Coffee – how much is too much?

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Most of us start the day with a caffeine fix, getting you up and going in the morning with mummy’s little helper!  A cup of tea or coffee, both have caffeine and stimulate your brain and your nervous system and give you a much needed early morning get out bed boost.  How much caffeine should you be drinking for your body type, how much is enough and what is the best time of day for you to drink coffee?  This blog will outline the latest neuroscientific research into caffeine how it will affect and you and what is your optimum amount and at what time of the day will it serve you best.


Is caffeine ever be good for you?

I am with Mo Farah on this one, we share a lot in common, long lean legs, positive outlook on life he just happens to have a couple of Olympic world records. Mo loves his coffee! As a fellow athlete (okay I am using the term ‘fellow’ and ‘athlete’ with regards to me very loosely here.)

Coffee and caffeine is a big part of ‘athletes’ lives.  If you are looking to get up and going in the morning it is a safe go-to. If you want to perform optimally then a cup of coffee before a run will set you on fire.

Caffeine has also been shown to increase serotonin levels in the limbic part of your brain.  If you have read my book you’ll be aware of the limbic part of the brain where the inner teenager lurks ready to kick off at the slightest provocation.  This part of the brain is a relatively primitive part of our brain also known as the ‘chimp’  and it is involved in basic functions which include instant emotional responses.  It affects your mood swings and pain and pleasure sensations.

Serotonin is a chemical that has a wide variety of functions in the human body. It is sometimes called the happy chemical because it contributes to wellbeing and happiness.

In short, drinking coffee with you give you a happy hit.


Best time of day to drink coffee

Exercising is best in the afternoon, your body is more awake, your reactions are faster and your muscles are warm and primed.  Most of the world breaking records are regularly broken during the early afternoon, so it begs the question is there ever a perfect time to drink coffee?  Bringing your optimum awake time with an extra boost of caffeine will you get amazing results in the early afternoon?

With coffee having a half-life of 5-6 hours, perhaps there is a time that you can optimally drink coffee and perform at your best in terms of your business and your exercise or next world record.

The early morning is not the best time to drink coffee, it disrupts your own natural rhythm.

Drinking coffee first thing in the morning disrupts your normal circadian rhythm and your hormones.  Namely your cortisol hormone. You are very familiar with cortisol and you know from previous blogs that cortisol is linked to stress and will increase body fat: Read more Hormones including cortisol create belly fat

Cortisol needs to be managed too much will create havoc for your weight gain, clarity of thinking and is very detrimental to your health. however cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone and without it, you wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning.

Cortisol levels are naturally at their highest first thing in the morning.  If you are consuming coffee first thing in the morning it means that it is disrupting your natural cortisol levels.  Your body is thwarted from working with its natural rhythm.  Caffeine hijacks the cortisol natural flow.  Instead your body no longer uses cortisol and melatonin to get you up and moving around in the morning, instead, your body and mind become dependent on an external source of energy – coffee. You, therefore, become caffein dependent, using coffee or tea to get you going rather than your body natural ability. The phrase ‘Use it or lose it’ is as apt here as anywhere.  If you are no longer using cortisol in the morning your body won’t produce it then but it doesn’t mean to say that the cortisol production won’t’ be triggered by the fight or flight mechanism which can be a roaring tiger/Wildebeest or simply somebody annoying you in a traffic jam.

Morale: Respect the cortisol!

Read more: Belly fat isn’t based on age – it is caused by stress


If your cortisol levels stay raised throughout the day you are agitated and anxious and this will cause other health issues. Elevated cortisol issues are detrimental to your health but the real problem arises when you drink too much coffee and you combine this with a bad diet high in sugary and starchy carbs as well as a big dollop of stress. These factors together can make coffee an issue. In addition, certain populations of people are much more triggered by coffee than others.

Caffeine effects on your metabolism

Whilst intermittent fasting, coffee is seen as the go-to, to help distract you and your body. Yet chronic coffee consumption increases your insulin resistance which means your body cannot effectively deliver glucose into the cells of the body instead the glucose stays in your blood system. The body’s cells are less receptive to glucose, they have shut down.

This creates insulin resilience because your body must release more insulin to do the job, which means your body becomes less and less sensitive to insulin’s effects, which means more circulating glucose, which means more insulin release… and so on.

