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Should You Delay Drinking Coffee In The Morning?

Apr 19, 2024

The 90-minute rule says you should wait at least 90 minutes from the time you wake up in order to consume caffeine, which for most people is coffee, and this allows your natural cortisol levels to rise caffeine keeps us from getting tired mainly by inhibiting adenosine receptors.

Adenosine is a competitive Agonist to caffeine. They're two substances that are in competition for the same site when the caffeine wears off later in the day adenosine will be in surplus and you're going to experience a crash in energy.

That's the theory anyway!

This idea was popularized by Dr Andrew Huberman who everyone is talking about right now for all the wrong reasons but I don't want to discuss any of that I just want to go into this part of his morning routine and whether it makes sense.

I couldn't find any studies assessing whether this is indeed how it happens and it would be relatively easy to set up as scientific studies go. You have a large group of people some of them having their coffee first thing in the morning some of them waiting longer seeing what their effects are what their energy levels are testing perhaps their energy levels later on in the day but nothing like that exists one thing we do know is that the caffeine response of different people can vary.

The half life of caffeine for instance averages about 5 hours so it takes about 5 hours for the drug to be reduced to half in the blood. But it can vary between individuals from about 1 and 1/2 hours to 9 and 1/2 hours so whether someone is drinking caffeine or not there are still different responses depending on your personal genetic profile.

My suggestion is always to try it out for yourself and see whether it affects how you feel. And if it does okay fine.

But I'm seeing this going around as like a big warning to anyone drinking coffee and I think that's misplaced.

Is it possible that some people are going to feel better if they delay having their coffee in the morning?

Yeah absolutely. It could be down to the placebo effect because they just believe it will then it does. And the placebo effect is not a minor thing. It is a powerful force that has been studied and can have large effects. But when we're thinking about something that's so common like an afternoon lag in energy there are a million reasons while you could be tired.

Maybe you're not sleeping enough. You're not eating well consistently. Or you're not exercising regularly or you're exercising a little bit too much and you're not recovering.

Maybe you're super stressed and that can be very fatiguing there are so many reasons that could be responsible for fatigue trying to isolate it to oh it's because you had your morning coffee right away when you woke up is going to take more evidence for me to actually believe.

Now I ran this idea by Dr Bill Campbell who is a professor of exercise science and the director of the performance and physique enhancement laboratory at the University of South Florida. And he agreed that the idea is based on a lot of assumptions that may or may not be true.

The actual outcome how a person is going to feel is dependent on a person's genetics and their caffeine tolerance and other factors that are difficult to measure.

A recent journal article answered common questions about caffeine and they addressed this question specifically.

Does waiting 1 and 1/2 to 2 hours after waking to consume caffeine help you avoid the afternoon crash?

In this article they explained what we know about how cortisol and adenosine function in the body.

Cortisol levels are lowest when we go to sleep and then they start to rise again while we're sleeping somewhere between 2: and 4:00 a.m. and then they peak within about an hour of waking before going down over the course of the day again.

They noted that the increase in cortisol secretion with caffeine is still going to happen even if you delay intake. And they also mentioned a major flaw in this theory because the same effect that you get from drinking caffeine also happens when you work out with high-intensity first thing in the morning.

So if you're asking people to avoid caffeine you should also tell them to avoid high-intensity exercise in the morning. That as they said in the article runs contrary to almost all current evidence.

Now as far as adenosine goes there is a rapid increase in adenosine in the transition from sleep to waking which then stabilizes across active hours. In light of this pattern any suggestion that adenosine levels are continuing to decline upon waking demonstrates a lack of understanding of the sleep wake cycle influence on adenosine.


Basically they're saying if anyone's trying to convince you of this they don't really understand how the Sleep awake cycle works at all.

And of course the grand finale: "the suggestion that adenosine continues to decline upon waking is also scientifically inaccurate and not supported by research there is also no evidence that caffeine ingestion upon waking is somehow responsible for an afternoon crash or that delaying consumption would somehow prevent this if it did occur."

Contrary to the statement that drinking caffeine first thing in the morning as most people do would cause an afternoon crash there actually is evidence to suggest that daily typical caffeine intake does not result in afternoon sleepiness. So that claim seems to be completely unfounded.

One interesting thing they pointed out is that delaying caffeine intake actually doesn't make a lot of sense you want to have your caffeine intake as early as possible in the day so that it doesn't interfere with your sleep and you clear all that caffeine out of your system.

A few things to also note about caffeine.

It is a diuretic so you would be losing water. But if you're having your coffee as a normal coffee and you've got that fluid in there. There's water in there. The net effect is actually positive. So you're actually being hydrated by that.

If you're having tons of espresso shots for instance where there's lots of caffeine but not much water then it might be an issue.

I don't drink coffee myself because I suffer from acid reflex issues. It has been shown to increase your levels of gastrin so the gastric juices are increased and more acid is not pleasant for those of us with those issues.

If you suffer from acid reflux it is a good idea to have something to eat just to buffer all that acid creation that's going to come from the coffee.

Ideally keep your coffee and any caffeine that you have early on in the day so as not interfere with your sleep. Let's focus on getting good quality sleep, 7 to 9 hours consistently. And we're less likely to be dependent on caffeine.

Now if you find that waiting a little bit longer makes you feel better great. I am all for anything that's going to improve the quality of your life. But just because it works for you doesn't mean that that same rule applies to everybody else.

What I'm seeing right now posted just about everywhere is a type of fear-mongering where it's like: "don't do this otherwise you're going to be in big trouble!".

If you're drinking caffeine first thing in the morning making an arbitrary rule like this doesn't make any sense most people do consume some form of caffeine both caffeine and coffee have been shown to be safe in the right doses.

And it has positive effects: increasing your focus and your performance when it comes to physical and mental activity.

In some cases coffee can reduce certain risk factors diabetes for instance.

For those of you that are looking for fat loss you probably also want to be mindful about how much cream or sugar you're putting into your coffee. Because that's going to be relevant in terms of the additional calories that you're adding on.

But if you're having a relatively plain low calorie coffee then it's not going to interfere with fat loss. In fact it may increase the rate of fat oxidation. And it increases your energy levels which means you're more likely to burn off more calories.

Ivana Chapman