As seen in Real Simple. Written by: Melissa Kravitz Hoeffner
There are two types of coffee drinkers among us: Those who can cap it off at their morning mug, and those who constantly sip (and possibly microwave, sip, repeat) multiple mugs of coffee throughout the day. Whether you reach for your favorite coffee cup the second you pop out of bed, or coffee comes later in the morning for you, you may want to consider timing your coffee consumption to make the most of its potential mental and physical health benefits. Here’s what you need to know:
The Best Time of Day to Drink Coffee
If you’re drinking your coffee right after breakfast, you’re doing it right! Nutritionist Michaela Clauss notes that capping off your morning meal with a fresh brewed coffee is the perfect way to reap its benefits. “Coffee is a powerful metabolic stimulant, but is best tolerated on a full stomach to keep your blood sugar and stress hormones in check,” Clauss says. “To make it more nutrient-dense, add some collagen to it.”
The Worst Time of Day to Drink Coffee
While some bodies may tolerate coffee first thing in the morning, the worst time for many may be on an empty stomach. “Drinking coffee on an empty stomach will boost your body's stress hormones—cortisol, and adrenaline—which can leave you feeling exhausted later, and also slow your metabolism down over time,” Clauss shares. If you’re a sweet coffee drinker, you may experience a sugar rush and then crash later that morning. Prevent this by enjoying a snack before or alongside your coffee. It’s never too early to drink coffee, Clauss clarifies, but just make sure some protein in your body is helping to keep your blood sugar and stress hormones stable.
How Late Is Too Late to Drink Coffee?
Tossing and turning in bed and regretting that last coffee of the afternoon is a common occurrence. But, if you time your coffee right, you can prepare for a good night’s sleep. “If you have trouble sleeping or falling asleep, avoid caffeine12 hours before bed,” Clauss says. That means, if your bedtime is typically 10 p.m. you should finish your morning coffee by 10 a.m. and avoid it for the rest of the day. Caffeine typically stays in your system for 12 hours, so to be completely clear of caffeine when you start your nightly ritual, you’ll need this buffer.
If falling asleep and staying asleep comes more easily to you, Clauss recommends capping off caffeine at least four hours to six hours before bedtime. So unless you’re staying up late, that after-dinner espresso may not be ideal. If capping off a meal with coffee gives you a lot of joy, consider switching to an after lunch coffee ritual, or perhaps dining earlier. Unfortunately, decaf coffee still has some caffeine content (though significantly reduced), which can still affect sleep.
How Much Coffee Is Too Much Coffee?
If you love sipping coffee endlessly throughout the day, you may want to consider cutting back. But not too much! “Research shows there is a reduction in risk for cardiovascular disease and all-cause mortality from drinking two to three cups of coffee per day,” Clauss says. “However, more than 400 milligrams of caffeine, that’s four to five cups of coffee per day, can lead to negative side effects and should be avoided.”
And if you’re drinking more coffee than water, maybe swap some of that java out to properly hydrate. Most importantly, your body knows best. “If you have trouble sleeping, jitters, anxiousness, fast heart rate, upset stomach, nausea, or headache, try consuming less caffeine,” Clauss concludes.