Over 80 percent of coffee drinkers start up their coffeemakers (or head to the coffee shop) at breakfast time. Often, they’ll start sipping before they eat breakfast if they eat at all. With all the calories and sugar in conventional coffee shop brews, they may not feel like eating anyway.
Not eating can cause stomach upset, and some people find that their gut issues worsen when they drink coffee on an empty stomach. In general, is it safe to drink coffee alone, or should you skip the java until after breakfast? We have the answers here.
What Coffee Does to an Empty Stomach
While that first sip of coffee can feel glorious no matter how empty your stomach is, it might not be the best move. Here’s what coffee does to your empty gut from the moment it enters your body.
Shoots Cortisol Up
Cortisol is a hormone involved with multiple bodily functions. It has ties with your body’s stress response, and it also influences blood sugar levels, metabolism, and inflammation.When you wake up in the morning, cortisol naturally goes up in a stress response, preparing you for your day. Drinking caffeine boosts your cortisol even more.
You already know that coffee is acidic, but not so much that it’s dangerous for your body. The exception is when your stomach is empty, and the coffee further activates the acid.
Chemical compounds in coffee stimulate gastric acid production, potentially causing irritation in your stomach and damaging its lining. Plus, you might notice increased acid in ways other than a gurgling gut.
Plenty of people have experienced heartburn after drinking coffee, but the symptoms are especially impactful when you haven’t eaten. Coffee promotes gastro-esophageal reflux, one scientific review noted, explaining that it opens your upper intestines.
This “prolonged relaxation” means the stomach acid creeps up, causing heartburn. And by the time you feel it starting, it’s too late for a snack to help curb the impact.
Sends You to the Bathroom
That same review noted that coffee can also impact your colon, with the same effects that a 1,000-calorie meal would have. The difference is that coffee has zero calories, so it “must have pharmacological effects” since it doesn’t pass through the body the way food would.
While you might be running to the bathroom, you’ll also be feeling the other side effects of caffeine heavily infiltrating your system.
Like most coffee drinkers, you might enjoy multiple cups of joe to stay awake, feel more focused, and re-energize midday.
But when you don’t have food in your belly while consuming coffee, it absorbs into your system even faster. That means you’ll probably notice magnified stimulation effects, and possibly anxiety and jitters as a result.
Is It Bad to Drink Coffee on an Empty Stomach?
Maybe you have noticed the negative impacts of coffee without food, but your habits are already ingrained. Is it genuinely harmful to drink coffee on an empty stomach, day after day?
You Could Wind Up with Ulcers
Since coffee promotes acidity in your stomach, long-term impacts might mean ulcers and other painful conditions. The more acid in your stomach, the more out of balance your digestive system becomes. Over time, you might not be able to reverse or even lessen the effects by cutting coffee out.
You Could Develop Gut Problems
Some studies suggest that coffee is beneficial for your gut microbiome. That said, the acidity issue only makes your empty stomach less welcoming to microbiome “bugs.” Those healthy bacteria need a balanced environment in which to thrive.
Too much acid means less harmful bacteria, but also fewer helpful strains. Like the impact antibiotics have on wiping out your gut bacteria, so does acidic coffee. You could wind up with gastrointestinal, acid reflux, and even illness from a less robust immune system.
When is the Best Time to Drink Coffee?
If it’s not smart to drink coffee before breakfast, when should you start up the coffee pot? Science has the answers.
After You Eat
Ideally, you shouldn’t drink any typical coffee before eating. It can tear up your stomach, make you jittery, and throw off your body’s natural cortisol production and stress responses.
No matter what time you wake up (or go to sleep), you should always eat before having coffee.
Not First Thing in the Morning
This might be bad news if you rely on your first cup of coffee at four AM to prepare for your day. But experts caution against drinking coffee directly upon waking.
That’s because your cortisol levels are already high, and you’re unnaturally adding to the wake-up hormones in your body.
Basically, when you wake up, your body aims to start wiring you for action. Relying on your natural circadian rhythms to wake you up is preferable to pouring caffeine in, experts say.
During Your Natural Cortisol Lows
Cortisol fluctuates throughout the day, so you should work with your body instead of against it. For most people with average wake and sleep times, having your first cup of coffee between 9:30 and 11:30 AM is preferable.
However, if you wake up before sunrise or after noon, you’ll need to adjust that time. For example, if you wake up at 6:30, your cortisol will dip between eight and nine. So, if you wake up at 10 AM, push your first cup of java to around 11:30 or 12:30.
Want optimal benefits from timing your coffee consumption?
Try drinking all your day’s coffee during that window of time. This way, you avoid disturbing your body’s sleep cycles and developing issues like insomnia from drinking caffeine too late in the day.
What Should I Eat Before Having My Coffee?
Even if you’re not a breakfast person, having a few bites of food can protect you against the negative effects of coffee on an empty stomach.
Nutritionists recommend foods with plenty of calcium for their acid-reducing effects. Calcium neutralizes acid—from both your stomach and the coffee—helping it go down smoother.
High-calcium foods include:
- Leafy greens
How Noocaf Can Help
If breakfast isn’t your thing—or you just can’t wait for a steaming cup of joe in the morning—Noocaf can help.
Nootropics Have Positive Effects
The nootropics in Noocaf are beneficial for both your energy levels and your gut. Pairing your favorite blend with a healthy serving of ingredients like L-tyrosine, B vitamins, L-theanine, and Alpha GPC enhances the absorption of the good stuff (and caffeine).
You’ll Feel Better
If you can’t help but down a cup (or two) of coffee first thing in the morning, it helps to choose Noocaf. The taurine helps reduce jitters, L-theanine promotes relaxation, and B12 and B6 help with your memory and other cognitive functions.
Instead of feeling anxious and “buzzed” from too much coffee, too fast, you’ll feel more balanced while getting energized.
Noocaf Lets You Enjoy Caffeine without the Side Effects
Noocaf is still coffee, but it contains nootropics for a mental boost that counteracts the anxiety and stress you experience with a traditional caffeine buzz. Instead of buzzing, you can enjoy feeling refreshed, calm, and focused—whether you eat breakfast or not.