Sipping coffee any time of the day or evening helps you feel alert and perky but consuming caffeine at key moments during your day — such as when your cortisol levels are low, before a workout, or during a meeting can elevate performance and maximize your coffee’s impact. Keep reading to learn more.
Make sure you are fully awake before pouring that first cup
To be precise, wait approximately ninety minutes after waking before going for the first pour. According to research conducted by Dartmouth’s Geisel School of Medicine, sipping your first coffee ninety minutes to three hours after waking allows you to optimize that first cup. If you are like me, you are skeptical (will friends, neighbors, and family survive that first ninety minutes?!). Unfortunately, the science makes sense. Coffee makes you feel alert by blocking sleep-inducing adenosine receptors. When you first wake up your cortisol levels are on the rise, meaning that your body is naturally waking you up and that delicious cup of coffee, as great as it tastes, isn’t contributing as much as it could to your state of alertness.
Just as with sugar levels, maintaining steady caffeine levels throughout the day is the best way to sustain coffee’s positive impact and minimize the dreaded crash. Once your energy crashes, it is very difficult to shake off the sleepiness. According to the Dartmouth study, optimal times to consume coffee are, assuming a 6 am wake-up, between 8-9 am, between 12-1 pm, and between 5:30-6:30 pm. (If you wake up significantly earlier or later than 6 am simply adjust the suggested times up or down.) While these are the most common times according to test participant’s circadian rhythms, everyone is different and the real trick to optimizing this study’s findings is to start drinking your coffee 20-30 minutes before your daily lull sets in.
Before your workout
Power your workout with a pre-cup of coffee! According to the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, drinking a cup of coffee one hour before starting your workout (coffee’s impact peaks roughly one-hour post-consumption) increases physical performance by 11-12%, increases endurance, and increases fat burn by encouraging the body to release fatty acids. To learn more about how coffee improves your workout performance and results, click here.
With a side of grapefruit
If you enjoy fresh grapefruit, by all means, eat a slice while drinking your coffee! Grapefruit slows the breakdown of caffeine in your system, allowing you to enjoy your coffee’s perks for a bit longer — those include increased metabolism, increased alertness, and a better mood. To learn more about how grapefruit and caffeine interact, click here.
While playing with others
Research shows that drinking coffee before engaging in a group discussion enables participants to discuss / debate sensitive topics in a more positive way and to collectively brainstorm more creative solutions. Compared with non-coffee drinkers, those who drink coffee before or during a discussion find it easier to focus and are more likely to express their ideas and opinions. When later questioned about the group discussion, researchers found that, in addition to increased participation, coffee drinkers also feel more positively about both their own and their peers’ participation.
When you need (and have time for) a power nap
Drinking up to twelve-ounces of coffee before settling in for a maximum twenty-minute power nap will keep you alert, refreshed, and fatigue-free. While this may sound counter-intuitive, studies conducted in the United Kingdom and Japan confirmed the effectiveness of this unlikely pairing. To understand how a coffee nap works, click here.
Go slow and short for a good night sleep
Coffee can remain in your system for up to twelve hours. If you suffer from later-day caffeine cravings and like to sleep well and at a reasonable hour, choose a coffee with lower caffeine content such as a dark roast, half-caffeinated blend, Yemeni coffee, or peaberry. You could also go for a decaf coffee or a smaller serving — think demitasse — of a fully caffeinated, higher-caffeine coffee. If you don’t wish to compromise on your coffee (something we fully understand!), go for an espresso. One shot of espresso has significantly less caffeine than a six-ounce cup of caffeinated coffee.