Too much caffeine can affect the body in 3 ways:

  • Caffeine raises levels of certain stress hormones like adrenaline which can prevent your cells from processing as much sugar. It may also keep your body from making as much insulin.
  • It blocks a protein called adenosine. This molecule plays a big role in how much insulin your body makes. It also controls how your cells respond to it. Caffeine keeps adenosine from doing its job. It can’t clear sugar from your blood as quickly.
  • It takes a toll on your sleep. Too much caffeine can keep you awake. Lack of sleep may also lower your insulin sensitivity.

How much caffeine can you have safely?

Caffeine is in certain teas, energy drinks and foods such as dark chocolate, ice cream and drugs such as weight loss pills and pain relievers and prevent you from falling into a natural sleep. Even ‘de-caffeinated’ doesn’t mean that the tea or drink has no caffeine it simply means it has reduced amount. If you are drinking three or four cups of decaf in the evening it is just as damaging to your sleep as one caffeinated cup.

Caffeine has a ‘half-life’ of five to seven hours, which is the scientific way of saying that it takes five to seven hours to remove 50% of the caffeine from your body.  Caffeine is removed from your body by an enzyme in your liver and whilst genetics will affect the speed of its removal there aren’t that many people who a fast-acting enzyme which means that they can have an expresso late at night and still get a great nights sleep. Most of us are sensitive to the effect of caffeine and one cup in the morning will last most of the day and then followed by another late morning or early afternoon will affect your ability to sleep.

There are factors that affect the removal of caffeine for example:

  • ageing has a dramatic effect on this effectiveness of this enzyme.
  • the half-life of caffeine is shorter in smokers than non-smokers,
  • while the half-life of caffeine is doubled in women taking oral contraceptives.

One or two cups a day is fine, stop drinking at lunchtime or early afternoon.

Coffee withdrawal

The increase in serotonin levels, combined with the increase in serotonin receptors, causes the characteristic withdrawal symptoms (such as agitation and irritability) when coffee intake is stopped.   Your brain has come to expect more action in its serotonin receptors, and when its abundant supply of happy chemicals is abruptly cut off, it gets crabby. Are you looking for personal support with your health and weight loss?

Does coffee push you to get up too early?

If you are using caffeine to push you through to waking up too early you could be damaging your health. My blog Getting up too early is not good for you! explains that changes in your rhythm are not advisable.  It could be that you are either:

a. Waking at dawn and pushing yourself all week and lounge about at the weekend to try and make up for bad habits in the week

b. Or perhaps you wait until the last possible minute to get out of bed during the week and rush around like crazy

Either scenario is harmful and disruptive.  Sleeping beyond your natural circadian rhythm by sleeping in too much disrupts your natural positive pattern.7 easy steps to get enough sleep

A more positive approach is to get up and go to bed at the same time every day.  Allowing yourself plenty of time to plan your day and prepare your lunch (if you haven’t done it the night before).  A calm start to the day will set the intention for your entire day. Read more about how my experiences as an owl changed my morning routine after I hit the menopause click here – a calm start to the day be your own morning boss

Knowing yourself is an interesting and thoughtful journey, which will offer you so much more than simply your weight loss.  The way your existing habits work to increase your levels of stress is intriguing and fascinating. If you want to return back to the women you were when life was full of anticipation and hope for your future and regain your best health with nutrition, an exercise routine that suits you then drop me a line or give me a call – chat here 

If you would like to understand your body more, get to grips with the nutritional balance that will work for you feel free to book in your time with me. You and I will discuss where you are currently and where you would love to be in 3 or 6 months time. I look forward to chatting with you

PS. Don’t forget the gorgeous book – your insight into great health and vitality Gorgeous! how to look and feel fantastic every day.  Click here to find out about your Gorgeous book

“Gorgeous! The psychology of this book has opened my eyes into realising that things have to change and can change. For the better. The other topics on eating and the misconceptions of what to eat have blown my mind and understanding the importance of fitness from both a physical and mental perspective. I’m so pleased I trusted my gut and bought this book


Find out what other clients have to say…

I recommend “Gorgeous” book very highly. Such a well-researched, clear and logical path through the jungle of physical and mental fitness advice that’s out there. It mainly targets women but there’s more than enough here for guys to make it your personal guide. With a hard-hitting but humorous style, Adele explodes current fitness myths leaving you in no doubt about what to do and why. So be the best you can be. If you are thinking about working with Adele then I’m sure this will convince you to just do it!

Terry Hill Business Psychologist, Author and Lead Consultant at Mindscape Associates: Psychology for Business Get Gorgeous Book 17th May 2019

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