Morning routines are sacred. For some, it's waking up to a favorite song; for others, it's going for a run or doing some yoga. No matter what your morning routine is, coffee is sure to be a part of it. Why are we so certain? Coffee is one of the ten most traded commodities in the world (1)! Considering that, the odds that you're a coffee drinker are higher than the odds that you're not.
So, let's assume you're a coffee drinker. Not only do you like to drink coffee, but can we also assume you'd like to know the best time to drink it?
Well, you've come to the right place (or we should say, you clicked on the right link ).
Take the time to learn the history of coffee, its science, and the 90-minute rule that could change your energy level. Afterwards, your morning routine will definitely be leveled up.
Don't just drink coffee like everyone else - do it at the right time.
Get acquainted: The story of coffee in a nutshell
Coffee was discovered around the year 500 and goats are to be thanked. Why is that? An Ethiopian legend says that these animals used to feed on the berries of a certain tree, and their shepherd noticed that they looked particularly energetic after eating them. He shared his discovery with a nearby monk, who then spread the word to his monastery. You guessed it: they were chewing the berries of the coffee tree, Coffea arabica. (2)
Regardless of the legends, it is likely that people in Ethiopia, Yemen, and other nearby countries chewed the raw cherries of wild coffee plants for energy for centuries before it became a common beverage, by roasting the berries and pouring hot water over them. By the 17th century, coffee had begun to replace tea in North America. Thomas Jefferson, the third president of the United States, said in 1824 that coffee was ‘‘the favorite beverage of the civilized world’’(3). From there, the rest is history: coffee spread across continents.
Coffeehouses, like Starbucks, became social hubs, serving as places for intellectual discussions, social gatherings, and even live music and performances. The cultural significance of coffee and the vibrant atmosphere of early coffeehouses paved the way for the global coffee culture we know and love today (4). Coffee beans have had an impact on the world we live in and are probably partly responsible for our global productivity.
Thanks to the Coffea arabica tree — and to goats!
Dive into the science of caffeine
There is a wide variety of cups of coffee, depending on the coffee plant, the region where it is grown, the age, the type of bean, and how it is roasted and ground. Caffeine, found in coffee and in also other things such as tea, is the active molecule that gives coffee its energizing properties. No matter the coffee, caffeine always works the same way: like a car in a bustling city with red lights.
Your brain is like a bustling city
Imagine your brain is a busy city, and adenosine is a traffic signal that regulates the flow of activity. Adenosine, like a red light, slows down the city's neural traffic, signaling that it's time to slow down and rest. But when you consume caffeine, it's like a fleet of caffeinated cars speeding through the city.
Caffeine acts like a swarm of speeding vehicles disrupting the traffic signal system. It speeds through intersections, ignores red lights (adenosine), and keeps the city awake and buzzing with activity. The usual calm and drowsiness associated with red lights is replaced with an energized and alert state.
In addition, the caffeinated cars set off a cascade of other events. They activate additional traffic signals that release feel-good neurotransmitters such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin. These neurotransmitters act as excited passengers, cheering on the caffeinated cars and contributing to the overall stimulation and elevated mood experienced in the bustling city.
The scientific explanation
Caffeine is a stimulant that acts on the central nervous system, including the brain. It works by blocking the action of a neurotransmitter called adenosine. Adenosine normally binds to adenosine receptors in the brain, which slows nerve cell activity and promotes drowsiness.
There are four known subtypes of adenosine receptors: A1, A2A, A2B, and A3. Caffeine's blocking effect is most pronounced at the A1 and A2A receptors. A1 receptors are widely distributed throughout the brain, and their activation by adenosine inhibits neurotransmitter release and neuronal activity. By blocking A1 receptors, caffeine enhances neural activity and promotes alertness. A2A receptors are predominantly found in certain regions of the brain. Their activation promotes the release of dopamine, and blocking A2A receptors with caffeine can lead to increased dopamine levels, contributing to the stimulant effects of caffeine. (5)
It is worth noting that caffeine's effects extend beyond the brain. In addition to its effects on the central nervous system, caffeine also affects other organs and systems in the body, including the cardiovascular, respiratory, and gastrointestinal systems. These effects contribute to the comprehensive physiological response experienced after caffeine consumption: you’re alert, and ready to tackle what’s ahead of you.
