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Here’s Why You Need to Stop Drinking Coffee on an Empty Stomach

    It's perfectly fine to use your cup of coffee as motivation to wake up early in the morning, as long as you don't have conditions such as severe GERD or caffeine sensitivity. However, registered dietitians recommend reconsidering drinking caffeinated drinks on an empty stomach.

    Here's why you need to stop drinking on an empty stomach.

    Coffee is not a meal  

    Diet culture extols the benefits of drinking black coffee on an empty stomach to suppress hunger. Furthermore, hustle culture has long glorified coffee as the better choice on busy mornings. While coffee can reliably wake us up, it’s not a substitute for a real meal. Experts also urge us to rethink using coffee as an appetite suppressant.

    Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health notes that coffee is usually absorbed within an hour of consumption, and caffeine levels in the blood can peak from 15 minutes to two hours post-sip. Without food in your stomach, this process speeds up, negatively impacting your blood sugar levels and anxiety later in the day.

    It can't give you energy  

    Coffee on its own provides zero calories, a.k.a. zero energy. While adding milk may add a few calories, it’s still not a meal; it may even lead to a blood sugar crash later in the day.

    Starting your day with a balanced meal is one of the critical pillars of a nourishing diet. Including high-fiber carbs, healthy fats, and protein in your morning meal can help keep your blood sugar, energy, and productivity levels stable throughout the morning. It can also help reduce cravings for sugary foods later in the day and even prevent the infamous 3 p.m. slump.

    It can increase stress and anxiety  

    Taking just coffee for breakfast can make stress worse. Consuming moderate to about four cups of coffee can increase anxiety, especially for those sensitive to caffeine. Coffee is a stimulant for the central nervous system and can elevate blood pressure in people who don’t usually consume caffeine. These adverse effects can be more significant when coffee is consumed alone.

    It could disrupt your digestive system  

    It's worth knowing that drinking coffee as your breakfast can hurt your gut microbiome. Although coffee is often relied on to stimulate bowel movements, it's good to know that having a nutritious breakfast along with your coffee can still have the same effect. 

    Furthermore, if you're prone to acid reflux, it's best to skip the coffee, particularly if you drink it black. When you wake up in the morning, your stomach is naturally more acidic due to an empty stomach. Having an espresso without food can trigger heartburn symptoms for those with reflux.

    If you're a coffee lover, it's better to pair it with proper food. Adding milk to your coffee can help lower the risk of discomfort from reflux symptoms by neutralizing the stomach's acidic environment.

    The bottom line  

    You can still enjoy your first cup of coffee in the morning, but it should not be seen as a substitute for a meal. To ensure optimal gut health, stress levels, and blood sugar balance, it is recommended to pair your coffee with a balanced breakfast.