With the start of Fall and the days getting shorter, it is common to feel a bit sleepier and less energetic than during the sunnier months. This often leads us to reach for coffee the minute we wake up (and throughout the day), which is not necessarily bad (coffee is the main dietary source of antioxidants for most Americans) but too much and the wrong type of coffee can have potential downsides. Here are my top 5 ways for you to enjoy your coffee and your health…
Whilst coffee is at the center of most morning routines, some people might do better with avoiding it altogether. If you are someone who struggles with thyroid or adrenal issues, cutting out coffee (and limiting caffeine intake in general) can help to lessen your symptoms of fatigue and inflammation. Since coffee is so high in caffeine (which is a stimulant), it causes large cortisol spikes which can be taxing on your adrenals and make you more out of touch with your natural energy cycles. Similarly, coffee may worsen the symptoms of thyroid issues and, if you take thyroid medications, may actually impair your body’s ability to properly absorb these hormones. If you feel like your coffee does’t work any more, or you feel more tired after drinking it, it may be time to take a coffee break.
For some people coffee can actually spike blood sugar and cause a release of insulin (our fat storage hormone). My best advice is to wear a continuous glucose monitor to see how drinking it affects you personally, as everyone’s body is so different. One thing I can say for sure, however, is that adding sweeteners and syrups to your coffee will definitely cause blood sugar spikes. These spikes will make it harder to lose weight, diminish your energy levels, and promote a cycle of cravings and bingeing. I recommend a continuous glucose monitor from, Signos (use code JENNIFER for a discount).
If you do choose to drink coffee, make sure you do not drink it on an empty stomach. It can be quite tempting to pour yourself a cup before rushing out the door or grab one on the way to work, but if you have skipped breakfast, it can often do more harm than good. When you consume coffee on an empty stomach, the cortisol spikes I mentioned will be even more dramatic, which can cause the classic “coffee jitters” and subsequent crash later in the day. Drinking it on an empty stomach can also damage your stomach lining and promote digestive issues since it is so acidic. Make sure to have breakfast before enjoying your coffee, but if you are really in a rush try adding an unsweetened dairy free creamer or blending in some collagen powder.
It is all too common to head out for a coffee break after lunch when midday fatigue starts to set in (often made worse by consuming a high carb, low protein lunch), but coffee is really best kept to the morning. I advise my clients not to drink coffee after 11am as the caffeine takes so long to move through your system. If you have a late afternoon cup around 3pm, it will make it much harder for you to fall asleep (and have good quality sleep), leading to more fatigue the next day. If you need an afternoon pick-me-up, trying going for a quick walk in the sunshine or have a few squares of dark chocolate instead.
Whether or not you choose to drink coffee, there are many great alternatives on the market now which can help with either limiting your intake or replacing your late afternoon coffee habit. Personally I love rooibos tea with unsweetened almond milk, or even a great decaf coffee (choose swiss water processed for the cleanest option). Matcha and green tea are great alternatives as well when you want (or really need) a bit of caffeine without the jitters. A cup of matcha contains around 25mg of caffeine versus 150mg in a cup of coffee.