Everyone is unique – not in a cheesy way, for real.
The effects of caffeine on the brain can vary depending on several factors. Individual sensitivity to caffeine, the amount consumed, and the timing of consumption can all influence the response. Regular caffeine consumption can lead to the development of tolerance, meaning that higher doses may be needed to achieve the same effects. It can also lead to dependence, with individuals experiencing withdrawal symptoms when caffeine intake is abruptly discontinued (we salute you, coffee addicts reading this ). (6)
The 90 min rule that could change your life
According to Andrew Huberman, a prominent neuroscientist and researcher at Stanford University School of Medicine, changing your morning routine could change your life…
Well, — maybe not your life, but at least your energy level 😄! Specifically, Huberman suggests waiting 90 to 120 minutes after you wake up before you consume coffee. (7)
He suggests this for three reasons:
1) Let your natural cortisol response wake you up (natural circadian rhythm)
An increase in cortisol occurs when our body undergoes a natural awakening, which is also part of the circadian rhythm. Cortisol helps us feel alert, but consuming caffeine during this surge can diminish its effects. Maintaining a healthy circadian rhythm is critical for optimal sleep and wakefulness, so delaying your coffee can help you with that.
2) Lets your adenosine levels rise slightly so caffeine is more effective
Waiting 90 minutes after waking up allows adenosine levels to rise slightly, making caffeine more effective at blocking receptors and keeping us alert throughout the day. Accordingly, to Huberman, that’s the key to its method: you need to let some adenosine fix itself on receptors before you consume coffee.
3) Reduce your overall caffeine dependence
Early caffeine consumption can lead to increased dependence because the body relies less on its natural cortisol release. Waiting 90 minutes allows the body to rely more on its natural wakefulness mechanisms, reducing the risk of caffeine dependence if a withdrawal occurs.
Improve your morning routine today!
One cup of coffee at a time, you can improve your energy levels and your morning routine. Waiting 90 minutes is a simple trick you can start today: it's easy, free, and accessible! What else should you add to your morning routine? Huberman suggests using natural sunlight to wake you up, like taking a walk outside first thing in the morning. He also suggests setting aside a time to work on a cognitive task for an hour in the early morning, followed by a one-hour workout. He’s also a big fan of cold plunge - to reset your mind and body. (8)
What else can you do to improve your morning routine? Have a ready-to-eat breakfast when you wake up! HOLOS are the perfect time savers for productive mornings. Plus, effective mornings don't have to be bland: HOLOS are both tasty & convenient For aficionado of both Muesli and coffee, we have the perfect recipe for you here.
Rise and shine, one cup of delayed coffee at a time.
(1) FXSSI (2023), Top 10 Most Traded Commodities in the World – 2023, online here: https://fxssi.com/top-10-most-traded-commodities-in-the-world
(2) National Coffee Association (N.D), The history of coffee, online here: https://www.ncausa.org/About-Coffee/History-of-Coffee
(3) From Thomas Jefferson to Edmund Rogers, 14 February 1824,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/98-01-02-4054.https://www.history.com/news/coffee-houses-revolutions
(4) Tucker, C. M. (2017). Coffee culture: Local experiences, global connections. Taylor & Francis.
(5) Cappelletti, S., Daria, P., Sani, G., & Aromatario, M. (2015). Caffeine: cognitive and physical performance enhancer or psychoactive drug?. Current neuropharmacology, 13(1), 71-88.
(6) Harvard T.H Chan School of public health (2020), Coffee, online here: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/coffee/
(7) Huberman Lab (2022), Using Caffeine to Optimize Mental & Physical Performance, online here: https://hubermanlab.com/using-caffeine-to-optimize-mental-and-physical-performance/
(8) Williamson (2022), Andrew Huberman Reveals His Entire Morning Routine, video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-ezOLT2Kv0