The best time of day to drink coffee

If you're the devoted coffee drinker you claim to be, you might wake up thinking about that first cup. Or maybe you're such a caffeine fiend that you go to sleep thinking about it and set your coffee machine to auto-brew minutes before your alarm clock goes off. To anyone who recognizes this scene, we've got some bad news for you:

The best time of day to drink coffee isn't right when you get up. (Sorry.)

The best time is actually between 9:30 and 11:30 a.m., and 1:30 and 5 p.m., according to research conducted by Steven Miller at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda.

Of course, this varies depending on what time you get up and on your individual caffeine tolerance. In other words, don't move your afternoon cup back to 4:30 p.m. if you know it will keep you up all night.

But Miller's research shows that your body is naturally waking up between 8 and 9 a.m. (again, depending on when you normally roll out of bed). So drinking coffee during this natural rush isn't only ineffective, but it could create a dependency whose effects will lessen over time. It's all tied to a hormone called cortisol, which makes you feel awake. During those early hours, your body is producing peak levels of cortisol. The takeaway? Don't feed your body caffeine when it's already producing cortisol to rev you up.

This isn't new news. Miller's research has been circulating for years, and every year it seems a new publication resurfaces the research—probably because people are still drinking coffee right when they get up.

It's helpful, on one hand, because it's important to be mindful of your caffeine intake. On the other hand, this might be a great time to recall one of our favorite maxims: Eat when you're hungry, sleep when you're tired and drink coffee whenever you want—even right before your nap.

Research tested: The author of this article was drinking coffee between the hours of 8:30 and 9:30 a.m, and she still wants a second cup.

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