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article imageWhy drinking coffee first thing in morning is not best

By Caroline Leopold     Sep 10, 2015 in Health
New research reveals that having a cup of coffee the first thing in the morning may not be the best way to get the most from a caffeine boost.
While a morning cup of coffee is a revered tradition, science suggests Americans may be drinking it at the wrong time of day. In fact, early morning may actually be the worst time to drink coffee.
What coffee does in simple terms is make people not feel tired. When people go through their day, a chemical called adenosine builds up in the brain and attaches to receptors, according to Salon. The result is a calming and slowing of the brain, which leaves people feeling tired. Caffeine works on the brain by attaching itself to adenosine receptors. Because caffeine does not slow the brain down like adenosine does, coffee has the effect of making people feel more alert.
This system works fine until the body finds a way to get more adenosine to receptors. The brain generates more receptors, which means people need to drink more coffee to get the same effect. That explains why for many people one cup of coffee isn't enough.
There's more to the story because timing is important in getting the most from coffee. The brain produces a hormone called cortisol, which is known to be involved in stress or the fight-or-flight response. When cortisol is released, the body is ready for action and the mind is clear and focused. The body produces cortisol throughout the day, beginning when people first wake up in the morning. Thus, cortisol generally peaks at 8 a.m. to 9 a.m..
Drinking coffee during a cortisol spike is counterproductive. Cortisol weakens caffeine's pick-me-up quality and even worse, it can promote the body's tolerance to caffeine. That means a person needs to drink more coffee to get its desired effect. Other peak times for cortisol are around lunchtime at 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. and also dinner at 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., according to Salon. Cortisol release follows the body's circadian rhythm or biological clock.
Complicating matters further, caffeine has been found to increase cortisol production, according to studies. A morning cup of coffee can keep cortisol levels elevated for a longer time, according to Forbes. Cortisol has been associated with health problems like anxiety, depression, digestive problems, heart disease, memory problems, and weight gain.
Rather than having caffeine and cortisol fight each other, it may be better to time coffee drinking differently. Based on human biology, it is probably better to drink coffee at times other than cortisol peaks. For example, timing a coffee break at 10 a.m. or 2 p.m. might work better.
As for early birds who wake up extra early, there will still be a cortisol boost. Scientists advise people waiting an hour after waking to indulge in coffee.
More about Coffee, morning coffee, Cortisol, adenosine
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