Coffee after breakfast or before?
This is a question that involves all coffee lovers to some extent: there are those who cannot open their eyes without smelling the aroma of coffee intoxicating their senses, and those who prefer to accompany their meals. But when is the right time to drink coffee?
Generally, people think it is just a matter of taste, but science has come out with a real diktat: drinking coffee on an empty stomach is not healthy at all.
Sipping coffee at breakfast is an extremely popular habit to recharge your batteries and start the day off right. However, despite the countless positive properties of espresso – it is a natural antioxidant, it helps with slimming diets, it is a powerful energiser – drinking coffee on an empty stomach can alter glucose metabolism and cause addiction, with extremely negative consequences for the body.
So why is coffee consumption on an empty stomach so common? Why should it be consumed after breakfast?
In this article, we will explain which are the best ways to consume coffee and what benefits your body can gain from it.
Why do we drink coffee at breakfast?
In many homes, as soon as the alarm clock rings in the morning, people turn on the coffee machine and wait to finish their cup before starting any kind of activity. It is a habit that is over a hundred years old and is linked to specific historical facts. After the defeat of Caporetto in 1917, Italian soldiers were forced to consume eight grams of coffee at breakfast in order to stay alert and be able to respond adequately to the enemy attack. At the front, coffee consumption slowly increased to twenty grams per day. Back to normal life, the soldiers brought this custom with them, which quickly spread to Italian homes and which we still find today.
Drinking coffee on an empty stomach seems almost a necessity to get the right charge and face the day with vigour. The stimulating power of coffee is due to caffeine, an energising substance that is extremely popular among coffee drinkers all over the world.
Despite its stimulating properties, however, we must be careful how we consume coffee: drinking it on an empty stomach is not healthy for the body.
In order to fully enjoy the beneficial effects of coffee, the first cup should only be taken after eating, so it is perfectly fine to drink coffee at breakfast but alongside a healthy, nutrient-rich meal.
But what are the benefits of drinking espresso in the morning?
The effects of drinking coffee as soon as you wake up
Taking coffee before leaving home improves our approach to the day, provides valuable antioxidants and beneficial nutrients, makes the intestines work better and, overall, improves the condition of the body. But let’s go in order.
The reason why espresso is particularly popular in the morning is because it awakens and stimulates attention. The consumption of caffeine improves concentration and brain performance, affects the body’s reactivity and also gives an exceptional input to those who engage in sporting activities.
Thanks to its rich antioxidant content, coffee – particularly green coffee – protects the body against cellular ageing and oxidative stress. Drinking coffee daily, therefore, prevents the action of free radicals and accelerates the metabolism.
Many people enjoy coffee when they wake up because it stimulates the intestine and regulates its activity in a natural way. Although it may simply seem like an individual response, science has shown that espresso protects the intestinal flora and has a probiotic action. Considering that the gut microbiota is also home to our immune system, this means that coffee enhances the body’s immune response.
For coffee lovers, there is also good news from a liver perspective: consuming two cups of coffee a day improves liver function and helps prevent diseases such as fatty liver or cirrhosis.
Drinking coffee on a full stomach facilitates digestion and stimulates the digestive system. Thanks to the drink, the activity of the gastric juices increases, and the digestive functions are performed more easily.
In order to avoid side effects and caffeine addiction, it is always a good idea not to exceed the recommended doses of coffee, i.e., about two to three per day.
In addition to the quantity of coffee and the best times to take it, it is essential to pay attention to the combination with other foods: it is best to avoid those that are too sugary or fatty.
Coffee and breakfast: why take it after eating
Let’s come to our question: why shouldn’t you drink coffee on an empty stomach?
The answer comes from a team of international researchers coordinated by the British University of Bath and published in the British Journal of Nutrition: fasting coffee negatively affects blood glucose levels and alters glucose metabolism, worsening the body’s condition.
These are the conclusions published by the research team after studying the effects of coffee following a near-sleepless night. The study, divided into three phases, involved 29 people. In the first phase, the researchers analysed the patients’ blood glucose levels under normal conditions after consuming a sugary drink.
The second step involved consuming the same sugary drink after a particularly disturbed night. In the third step, the study subjects had to drink strong coffee after a virtually sleepless night.
Blood tests, collected after consumption of the different drinks, showed that drinking coffee on an empty stomach decreased the glycaemic response by 50%. Thus, coffee after a sleepless night keeps you awake but worsens the body’s response to the introduction of sugar.
The magnitude of the metabolic alteration caused by coffee is considerable (50% is a big number), so extreme care should be taken when drinking coffee on an empty stomach. This recommendation applies to all individuals but should be taken very seriously especially by those with metabolic problems, such as type 2 diabetes or high levels of cardiovascular risk.
The best breakfast, therefore, is not one that excludes coffee. Simply postpone the cup of coffee after consuming healthy foods rich in vitamins and minerals.
Eating coffee for breakfast: what are the risks?
The University of Bath study is not the only one to argue that coffee on an empty stomach is bad for you. In support of this thesis comes evidence from many quarters.
Continued consumption of coffee on an empty stomach also affects cortisol production as, over time, it promotes addiction to the substance. Also known as the stress hormone, cortisol reaches very high levels upon awakening to keep the individual awake and improve reactivity. Achieving habituation would reduce any kind of stimulus and imply greater fatigue to be alert.
Another disadvantage of drinking coffee on an empty stomach is the production of hydrochloric acid. As we have already explained, coffee improves digestion because it stimulates the activity of the gastric juices. However, these substances are not needed when the stomach is empty, and their activity can cause serious gastrointestinal problems (ulcer, gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux).
Coffee is rich in beneficial properties: it makes you digest, gives energy, improves concentration, has positive effects on the liver and is a natural antioxidant. However, before ordering coffee at the bar, it is best to eat something to avoid any side effects.
To fully enjoy the taste of coffee, you should avoid harming the organism with unhealthy habits, which could affect cortisol levels, have negative consequences on the stomach and digestive system, or alter sugar metabolism. So, yes to espresso, but with due caution!
In addition to how you consume the drink, you should also pay attention to how you prepare your espresso. If you have to limit your consumption to two to three cups per day, it is a good idea to treat yourself to a top-quality coffee, prepared with all possible care.
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