Coffee And Cortisol – Why You Should Take A Break

Utilizing caffeine from coffee can improve your focus, concentration, productivity and cognition.

Hey guys, what’s going on? A video is up on the YouTube Channel on this topic, so if you don’t feel like reading a 1000 word article, head over to the new YouTube channel where I talk about why taking a break from caffeine can be beneficial. Obviously, I’m an avid coffee drinker (I love the taste, the smell, and enjoy the improved mood and productivity that comes with it), but it has been shown that too much coffee is not a good thing. Especially for people with elevated stress levels.

Watch the Video Here.

More than 2 billion people enjoy a nice cup of Joe in the morning (accounting for 85% of the US population). More specifically I am talking about the effects of caffeine from coffee. Coffee is fairly high in caffeine and considered a very “normal” stimulant to take. Stimulants are fine in moderation and with caution. Too much of a stimulant can do poor to your adrenal glands (the glands that control the release of cortisol and adrenaline). Filling your system with stimulants daily can eventually make the system burn out. Think about it, just like anything, growing a tolerance to coffee is no fun. Do you really want to be adding more and more everyday just to get the benefits of the stimulant? Sounds pretty dependent to me. Essentially caffeine stimulates your nervous system which means too much can lead to a rapid heartbeat. This can lead to a drastic increase in cortisol.

Now I am not against cortisol- I think its necessary in some aspects (in fact, it gets us up in the morning which is necessary and can help with memory in some studies)- it’s chronically elevated levels of cortisol that we need to pay attention to. This is when anxiety steps in, poor sleep occurs and brain fog takes place.

I think it’s important to understand that if you have chronically elevated stress levels, taking a break from coffee can make a noticeable difference. Yes, caffeine makes you feel incredible, it amps up cognition and productivity and for those who are trying get lean, caffeine is good for its appetite blunting effects (study 1). There is also more research showing that it can have some benefits for physical activity as well by increasing strength, endurance, performance, and anaerobic capabilities (study 2)

A short term break from coffee can be very good, more specifically any form of caffeine especially the artificial types. Just to allow your body to return to healthy base levels of cortisol.

A Substitution Fit For Bond

If you’re still interested in getting the benefits of caffeine without the negative effects try something like Black Tea. A study conducted at the University College London showed that those placed on a 6-week study drinking black tea had significantly lower levels of cortisol (stress hormone) compared to those on the placebo, without any (study 3). To override the negative effects that caffeine has towards your anxiety, it had to have something pretty powerful. The compounds that created this lowering of cortisol were various antioxidants and most importantly L-Theanine, an amino acid responsible for creating relaxation and mood improvements, can really help with the negative effects of caffeine. It helps up-regulate Gamma Amino Butyric Acid (GABA) production and another neurotransmitters that promote clarity, relaxation and improved mood (happiness).

To get the benefits of caffeine, I am currently drinking Black Tea. Yeah, it doesn’t taste near as good or smell as great but it amps up my focus without doing the same to my anxiety :). I’m drinking some nice organic black tea fit for Bond, straight from the UK.

Black Tea ain't as cool as coffee but I'm sure James Bond drinks it regularly being from the UK

The Tactic

I recommend two protocols for easing off of coffee. If you’re an avid coffee drinker, then try slowly reducing the frequency and quantity of how much/often you’re drinking. A good place to start is start drinking only 1 cup a day for a 3 days, then one cup every other day, then three times a week, and eventually take two weeks-a month, completely off. If you drink coffee daily but not as much, start by reducing the frequency of days you drink to just three days a week. Then take a break for 2-4 weeks. This short term break will provide you with enough time to get your cortisol (stress hormone) back to a healthy level.s

After taking these short-term breaks, I slowly introduce coffee. And you feel it, the caffeine’s work is more noticeable. Taking a break allows your body to reset and when you brink coffee back in, it is more susceptible to it.

I call it a maintenance phase, after a week break or so (or two) I start drinking coffee again but only the morning of a workout a day – which is usually 2 to 3 times a week. I have a hefty supply of black tea if I need it. and on days where I feel very energetic even later into the day, I’ll drink some chamomile tea – something that can really calm you down aid in good sleep.

Coffee is tough to give up, but can be very beneficial for anyone trying to reduce their stress. It amps up your mood but also your does the same to your cortisol. Even if you don’t have chronically elevated stress levels, taking a short-term break from coffee will allow your body to reset and detox. Too much of a stimulant is not good, and that’s exactly what coffee is. Switch out Coffee for some black tea in the meantime and enjoy a timeless refreshment that’s been around for ions.


Update: After a nice two-three week break, its worth adding coffee back in to your routine. In this video, I outline how you can use it improve your sleep and amp up your body’s natural cortisol cycle.



Works Cited

Kuoppola, Ali. “9 Foods That Lower Cortisol Levels Naturally | Anabolic Men.” Anabolic Men. N.p., 28 Oct. 2016. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Lovallo, William R., Thomas L. Whitsett, Mustafa Al’Absi, Bong Hee Sung, Andrea S. Vincent, and Michael F. Wilson. “Caffeine Stimulation of Cortisol Secretion Across the Waking Hours in Relation to Caffeine Intake Levels.” Psychosomatic Medicine. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2005. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.
University College London, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health. “The Effects of Tea on Psychophysiological Stress Responsivity and Post-stress Recovery: A Randomised Double-blind Trial.” Psychopharmacology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Jan. 2007. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Department of Nutrition and Health Sciences Human Performance Laboratory. “The Acute Effects of a Caffeine-containing Supplement on Strength, Muscular Endurance, and Anaerobic Capabilities.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Aug. 2006. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Military Nutrition Research. “Effects of Caffeine on Cognitive Performance, Mood, and Alertness in Sleep-Deprived Humans.” Food Components to Enhance Performance: An Evaluation of Potential Performance-Enhancing Food Components for Operational Rations. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 01 Jan. 1994. Web. 29 Nov. 2016.

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