Coffee used to be my super-fuel for the morning….but not anymore.

I am not going to lie to you, a cup of black coffee gives me a ton of early morning energy! It gives me the boost I need to kick start my day and do what I love to do; which is to write! In fact, I used my morning cup of Joe to complete the 90,000 words in 90 days challenge. In a nutshell, I challenged myself to write a post a day (1000 words) for 90 consecutive days on topics within the area of self-improvement and personal development. For more on this challenge, see this post. So coffee-lovers, don’t get me wrong. I really appreciate coffee.

However…

I began to notice that my energy levels would plummet after a few hours, and it would get worse after eating lunch.  It wasn’t a good feeling. Nevertheless, I persisted and found a way to be productive despite my low energy. I practically used my will-power to push through each and every day. But, that can become exhausting…Also, getting back to work after lunch was beginning to feel less enjoyable, so I started searching for an alternative.

1. Drink Green Tea

Okay, don’t worry, we are not going to get rid of coffee completely, but we are going to substitute the morning cup of coffee with a cup of green tea, and we want to do this because we want to avoid the caffeine crash we despise so much. So how should you do this?

Here’s a little bit about the science behind my strategy:

When you get up in the morning, your cortisol (stress) levels are naturally high, and those levels continue to increase in the first 20 – 30 minutes after waking. The increased cortisol in your system, also known as the “cortisol awakening response,” enables you to start moving about and into the rhythm of the day. This is your early morning starting point. From there, your cortisol levels gradually decrease with a more pointed dip in the early to middle afternoon. At night, your cortisol levels drop to their lowest until you are ready to go to bed. This is the natural diurnal rhythm for healthy adults.

So what does this have to do with productivity and drinking a cup of coffee in the morning?

Well, since we know that our cortisol is sufficiently high in the morning relative to other points during the day, it doesn’t make sense (to me, at least recently) to consume an artificial energy booster as strong as coffee. In fact, drinking a beverage with a high concentration of caffeine (especially on an empty stomach) will  fire up your adrenaline gland and your hormonal levels will shoot up through the roof! Going up that high (in addition to the naturally high cortisol that is already in your system) is a recipe for disaster. You will inevitably crash and burn.  In my opinion, no one needs that much adrenaline in their system first thing in the morning. It’s unnecessary. Yes, it will make you feel like superman, but the “high” won’t last long. Two or three hours later, and you are so darn tired that you want to go to bed and take a nap.

Some might argue that drinking another cup of coffee will do the trick and you will get back to your productivity. Yes, that might help, but there’s the risk of drinking it a little too late in the afternoon, and if you don’t time your cup of coffee correctly, caffeine will interfere with your sleep and with you productivity the next day! It is silly to work on your goals too hard one day and then skip a day or two because of the lack of sleep or tiredness or what have you.

The magic solution: drink green tea!

Green tea has a moderate amount of caffeine (about 30 – 45 mg of caffeine) and that’s sufficient to give you a gentle caffeine boost to elevate your mood and get you moving.

What’s even better about using green tea instead of coffee is that once you started feeling a little tried from working, you can make yourself a cup of coffee around lunch time (preferably after lunch) and that’s when coffee will work wonders for you.

Personally, drinking green tea first thing in the morning, and then having coffee in the afternoon has significantly helped my productivity. In fact, coffee after lunch can give you an additional (approximately) 2 hours of work. So instead of working for 2.5 – 3 hours straight on a morning cup of coffee, now I work for 2 – 2.5 hours on a cup of green tea and then I have a cup of coffee which gives me an additional 2 – 3 hours. That’s approximately 5 hours of productivity instead of 3 hours.

The point that I want to make is that you should reserve your cup of coffee for the time when you’re least alert. For me, and most young professionals (20 – 50 years old), that’s in the early afternoon.

2. Sleep Better

Another great benefit to drinking a cup of green tea and then a cup of coffee instead of multiple cups of coffee is the rest you will finally get when you sleep. Caffeine takes 6 – 8 hours to leave your system. So if you drink a cup of coffee after your crash in the late afternoon, you will throw off your sleeping pattern and you will  have a hard time going to bed, and a harder time getting up in the morning.

But, in addition to sleeping better, drinking less caffeine throughout the day can help you retain more water in your body. That’s necessary for healthy kidneys. Caffeine is a diuretic and your body will scream for water if you consume a lot of caffeine and don’t supplement your system with enough water throughout the day.

So next time you feel like making a caffeine packed pick-me-up, think twice; first about your productivity levels and second about your sleep.

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