine (adrenaline), to get you ready for the day,” Dr Gundry says.
“Both cause blood sugar [glucose] to rise so you have plenty of available fuel. The caffeine in coffee also increases glucose, so if you want to get up and going, especially for a workout or just walking the dog, have that cup of coffee.”
Getting the best out of your morning cuppa really comes down to the needs of your body. If you need to jump out of bed and immediately hit the gym, then having that coffee as soon as you’re up is the way to go.
But if getting out of bed is a struggle, and you rely on that caffeine hit to get you through the morning, then delaying your coffee until your cortisol levels drop will produce a more even, longer-lasting energy burst.
Reactions will vary from person to person, so some experimentation may be needed.
“Make this a morning experiment and assess your energy levels after one day of drinking coffee before breakfast and the other day after breakfast,” Ms Lockwood says.
“Caffeine is an extremely individualised experience, so it’s important to tune into your own body and make judgement calls based on that.”
When do you have your morning coffee? Is it straight after rising or do you wait until mid-morning? Do you have more than one coffee per day? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
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