Hi, hi, good morning! Although, it’s not a good morning…just yet, you hear your alarm going off, you don’t want to wake up and you can’t believe it’s already “that” time. Maybe you hit snooze or maybe you’re excited to jump out of bed and start your day. I know I’m definitely the snooze hitter when my alarm goes off every morning, just 10 more minutes. You wake up to total darkness (at least, depending on the time you wake up), your significant other may still be sleeping, your kids may be knocking on your door and all you can think of, is “I can’t wait for my morning coffee, I really need it.”

For myself, coffee is my daily ritual. I love coffee and for those that know me, know I’m very particular when it comes to a good cup of java. From buying organic whole beans, pouring the beans in the grinder, anticipating the beans to be ground and be put into the coffee maker, pouring in the water and the final step, hitting that brew button. Once that machine beeps twice to tell me my coffee is ready, I finally feel like I’ll be able to accomplish anything after only one sip. However, I’ve been learning throughout my course that caffeine raises cortisol and based on our circadian rhythm (defined in the next paragraph) there’s actually a better time to consume caffeine throughout our day so it won’t interfere with our natural cycle of cortisol.

There’s definitely a difference between a daily ritual and needing caffeine to keep you going throughout the day. Did you know that caffeine is an addictive chemical and it’s the most widely used psychoactive substance in the world? I was shocked as well! I know coffee has some negative effects such as restlessness, anxiety, sleep disturbances, nausea, headache, muscle tension and increased heart rate to name a few. But what if, instead of focusing on how much caffeine we need throughout the day, we simply just changed the timing of when we consume caffeine. This is where I’d like to introduce you to, your circadian rhythm; this is your own individualized and biological clock/schedule. It’s the ebb and flow of hormones and enzymes and the changes they go through over the course of the 24-hour day.

Although many hormones are affected by your circadian rhythm, the one hormone I want to focus on is cortisol. When we think of cortisol, we think of stress. However, a moderate amount of stress is actually beneficial for us and it can stimulate motivation and even protect our body from infection.  However, what you perceive as stressful influences whether the body will respond using good stress or bad stress.

Cortisol is meant to be released naturally throughout the day.  It is highest in the morning, to give you a natural surge of energy to wake you up and get you going. Then throughout the day, your cortisol level should slowly taper. At around midnight, cortisol reaches its lowest point so you can enter into a rest, digest, detoxification and repair phase while you sleep. Then slowly, cortisol begins to climb again around 7:00 or 8:00am when the cycle begins again. However, when your body over uses the bad stress, you may find that your cortisol is flipped and that it’s low in the morning but you feel wired before bed and have difficulty sleeping or staying asleep or cortisol is generally low throughout the day and evening.

We find ourselves relying on caffeine as soon as we wake in the morning or around 3pm when our cortisol starts to taper and we feel like we need the extra push to make it through the rest of the day. However, if we look back at when our cortisol is the highest (in the morning) we shouldn’t need that coffee first thing in the morning to wake us up! Drinking coffee when our cortisol is high is only increasing our tolerance for caffeine and the more coffee you drink, the less effective it actually is.

Based on your individual circadian rhythm, try having your first cup of coffee between the hours of 9:30am and 11:30am or between 1pm and 3pm when your cortisol is low to give your body a little hit of adrenaline to make you feel a little more awake. But be aware of when to plan your last cup of coffee because it can take between six and eight hours for the stimulant effects of caffeine to be reduced by half. If you want to try a coffee substitute, I’ve added my favourite recipes below:

Here are some of my favourite coffee substitutes:

Chai Golden Milk (1 serving)

1 tbsp. fresh grated turmeric root or 1 heaping tsp. turmeric powder

1 tsp. fresh grated ginger

1 green tea bag or 2 tsp. green tea leaves

Coconut milk (or almond milk)

  • bring 1 cup of filtered water to a boil
  • add spices, green tea or tea leaves and boiled water to a mug and let steep for 10 minutes
  • strain, and if you’d like the tea hot, add the steeped liquid to a pot on the stove and bring it to a simmer
  • pour into a mug and add coconut milk or almond milk in the amount you like in your tea
  • (you can also substitute the 1 cup of filtered water with coconut milk or almond milk)

Matcha Latte (1 serving)

1 cup filtered water

¼ cup coconut milk or almond milk

1/2 tsp. of matcha

1 tbsp. coconut oil

½ medjool date

  • warm all ingredients in a saucepan, then transfer in a high speed blender for 30 seconds (comes out super frothy!)

If you’d like to know exactly what your cortisol levels are up to throughout the day, contact Dr. Shea for more information on hormone testing (I’m still anxiously awaiting my results!!!) or her 3 by 3 Stress Relief course. I completed the 3 by 3 course in January and have incorporated 3 easy lifestyle changes to keep my stress (aka cortisol) under control!