Written by: Jeff Lund is a freelance writer living in Ketchikan, Alaska.
The benefits of coffee (coffee-coffee, not sugary coffee drinks) have been widely reported, so this is not to dissuade you from drinking coffee, it’s a matter of adjusting the timing of consuming it to better crush your day.
When should you drink coffee?
My commute to work as a high school English teacher in Ketchikan, Alaska, is 19 minutes. This varies very little – unless there is snow or black ice – because there are no stop lights along the way. The biggest issue I have (outside of weather) is that halfway through the trip there is a river that holds steelhead in the spring. So, my hour delay is thanks to an hour I spend fly fishing.
I noticed that if I woke up at 4:45, had what I call my Pre-Work Supplement (a superfood cocktail), drank coffee with breakfast, then fished, by the time school started at 8 a.m. I felt like I was a Chevy Volt. Great on mileage, but lacking in power.
So, I decided to delay the coffee. I’d wake up. Water. Shake. Shower. Breakfast. Flyfish. Get to school then have my PR Blend. That way it was like hitting the NOS just before freshmen showed up to learn about how Piggy dies.
Caffeine and Cortisol
When you wake up, your body produces cortisol to get it started. Cortisol is responsible for, among other things, helping with the body’s metabolism of glucose and controlling blood pressure. That sweet spot of cortisol release allows you to function normally. If you wake up and immediately slam coffee, the body is getting caffeine which replaces the natural waking up process. This can lead to caffeine dependence.
Waiting on my coffee has made a huge difference and now I feel the body getting itself ready on its own, rather than relying on a caffeine spike to get into gear. My body can produce the cortisol it needs to get me at my optimum level. Then as I’m readying for first hour, it’s time to boost almost three hours after I woke up.
Focus on hydration first
Cortisol aside, since we wake up from sleeping at least a little dehydrated, and even if caffeine is only a mild diuretic, it’s still not water. Drinking water right after waking up allows the body to functionally naturally and has numerous benefits.
Danny puts down 30 oz. of water and waits an hour before his first cup of coffee, Dean waits twice that.
Find what works for you
Sure, it’s easy for me to wait three hours for my cup of coffee because my Alaskan commute affords me the opportunity to fish on the way to work. Who wouldn’t be stimulated by such an opportunity? But there are other ways to get your body right before you hit it with caffeine.
Some people read, some write/journal, some stretch or do yoga. Humans are amazingly adaptable, so the excuse of not being a morning person doesn’t always hold up. When the steelhead aren’t running, I still wake up early and either read, listen to a Podcast or write. Something to engage the body and brain. I didn’t used to, but I simply went to bed a little earlier, woke up a little earlier and boom.
Don’t be one of those, “Don’t bother me before I’ve had more coffee” types. Be a “Cortisol engaging, I’ll be right with you” type.
For the record, it’s 6:34 a.m. I didn’t go to the river this morning I wrote this article instead. Without coffee.