What is the best time to drink coffee? Here’s what the research says.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclaimer for more information.

Ah, coffee: the lifeblood of billions of people around the world! The ways to drink it? Infinite. The amount of customization? Innumerable. The types of coffee machines available to make a cup? Plenty.

The added productivity and happiness to our daily lives? Immeasurable. While some of us may wholeheartedly feel that all the time is the best time to drink coffee, there are actually some optimal times for your cup of joe, depending on your goals for that timeframe.

This article will look at those time windows and share with you some neat little insights on the why behind those times. Let’s go!

Coffee. Beautiful Girl Drinking Tea or Coffee

Optimal Overall

Ok, so let’s start off with the overall “best” time that researchers and bloggers have found for a nice little sippy sip of coffee. According to several articles we’ve found, the best time to drink coffee is actually NOT right when you wake up. We know, we were surprised too!

Here’s why, though. Your body has this hormone called “cortisol,” – aka the stress hormone. Cortisol is partially responsible for regulating several aspects of your body, such as alertness, metabolism, immune response, and blood pressure. 

Several different things can spike your cortisol, but the time of day that your body’s cortisol will naturally be highest is between 8-9 am or about 30 minutes after you wake up in the mornings.

If you drink your morning coffee before that, the caffeine will interfere with your cortisol levels and not allow them to drop smoothly and on time. If your cortisol is elevated for too long and too often, it can cause damage to your immune system and other areas.

This can lead to a higher level of morning anxiety, and your morning jolt will be less effective. Wild, right?

Other Times for Java

Aside from that morning jolt, there are some other times when your body will be lower in cortisol and ready for some extra caffeine. Late morning and late afternoon are some good times for a little boost. These are also times that your body naturally needs a little extra energy.

What about if you need a jolt for the gym or some type of sports event? Well, good news: coffee is a great way to get that!  Studies have shown that getting some caffeine 30-60 minutes before your workout can enhance your performance, delay exercise fatigue, and even make you stronger so you can hit some new PRs. For the best results for gym or exercise performance, you’re looking at getting 1.4-2.7 mg per pound of body weight. Besides, a cup of coffee will be far less expensive than any type of caffeine supplement or powder you may find for the same caffeine bump.

If you are on the weight loss train and struggle with over-snacking, try sipping on a small cup of coffee between larger meals. The research here is limited but drinking that small cup of coffee has been seen to help lower the need for a snack.

However, we urge you to speak with your doctor before adopting this habit, as your doctor will have better knowledge of how best to help with weight loss in a healthy manner. We’re not doctors here, just coffee enthusiasts offering tidbits of information.

Fun fact: the US Army and the Department of Defense actually conducted a study to find out how to use caffeine to reach the most alert state.

They created an algorithm that used sleep-deprived subjects and the amount of caffeine it required for them to feel like they got a full night’s sleep. The results: were 200 mg of caffeine when they woke up, followed by another 200 mg 4 hours later.

A Bad time for a Cup o’ Joe

Alright, so we’ve covered some ideal times for coffee; now, let’s mention a negative side of it. Caffeine’s stimulating effects can be felt in the body 3-5 hours after consumption, which means that it will affect your sleep ability.

If you don’t want to negatively impact your sleep, try to avoid coffee 5-6 hours before bedtime. If you’re just really craving that coffee taste, try decaf later in the evening. We all know you can’t do dessert without coffee, so adjust where you need to so that you can still sleep like a lamb.

Alright, let’s sum up what we’ve learned today. The most agreed-on time for optimal coffee is when your body has lower cortisol levels, such as after 9 am or late morning/late afternoon. If you’re looking for a boost for exercise purposes, grab a cup of coffee 30-60 minutes before you head out to give it enough time to hit effectively.

Unfortunately, scientific research on optimal coffee drinking times is relatively limited. These answers come mostly from small studies or the personal experience of article writers. Let’s hope they do a little more research in the future because we know coffee will always be around!