Coffee is a wonderful drink that accompanied mankind since decades ago. It has always served us well - until it did not. Hold it right there! Before you start throwing random stuff at us in defence of your companion.
Why do we say so? That is because every good stuff, used the wrong way, can be a double edged sword. This time round, we will see how time and coffee can be used against us. Therefore, let us explore how time dictates what is the best time to drink coffee.
The first thing that we should probably asked ourselves is what we actually want to get out of it? To many of us, this seems like an obvious but abstract concept.
A piping hot cup of coffee is one of the first thing many people will reach their hand out for in the morning.
Holding the warm cup in your hands helps one to feel awake, to feel warm and to feel energetic. Also, waiting for the cup of joe either from the coffee shop below or from the office pantry gives us the ever-needed short break from the long commute to work.
Not every day is as exciting as the last, there are moments where we wanted to just pass the time as well. Of course, there are some who just needed a drink and find coffee a refreshing one.
In light of the multitude of reasons anyone could have. It can be agreed that the main point of drinking coffee is to be awake, keep ourselves awake and to give us energy to meet the day’s demands. How can does the body do that?
To feel awake and tired, also known as the sleep/wake cycle, is governed by arguably 2 hormones in our body, melatonin and cortisol.
The connection between cortisol and melatonin is relatively easy to understand. In normal, healthy people, these two hormones engage in a battle over 24 hours. This means that during the hours where cortisol level is high, melatonin should be low. And as cortisol level is low, melatonin should be high.
This translates to feeling awake during the day (High Cortisol) and feeling tired during night (High Melatonin). This is also part of the circadian rhythms that regulates our life.
As what we desire is wakefulness, we want to sustain high levels of cortisol during the day. Before we get into how coffee does that. Let's get a little more in-depth on this particular hormone.
Cortisol is one of the steroid hormones (also known as the stress hormone) and is made in the adrenal glands. It can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, help reduce inflammation, and assist with memory formulation. Most importantly, it makes you feel alert.
According to a study done by Sharon Chan and Miguel Debono, cortisol levels is at its’ lowest at around 12am to 2am, starts to pick up at around 3am and peaked at 8am - 9am. If we factor into account meal-induced stimulation, there will be small surges at around meal times.
In addition, there is also the effect of the Cortisol Awakening Response, known as CAR. This effect suggests that the hormone level will surge by 50% at about 20 to 30 minutes after waking up.
We can get these data in 2 hours block. This represents the natural cycle at different time of the day. Do note that this simplified for easier understanding.
When we say we want to feel pumped, like adrenaline coursing through the body, What we essentially wants to do is to increase cortisol level by stimulating stress-like conditions for our body. We do that by ingesting stimulants contained in coffee.
At this point, it is important to note that it is not coffee that increases the hormone but caffeine. Hence, decaf coffee will, theoretically, not achieve what you desire.
According to this study, the researchers wants to determine whether caffeine increases cortisol secretion in people at rest or undergoing mental stress. The study tested two groups of people. One group abstained from coffee for a period of 5 days and the other consumed coffee regularly. The first group experienced a significant increase in cortisol after reintroduction of caffeine after the abstinence. The other group, however, experience diminished level.
The results suggests that caffeine can be diminished, but not eliminated. Effectively, it proves that caffeine does increase cortisol and in consequence, makes you feel pumped.
This is where we believe good stuff can possibly turn against you. If we do coffee or caffeine as a supplement, all is well and good. The bad thing will occur if we take it at one of the following two scenarios.
To put it badly, caffeine is a drug. Therefore, it is susceptible to drug tolerance. If we do drink it when our cortisol level is high naturally. Not only will we not experience significant higher alertness, we are risking developing tolerance.
In short, drinking coffee first thing in the morning might not be ideal.
Caffeine has a half life of about 5 hours. Which means that if you ingested 10mg of caffeine at 10am, there will still be about half remaining in your body at 3pm. The other half can take a couple hours and up to days for some people to be eliminated.
This means that if you take it too late during the day, such as 4pm to 6pm, some of us might experience inability to fall asleep at night. This directly means that your sleep cycle and your work next day will be affected.
Simply put, don’t drink at that time too.
The best way to use coffee is to use it as a way of supplementing your body natural cycle. And as we mentioned, there are several consequences if we were to take it at the wrong timing of the day.
So, with the help of elimination. The best time to drink coffee is between 10am to 12pm and 2pm to 4pm of the day.
We have went through a lot of information today. Having established the how our body works and how can coffee supplement our workday. In addition to looking at adverse effects of taking the right thing at the wrong time. We have finally derived the answer in answering the big question of the day.
Science, has at many times, proves our common sense wrong. Before this, it is not uncommon to imagine sipping a cup of joe at the table with our favourite breakfast.
Therefore, early morning coffee drinkers should consider making adjustments to their schedule to get the best effect. As much as it is nice to drink it first thing in the morning. It might be do more harm than good.