Caffeine: When to Drink it, and How Much You Need.

Caffeine. Some of us can’t get out of bed without it. And that feeling of energy and good will it gives you isn’t all in your head. Many studies have found that your morning coffee is packed with antioxidants, and helps reduce inflammation and the risk of everything from type 2 diabetes to cancer. All good news, right? But many people don’t realize that these benefits change depending on when you drink it. In fact, a recent study found that drinking caffeine at the right time of day can increase its effectiveness by up to 65%! And if you’re reaching for your tea or coffee at a less-than-ideal moment, that means you’re decreasing its overall effectiveness in waking you up.

Brain Power

So how is it that the same chemical can produce different results, depending on the time of day? It’s all about cortisol, a.k.a. the stress hormone. Your brain releases cortisol according to your circadian rhythms, a 24-hour cycle that is totally unique from person to person. Which explains why some people naturally wake up at 5:30 – when others are just going to bed!

Cortisol is a natural hormone that makes you feel alert. And when you drink caffeine while your cortisol levels are high, it’s like doubling up on the negative effects, while limiting the positive ones. In other words, you feel stressed and get the jitters, but you still can’t concentrate. But, if you plan your caffeine intake for a time your cortisol levels will be low, it will give you a mood and energy boost without the added stress.

So, when is the perfect time to reach for your tea or coffee? For the average person that wakes up at 6:30 or 7 am, cortisol levels are highest from 8 to 9 am, 12 to 1 pm and 5:30 to 6:30 pm. If you get up a little later (or earlier!), you can simply adjust those times forward or backwards as needed. Okay, now you know your “black-out” times for drinking caffeine. And if you’ve ever felt jittery after a lunch-hour latte, now you know why. Looking at these times, you might be tempted to go for your first cup of the day the moment you get out of bed. But, as your cortisol levels are already starting to rise when you wake up, it’s actually best to wait a few hours – ideally between 9:30 and 11:30 am.

Caffeine and Exercise

Now you know when to drink caffeine in your day-to-day life. But what about before a workout? There is a lot of evidence that drinking a cup of coffee before a long exercise session can seriously boost your performance. How? By stimulating your nervous system, caffeine helps your muscles contract faster and more efficiently. And by boosting your energy and endorphins, it can help you enjoy your workout more and delay feelings of exhaustion. In-the-know runners often take a caffeine pill 30 to 60 minutes before a race, to help improve their performance. What’s the ideal dose? About 5 or 6 mg per kilo of body weight.

So, there you have it. Your beloved energizing drink is a lot more complicated than you might realize. And depending on when you brew your first cup, it can have seriously different effects, both mentally and physically. Plus, if you’re trying to beat your personal best workout, it might be a great option to boost your performance. Got a caffeine tip to share? You bet we want to hear it. Just drop us a line at

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