When Should You Drink Your Last Coffee of the Day?
A cup of coffee isn't just a tasty beverage—it also provides most of us with a much-needed energy boost each morning or during an afternoon slump. "Coffee often contains caffeine, which is a stimulant and can have various impacts on our body," One Medical's Dr. Natasha Bhuyan, MD, says. "Coffee is also the largest dietary source of caffeine in Americans." Because of this, those who drink their favorite brew every day may notice increased alertness and attentiveness, since a cup of Joe "provides a stimulating effect by increasing activity in the brain and nervous system," Melissa Rifkin, MS, RD, CDN, shares. As the day comes to a close, though, that level of energy isn't always desired, especially when you're ready for some shut-eye. So, when should we have our last cup of coffee each day? We tapped our experts to find out.
Drinking coffee has certain side effects.
There are a few things to keep in mind, health-wise, if you drink multiple cups of coffee each day. Since the beverage can act as a diuretic, it prompts increased urination; and while it can be refreshing, whether you opt for a warm or iced variety, it's also dehydrating, so drinking plenty of additional water is a must. "Caffeine can have side effects like palpitations, tremors, and anxiety," Dr. Bhuyan adds. "In large amounts, it can also increase your blood pressure and heart rate." On the plus side, coffee is packed with antioxidants. "These are beneficial compounds that help to stabilize harmful free radicals in the body to keep them from causing damage," Rifkin says.
Consume a balanced amount each day.
How much coffee you consume should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. "Everyone has different sensitivities to caffeine. While some may not notice any change in energy levels after a cup of coffee, others may experience a significant energy boost and increase in jitters and anxiety," Rifkin shares. "In severe cases, caffeine may cause changes in the contracting of heart muscle and lead to a heart attack." The FDA notes that people shouldn't have more than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day (that equals about five cups of coffee). Still, it's important to monitor side effects, since Dr. Bhuyan notes that some notice negative impacts around cup four. "However, it is important to recognize caffeine comes from many sources, so if someone is consuming coffee, energy drinks, soda, and other forms in a day, the combined total of all caffeine should be no more than 400 milligrams," adds Rifkin.
Have your last cup hours before bedtime.
"It takes about six hours for half of the caffeine from coffee to break down in your body," Dr. Bhuyan says. "It then takes another few hours for the caffeine to be eliminated or reach low levels." Because of this, health experts recommend drinking your last brew nearly 10 hours before bedtime. Recognizing your individual tolerance levels could make a difference here, too. "For someone who is not as sensitive to caffeine, they may be able to enjoy coffee closer to bed without the caffeine disrupting their sleep," Rifkin concludes.