The Best Time to Enjoy a Cup of Coffee, According to Science


Waiting an hour or two could optimize the benefits of caffeine

Behind the Health Headlines: Caffeine

Ghosts, gremlins, the G train in Brooklyn: October is a season for all things grim and ghoulish.


For many of us, few terrors can compare to the theoretical horror of a morning without coffee. 82% of coffee drinkers have coffee at breakfast in the US, according to the NCA National Coffee Drinking Trends report.

Yet in light of the latest research, nutrition and dietary experts are suggesting that having your first cup of caffeine cup a little later in the day offers maximum benefits.

[Video via USA Today]

Coffee, Cortisol & Cavemen

Drinking your coffee midmorning may help work with your body’s natural rhythm to get the most bang from your brew.

Waking up causes your body to process cortisol, a stress hormone. [Ed. note: Scientific proof that mornings are hard.] Research shows that consuming coffee (and specifically caffeine) is associated with increased cortisol production, says Dr. Corey, NCA Director of Scientific & Government Affairs.

“Cortisol is a fight-or-flight hormone, and helps with feelings of increased energy and stamina,” Dr. Corey explains. “This was likely helpful in the caveman days of waking up to a saber-tooth tiger chasing you. Of course, in the modern urban jungle, we’re generally dealing with rush hour commutes and conference calls.”


Soon after waking, cortisol levels peak to help the body wake up, until a dip 3 to 4 hours later. If your alarm typically goes off between 6 – 8 a.m, then have your coffee between 9 – 11 a.m. This is when levels of this hormone are typically low, reports CNBC.

Extra! Extra Energy

Levels of the hormone fluctuate throughout the day, but consistently decrease until bedtime. If you feel tired in the afternoon, a cup of caffeinated coffee can help raise cortisol levels and make you feel more energized.

“This is especially great if you’re hitting the gym, or just need that extra boost to get the most out of your day,” says Dr. Corey.

Not only is an excellent reason to reach for a refill, but drinking coffee before a workout may offer additional benefits. Research suggests that caffeine can help boost endurance and athletic performance.

But keep in mind that every body is different, and adjust your caffeine intake accordingly. “For those sensitive to caffeine, just be careful not to have too much coffee before bedtime, as it could otherwise keep you up to watch the late late show,” cautions Dr. Corey.


Can’t imagine facing the day without your beloved brew?

We get it. Try sniffing some fresh roasted coffee beans trick yourself into an energy fix before leaving home  studies show that just the aroma may help boost your brain.

And if you manage to make the shift, you’ll be on trend: Coffee isn’t just for breakfast anymore.

While the morning is still the most common time for coffee consumption, its lead is in decline. More people are drinking coffee later in the day, according to the latest NCDT data. This is especially true of younger consumers, including Gen Z. This shift is also fueled by the the rapid growth (and resulting availability) of RTD cold brew beverages in the beverage market.

Read more: This is the best time to have your cup of coffee

Ed. note: The statements in this article are not medial advice, and every body is different. Please make the best decisions for you, and consult a doctor with specific questions.

About the NCA National Coffee Drinking Trends report:


Compiled by Kyra Auffermann, NCA


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