“Supporting your morning coffee routine with some strategic practices can be a game changer for digestion, stress, hormone balance, energy and so much more,” says Abigail Hueber, RD, LDN, a functional dietitian and digestive health expert.
What’s more, jumping out of bed and reaching for a cup of Joe may activate the release of stress hormones including adrenaline and cortisol. “Cortisol is an important hormone that we do want to be released in the morning, but the caffeine hit from coffee on an empty stomach can lead to an over-stimulated release of cortisol and trigger an unhelpful stress response that can impact our gut, hormones, adrenals, and energy [in negative ways],” says Hueber. Fortunately, there are some strategic practices you can do before drinking coffee first thing to better support your body and reduce a potential stress response.
Here’s a look at what you should do before you drink coffee
Your body dehydrates overnight, so before enjoying your morning coffee, Hueber says that it’s important to drink 16 ounces of a mineral-rich drink to re-up your electrolytes. “When I say minerals, I’m talking most about potassium and sodium, which help to direct the water where to go in the body for optimal hydration, as well as play a major role in supporting everything from our adrenals to blood sugar and even our hormone balance.” She suggests mixing eight ounces of a potassium-rich drink like coconut water, aloe vera juice, grapefruit or orange juice with a pinch of salt and eight ounces of water for morning hydration before coffee.
2. Eat fiber and protein
As mentioned, coffee on an empty stomach can stimulate cortisol, which can spike blood sugar. “Elevated blood sugar can trigger inflammation and set us up to be on a blood sugar roller coaster for the rest of the day thereby tanking our energy,” says Hueber. “But when we start the day with fiber from a whole food source, we can majorly help to balance blood sugar.” She suggests having half a cup of berries, a banana, an orange, or a date with almond butter before your morning coffee.
In addition to fiber, protein is the other major macronutrients that counter-balance a spike in blood sugar, so consuming some either before you drink coffee or with your coffee is ideal, according to Hueber, who recommends adding a scoop of collagen protein into your coffee á la Jennifer Aniston. “This can have a major benefit on better blood sugar balance and make a positive impact on your body’s stress and inflammation balance, all without changing the flavor or consistency of your coffee.”
3. Work out
While caffeine can be helpful for making tough workouts feel less difficult, having your coffee before heading to the gym could make you anxious during your workout, according to Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, nutrition expert and author of the upcoming book Everyday Snack Tray. “Plus, since both coffee, especially black coffee, and exercise are GI stimulants, having your coffee before your sweat session could leave you running for the bathroom.” If this caffeine delay seems unrealistic, Largeman-Roth suggests starting by trying to cut down to a few sips versus indulging in your usual full cup pre-workout.
4. Brush your teeth
This one probably surprises most people. “The acids in coffee weaken the enamel on our teeth and brushing right after drinking coffee can be damaging to our pearly whites,” says Largeman-Roth. Alternatively: “If you wait about 30 minutes [after drinking coffee to brush], your teeth can remineralize and brushing is no longer problematic.”
5. Go to the bathroom
“Definitely take care of your bladder and other bodily functions before pouring that first cup,” says Largeman-Roth. “Coffee will trigger you to pee, so emptying your bladder first is a smart thing to do.”
6. Wait 90 minutes after waking up
This is the ideal scenario according to Hueber because delaying caffeine for the first 90 minutes of waking allows for the best hormone balance. “Within the first hour of waking, our cortisol levels ideally acutely rise and fall in a response known as our cortisol awakening response, or CAR. This rise and fall of cortisol represents a healthy nervous system and actually has a big influence over our immune health and even risk of autoimmune development. Pausing on caffeine for the first 90 minutes helps to promote the most balanced CAR and can even better support our energy levels throughout the day.”
7. Take a walk
If you’re reaching for caffeine first thing to help you feel more awake and alert, there is a better way to acheive both: “Getting natural light exposure within the first hour or so of waking is a major way to support optimal hormone balance and a healthy CAR response,” says Hueber. The combo of walking and light, she says, is a win-win for hormones, energy, and overall health. “Morning light exposure is a huge regulator of circadian rhythm and light exposure triggers the healthy release of cortisol in the morning to support the body’s natural rhythm, but just remember, we need at least 10–15 minutes without sunglasses to get that natural light exposure on our eyeballs.” BYOB (bringing your own brew) or picking up a coffee at your local café sounds like a pretty nice way to start the day.
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