It may seem like the best time to inhale that cup o’ joe is all the time. But there’s actually some science behind the best time to drink coffee.

Whether you’re looking for a way to start the day off right or you need to focus for an upcoming exam, here’s how to pick the perfect time to sip your brew.

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Are you a roll-out-of-bed, shuffle-to-the-coffee-pot kind of caffeiner? You might be trying to get your coffee boost too soon. That’s because of a stress hormone called cortisol.

According to a small study, cortisol helps keep you alert and focused, and regulates your metabolism, immune system response, and even blood pressure.

Every morning, your cortisol levels naturally rise and peak about 30 minutes after waking up. The caffeine in coffee may increase cortisol levels.

Elevated levels of cortisol over long periods may impair your immune system. If they’re already raised after waking up, drinking coffee can theoretically increase their harmful effects.

A small 2005 study suggested that you can actually develop a tolerance to this caffeine-induced cortisol spike.

The best time to drink coffee is likely mid-to-late morning, when your cortisol levels have dipped back down. If you wake up at 7:00 a.m., you might want to try drinking your coffee between 10:00 a.m. and noon.

If you’re willing to change up your morning coffee ritual, you may find that delaying your morning brew for a few hours gives you longer-lasting energy.

Caffeine and feeling hella awake go hand (or mug) in hand. So, if you’re trying to calm down for the night, drinking coffee might not be a good idea, according to a research review.

According to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, the stimulating effects of caffeine from coffee can last 3 to 5 hours, depending on the person. Sometimes, up to half the total caffeine you consume remains in your body for 5 hours.

Depending on when you like to hit the sack, drinking coffee too close to bedtime is more likely to have you chasing after sheep than counting them.

To avoid messing up your sleep pattern, one small 2013 study recommends avoiding caffeine for a minimum of 6 hours before bed. So, consider switching to decaf or try some herbal tea.

Coffee naps are a thing, but they’re not for everyone.

Trying to get pumped for a workout? Many people supplement their workouts with coffee because of the caffeine.

A research review found that drinking coffee before your workout might be an effective way to enhance it. It’s also more affordable than caffeine supplements or powders (unless you head to certain lavish latte dealers — looking at you, Starbucks).

Another research review demonstrated that caffeine can delay exercise fatigue and improve muscle strength and power.

If you’re looking to make the most of coffee’s potential workout boost, it’s best to drink it 30 to 60 minutes before a workout or sporting event.

On your marks. Get set. Milk and sugar?

A research review suggested that consuming caffeinated coffee might reduce body mass index (BMI), body weight, and body fat.

Research is limited, however, whether drinking coffee before or after a meal has the biggest impact on weight loss.

It may be more likely that sipping a cup between larger meals can cut down on those snacky urges. Despite being a popular claim, one research review doesn’t support coffee as an appetite suppressant.

Coffee is often a go-to for exam prep because of its ability to sharpen mental focus and alertness. One study found that consuming coffee before a morning exam was beneficial, while drinking it before afternoon exams showed no difference.

But downing a cup (or more) right before you walk into an exam could leave you feeling anxious, give you a headache, or end up clouding your memory. And who needs coffee shakes when they’re trying to recall advanced calculus?

So, when should you drink coffee to ace your exam? The United States Army and the Department of Defense performed a study to find out how to tap into the most alert state.

They produced an algorithm by testing sleep-deprived subjects and the amount of caffeine it took to feel like they’d slept 8 hours. They found peak alertness required:

  • 200 milligrams of caffeine when you wake up
  • another 200 milligrams 4 hours later

One note: Be cautious about timing, or you could end up having to take a few bathroom breaks mid-exam.

Moderate caffeine intake is relatively safe for most individuals. Some people might be more sensitive to caffeine, which means they may feel some of the more frustrating side effects of caffeine after drinking less than a person who is less sensitive.

Healthy individuals can consume up to 400 milligrams of caffeine daily, which is approximately 4 cups of coffee. But people with cardiovascular or sleep issues should be cautious about how much they drink — and when, according to a research review.

Perhaps you fall into one of those categories or just want to switch up how you caffeinate yourself. Here are a few more natural alternatives:

Coffee can be a daily reminder to get up and go.

Research is pretty limited on how the timing of coffee consumption can affect your energy levels. Late morning might be a shout, and it’s definitely not a great idea to drink coffee within 6 hours of beddy-byes.

Drinking coffee 30 to 60 minutes before a workout might also boost the impact of that workout. There’s also an algorithm for boosting mental focus by timing your coffee doses if you need it to ace an exam.

Overall, though, the coffee experience is about listening to your body and being aware of how you feel. Your routine is your routine and switching it up is only useful if you can read how it feels.

You can add these foods into your coffee to improve its health impact, if you so choose.