Clients inevitably ask- timidly, cringing- about my “official stance” on coffee. They seem to expect that I’m going to shout “No more coffee for you! Not-ever-never-no-way-no-how!!!”
Like most things, one answer doesn’t fit every person or circumstance. My answer is “coffee may or may not be the BEST choice for YOU, right NOW.”
Here’s the thing. There are lot of general coffee facts and opinions out there. Coffee drinkers are always quick to point out how high coffee is in antioxidants! And yet coffee sometimes causes some negative effects too- like leading to sugar imbalance or digestive issues. So how do you navigate all the noise? It’s important to focus on your response to coffee. Look at your general health, specific reactions or dependence (a.k.a. self-medicating tendencies), hormone health, stress level and overall nutritional status.
Once all that checks out, coffee in moderation can absolutely be okay (yeah, I said “in moderation,” all you 5-cups-a-day-morning-noon-and-night-types). But before you jump in, really consider your current health status and goals, because coffee can get in the way of evaluating these things appropriately.
There was a time when I was super stressed out and it was definitely showing up in my health. I dropped the coffee for awhile, so I could clearly see what was going on and address it fully.
How did I know it was a “safe” time to bring coffee back, without adversely affecting my health? I could see that my cortisol levels were appropriate (cortisol is the master stress hormone, produced by the adrenal glands and responsible for our stress response, among other things). My stress levels aren’t sky-high anymore. My energy and sleep cycles are stable. I naturally feel my most energetic in the first hour I’m awake each morning, and have stable energy all day long with no afternoon energy dip. There are no signs of sugar or carbohydrate dependence. I fall asleep easily and naturally around 10pm or so, sleep through the night, and feel rested in the morning. I also check cortisol levels with a saliva test or dried urine hormone test every 12-18 months- no need for guesswork here.
Also. It’s super important to consider your relationship with coffee. I honestly wouldn’t totally freak out if you told me all the coffee in the world just disappeared. Oh, I’d definitely be a bit mournful, but it’d be okay too. Make no mistake: it’s a huge red flag if you absolutely MUST have something, whether that’s coffee or chocolate or wine, a relationship, a material possession, whatever. I don’t have to have coffee. I just like it sometimes. But I’m absolutely sure that I’m not chemically reliant on it. Check in honestly with yourself on this.
So now that coffee is back, I’ve incorporated some changes that I really prefer now:
I drink one cup in the morning. I can, and do, skip it entirely some days without even noticing. Occasionally I might have an early afternoon cup, but that’s rare, and usually only if I have a social coffee date. No more caffeine for the day, and definitely not after 2pm, or I can count on messed-up sleep that night. What I never do is drink coffee first thing. Instead, I hydrate with water (sometimes with a squeeze of lemon or pinch of sea salt) for the first hour I’m awake. Sometimes I take it hot, sometimes it’s room-temperature, but I never skip the water. After hydrating, a balanced breakfast with healthy fat and protein comes next, unless I’m intentionally fasting.
I get through the morning rush (with three teenagers and two crazy four-legged “children,” no less!) and once I get to the office, I enjoy the ritual of making my coffee (and sometimes, tea) while preparing for the arrival of my first client.
Now, quality counts. I don’t bother with crappy coffee. It’s just not worth it. Just like I won’t bother with a nasty gas station candy bar, either. Much better to hold out for the good dark chocolate, right? I choose whole beans that are locally processed, Fair Trade, organic, and non-GMO. Yeah, it costs a little more, but I value quality, so that’s okay with me. Also, I prefer French press coffee but I’m not super exclusive about it, either.
Most importantly, I use some helpful add-ins, so I’m never just pumping caffeine into my system without some ingredients that mitigate its effects on my chemistry. This keeps the effects of caffeine rush and sugar imbalance at bay.
HEALTHY COFFEE ADD-INS
A healthy splash of coconut oil or Bulletproof.com’s Brain Octane oil keeps my energy and blood sugar stable and I really like the taste, now (yeah, it took some getting used to at first). Healthy fat is good for my hormone and brain health, so I don’t skimp on the amounts here. True, some people like to use quality butter or ghee in their coffee, but I prefer coconut oil for its anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.
I also like to add a bit of this dehydrated bone broth or this collagen powder, for protein that keeps me full and satiated longer. It’s flavorless and dissolves easily, so it’s barely noticeable. The key with these is to blend! I use a hand-held frothing wand at the office. I promise, a frothing wand is magical: you get latte-like froth and won’t be able to tell that there’s oil or collagen in there.
Other stuff I like: a splash of full-fat coconut milk, sometimes homemade and if not, from a BPA-free can. At work, I shortcut this and use this powdered coconut milk instead. Trust me and skip the flavored creamers. They contain so many artificial flavors and preservatives, even in the “healthy” organic versions. They really mess with your hormones, so you don’t want to don’t go there. If you prefer and tolerate dairy, go for full-fat cream, ideally raw. If you need a little sweet flavor, try a touch of raw honey or a splash of homemade vanilla (sooooo easy to make).
Sounds like a lot of work, but I’ve got the routine down solid. It’s quick and easy. Bonus: there’s so much good stuff in there that I’m not usually hungry again until dinnertime many days. Who knew you could hide so much goodness in your morning cup?
STOP THE CRAZY HORMONE AND ENERGY CYCLES
If you’re on a roller coaster ride with sugar, hormone, stress, or energy cycles, try adjusting your coffee habit a bit. Hydrate well beforehand, eat first, and incorporate some healthy fats and protein. Give it a solid two weeks’ effort, and enjoy the many benefits of upgraded coffee.