So, coffee… Are you a coffee lover? I never touched coffee until I was 30 years old. I was definitely always a tea drinker (the only way to survive a night shift!). My move back to Dubai found me developing a relationship with coffee. One of the things I get asked a lot, and I know it’s certainly mentioned in the media a lot, is whether coffee is “healthy” and how many cups a day is good/bad. Firstly, let’s get rid of the notion of good/bad foods or drinks. Nothing is good and nothing is bad. Different foods and drinks have different effects on the body… and we are all unique individuals. Repeat after me – we are all unique individuals. Some people swear by coffee to get them going in the morning. Some athletes and fitness professionals swear by it as a pre-workout drink. And then there’s the question of how do you drink it? With or without milk? Bulletproof style (aka butter and coconut oil/MCT oil)? Then there’s cold-press coffee, which is now gaining popularity. Is one cup a day enough to derive benefits? Do you need more? Does it offer anti-cancer protection? How much is too much? Does it interfere with sleep after a certain time of the day? How are you supposed to know the answers to all these questions? Okay, so here’s my breakdown on coffee.
It depends. Personally, it used to make me ill when my body was in a sick depleted state. I’d definitely limit or avoid altogether if you have severe chronic fatigue/adrenal fatigue. If you find yourself relying on coffee just to drag yourself out of bed in the morning, then I’d probably suggest you should try to cut back or cut out entirely, until your body is in a stronger state. Remember, fatigue (and I don’t mean occasional tiredness, which is normal) is a red flag for your health. Not a flag to reach for the coffee. What does your gut instinct say about coffee? I’ve spent years working on improving my own gut health and working with clients with some pretty serious digestive symptoms and challenges. Look, coffee can be a great (ahem) “unblocker”. Which is great if you are struggling with constipation and which is why there are coffee enemas. I won’t go into too much detail here (you’ll be relieved). Of course, coffee shouldn’t be used as a solution to long-term constipation issues. There’s something going on there. Another red flag. And if you have a sensitive digestive tract and suffer from diarrhoea or cramps, then perhaps coffee is not your friend. Or perhaps it’s the type of coffee you’re drinking or what you’re drinking it with. It could be the cow or soy(a) milk that’s causing issues and not the coffee itself. As a personal example, I am a fan of ‘bulletproof’ style coffee. As I mentioned above, that uses butter and coconut oil/MCT oil. It really is a meal in a glass (or mug). If I have that in the morning, I often don’t need my first meal of the day until lunchtime. I’ve experimented over the years with Intermittent Fasting… but that’s a blog for another day. I stopped using the butter lately because I wanted to take a break from dairy again to reassess my gut and general health with regards to dairy consumption. Overall, I feel better not having dairy. For me, I love butter in terms of taste, however, I’m not sure whether it loves me. For some, lactose is the issue. For me, it’s more of the casein. As I mentioned earlier, it’s normally the proteins found in foods that can cause a reaction – the gluten protein in wheat, rye and barley, the albumin in egg white and the casein in dairy etc. Yes, the lactose can be an issue too (lactose is just a sugar by the way) but if you’ve stopped consuming cow’s milk and cow’s milk products (e.g. cheese, yoghurt) and are still having issues, then the problem may be the casein (found in butter, ghee and whey protein powder) and you should consider going black for a while or use a nut milk like almond, cashew or coconut. So right now, I’m sort of half-doing ‘bullet-proof’ style, just using coconut oil in my morning black coffee. I find that it still keeps me full, it doesn’t affect my blood sugar or energy as much (no immediate high or crash). Plus coconut oil is wonderful in so many ways.
Only you can answer this question. You can track your sleep using various sleep monitors and apps. I wrote about this in my first ever blog post, so you can check out what I said here (it’s towards the end of the article). Remember it’s not the quantity but the quality of sleep. I don’t know about you, but sometimes, if I sleep too long I actually feel worse the following day. Then I realise (from tracking) that I’ve actually spent most of that sleep cycle in the lighter phases of sleep and/or I’ve woken up in the middle of a deep sleep cycle, which is when you will find yourself feeling groggy. One of the most useful things you can learn about yourself is your body’s circadian rhythm, and when it’s the ideal time for you to wind down and go to sleep/wake. Again, this is different for everyone. One rule of thumb that can help you get a better night’s sleep is to stop drinking coffee after midday. Personally, if I have a coffee after 4 pm, then I’m still bouncing around in the early hours of the morning! Which is why I avoid the after-dinner espressos!