The Right Time of Day to Drink Your Coffee, According to Science

As much as we love a hot cuppa as soon as we roll out of bed, there's a better time to drink it.

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We love coffee. And what’s not to love? It perks us up in the morning, tastes heavenly and even has health benefits (plus a few extra benefits if you try it “bulletproof”-style). But as much as we love a hot cuppa as soon as we roll out of bed, it turns out that might not be the best time to take advantage of all coffee has to offer. In fact, scientists have found that there’s a better time to get your morning caffeine fix.

The right time for your coffee fix

Turns out the best time to drink coffee might not be first thing in the morning, but an hour after you wake up. This is because in the hour after you wake up, your body’s production of cortisol is at one of its three daily peaks, according to researchers who published a small but intriguing clinical study. We tend to think of cortisol as the “stress hormone” because it’s secreted in higher amounts when feeling strain or tension from circumstances we perceive as demanding (and decreases when we eat yummy chocolate). But another way of thinking of cortisol is as the “alertness hormone,” because the reason our bodies produce more cortisol when we’re under stress is that it increases alertness (which supports our “fight or flight” response when we’re faced with stressful situations). Here’s what else happens to your body when you drink coffee every day.

Why you should wait

Consuming caffeine while our bodies are already at peak cortisol-production teaches the body to produce less cortisol, according to chronopharmacologists who study the way drugs (such as caffeine) interact with our body’s natural biological rhythms. Not only does this undermine the effect of the caffeine, it also works against cortisol’s alertness effect. Perhaps even worse, it may contribute to developing a tolerance for coffee (meaning that it takes more and more just to get to the same place—yikes)!

So to get the biggest jolt from your morning coffee, try to wait an hour after waking to brew that first cup. And when you’re looking to follow up with another caffeine fix, try to do it outside the other peak cortisol production times—typically between noon and 1:00 p.m. and between 5:50 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. This will definitely help you kick any of those afternoon lull feelings and will power you into a productive evening.

Here are some other ways to make your coffee habit healthier.

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