Science Shows the Best Time to Drink Coffee, and It's Probably Not When You Thought

The news: For most people, waking up with a cup of joe is a morning tradition — but according to scientists, you might be drinking coffee at the wrong time of day.

The reason is simple: chemistry.

Your body naturally produces a chemical called cortisol that is designed to make you feel awake. So when you introduce caffeine into your system while the cortisol level is high, you are not experiencing the caffeine at its peak efficiency — in fact, you might just be building up your tolerance, which means you would need more and more caffeine to reach the same level of "buzz."


Image Credit: I Love Coffee

So when should you drink caffeine? Cortisol levels go up in relationship to sunlight and your body's wakefulness, so it's a good idea to hold off on that coffee for an hour to 90 minutes after you wake up. If you wake up around 8:00 a.m., you should wait at least until 9:30 a.m. for your first cup of the day.

Cortisol levels also rise again around noon, so your pick-me-up afternoon coffee would be best had around 1:30 p.m.

There is still much that we do not know about caffeine. Although the chemical is a part of our daily diet — with the FDA estimating that around 80% of Americans ingest it every day — the science behind America's favorite fuel is still being studied.

Recent research has shown that prolonged caffeine intake can change the human brain and that caffeine withdrawal can even qualify as a mental disorder. On the other hand, coffee has also been positively linked to reducing the risk of Type 2 diabetes, certain kinds of cancer and even dementia.

So the next time you reach for that cup of coffee, think about whether you really need it — and whether you are drinking it at the right time to get maximum benefit.

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Eileen Shim

Eileen is a writer living in New York. She studied comparative literature and international studies at Yale University, and enjoys writing about the intersection of culture and politics.

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