How to Get the Biggest Caffeine Boost from Your Morning Coffee

How to make it really work for you, every time you drink it.

1| Wait 15 minutes (at least) after waking to drink a cup of coffee.

Given your body's desire to get more sleep, what's known as "sleep inertia," it's natural to wake up tired. This often wears off in about 15 minutes, but if you've already drunk your first cup by then, it can lead to your consuming more caffeine than you ultimately need.

2| Take an hour and a half break (at least) between cups.

Many people drink a cup and don't feel anything. So they drink another cup and then they start to feel it. But that's not because of the second cup. Caffeine takes about a half hour or so to reach its maximum effectiveness, so that kick they are actually feeling is the first cup coming into effect. After another 30 minutes, the second cup kicks in and ... well.

3| Don't drink too much of it.

Two hundred milligrams of caffeine is what you'll find in most 12-ounce cups of coffee, and this amount will bring most people to their peak-performance levels for two hours, at which point the caffeine will begin to slowly leave your system. (At the two-hour mark, the sleep and food you've had will hopefully pick up the slack for a while, along with the ascendancy of your circadian rhythm.) Anything more than 200 milligrams in a two-hour time frame results in diminishing returns and increases the likelihood of fidgetiness.

4. Save it for when it counts.

So here's how it works: When you drink a cup of coffee–or tea, or soda, or some other energy-boosting concoction–at the same time every day, your brain will begin to anticipate and adjust for it in advance. After a while, that means your regularly scheduled morning cup of coffee isn't giving you an energy boost–it's simply maintaining what your brain has come to expect as the status quo. (The adjustment also means that it's going to take an increasingly larger amount of coffee to give you any kind of lift.)


And if you do all that, caffeine is fantastic. When your brain isn't expecting it, caffeine helps you focus and concentrate. It also increases your vigilance and might even improve your memory.

With thanks to Gary Kamimori, Thomas Balkin, Nancy Wessensten, and Debra Yourick of the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research and Laura Juliano of American University.

This story originally appeared on

* Minor edits have been made by the editors.

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