Coffee, Caffeine and The Adrenal Fatigue Connection


By Dr. Justin Marchegiani

Today’s video is going to be on the truth about coffee. If you want more info on this, check out my recent podcasts on this topic over at

We have some of the benefits of coffee up top. We’ll break them down and we’ll make sense of it all. Also, we will talk about some of the negative aspects of coffee or how coffee could be or caffeine can be taken in a way that’s negative. It could hurt your physiology.

Again, some people take caffeine in a way that can exacerbate their thyroid or their adrenals or affect their appetite. Also, we’ll talk about how caffeine can be applied and coffee can be applied in a way that optimizes mental and cognitive performance. So let’s kind of weigh out the pros and cons on each side here.

Coffee and Adenosine

Let’s discuss some of the good things here. We have this inhibitory neurochemical called adenosine. Adenosine is an inhibitory compound, so it helps kind of dampen and relax and decrease energy in your body and how you function and feel. This is kind of like GABA, if you will.

So it’s like, if you have like a calming tea like a chamomile or a flower-based tea, that’s kind of really dampening and causing your body to relax. Typically the exact opposite of why you want to take in coffee. You want to take in coffee so we can actually dampen this adenosine response. This is helpful if we’re looking to get some work done; focus; get some energy going; increase cognitive performance because we’re learning; or we’re taking in new information; or we have to be focused dealing with people all day.

It is very helpful to be able to decrease that adenosine, dampen that. That’s why coffee is better in the morning, in the first half of the day, not taken after the noon time. This is because caffeine has an 8-hour half-life. So we want to work on metabolizing that coffee before it’s time to relax. If you’re drinking coffee too late in the afternoon, it’s going to be hard to shut down.


Find out if coffee really is good for you or otherwise from a functional medicine expert by clicking HERE!

Coffee, Caffeine and The Adrenal Fatigue Connection

Benefits of Coffee

Fat Breakdown

One of the benefits is this dampening effect which can help us with energy and focus. Caffeine that’s in coffee, about 150mg to 300mg of caffeine per cup on average increases lipolysis. What is lipolysis? Let’s break it down. Lipo- means fat. -lysis means to cut or to break. So it’s fat breakdown. It’s the fancy word for fat breakdown. Having coffee and/or caffeine before workout can actually be very helpful at breaking down and increasing free fatty acids in your body. This is so you can start burning more fat for fuel, really helpful.


Coffee actually has a lot of B vitamins, a lot of alkaloids, a lot of antioxidants that are very beneficial for your health. People forget that. If you’re doing instant coffee or Maxwell House or Folger’s, or maybe some of these cheap brands, there’s a good chance that that may not be the case.


What’s an antioxidant? Well, stress oxidation causes your body to basically lose electrons. So if you have this electron right here, which is like a negatively-charged compound and basically oxidative stress comes in and it pulls away your electron. Antioxidants basically take that and prevent this from happening. So antioxidant is anti-loss of an electron. It keeps those electrons paired together versus being broken up. That is kind of how that works. Oxidation is a loss of an electron, so it’s the anti-loss of an electron.

Positive effects on Cognitive Diseases

There are lots of studies on coffee and its effect on decreasing Parkinson’s, also decreasing Alzheimer’s or dementia-like memory symptoms. There are also some studies on coffee not affecting cardiovascular disease, not attributing and not affecting cardiovascular conditions.

My clinical opinion, if you stimulate the body too much because coffee is a stimulant, that activates the sympathetic nervous system. And part of what happens with sympathetic activation is increased heart rate because that’s part of what happens when we’re stimulated. Heart rate goes up to increase blood and increased oxygenation. So that can put extra stress on the heart. If you do have a heart condition, too much caffeine may be an issue for you. We do know that there are some benefits cognitively, which is great, really good stuff.

Coffee, Caffeine and The Adrenal Fatigue Connection

Disadvantages of Coffee

Adrenal Stimulation

We know coffee does have adrenal stimulation. What does that mean? It’s going to stimulate adrenaline. We have a couple of different words for adrenaline: catecholamines, norepinephrine, epinephrine. Medicine loves to confuse us, so we have lots of different words that mean the same thing.

So in here, we have cortisol and then we have adrenaline. Those are our big things that are happening. Now these can be okay if we’re healthy and we have healthy adrenal function; it may not be a bad thing per se. It’s getting a little cortisol or adrenal push that may help performance. This may help this increased lypolysis, so that may be beneficial.


Coffee, Caffeine and The Adrenal Fatigue Connection

Sleep issues

Your cortisol rhythm is like this—here’s your AM, here’s your morning. Here’s your PM, in the afternoon. So typically, you wake up and your cortisol goes down like this throughout the day. If you’re adrenally stressed, and you’re doing coffee too much later in the day, it will have a negative effect on your sleep. Let’s say your coffee happens lower in the day; and then what happens relatively-speaking at night, you start going back up and this can be where sleep issues start to happen.

So I typically recommend not consuming any coffee after eleven or twelve o’clock. I always do it with the good high quality fats in there to time release it. And just make sure if your adrenals are messed up or your rhythm is switched, make sure you go and get your adrenals looked at and supported with a functional medicine doctor. You need to get them back in cycle and then cutting coffee out maybe the right thing for you. It may be. So this is the whole cortisol rhythm thing.

Cognitive Performance Issues

This is a big thing. Dave Asprey has kind of made this famous where coffee is known to have a lot of mycotoxins in it; so you want to avoid crappy coffee that can affect cognitive performance. You want to use coffee that makes you feel good and perform better. So the good sources like I mentioned.  The mycotoxins, the pesticides, the chemicals—so you want to avoid all those and choose high-quality coffee. Mix it and blend it in with fat so you have that time release effect that I mentioned earlier.

Jitters, Anxiety, Tachycardia

The CYP1A2 gene is a specific genotype that has evolved into an enzyme. If we don’t have this gene here, we can have a decrease in the enzyme that metabolizes caffeine. So if we have this enzyme that has decreased activity, we have decreased enzyme activity. That means that we are not going to be able to metabolize caffeine because that’s a poor caffeine metabolizer. This may make it hard for us to metabolize caffeine. So what happens is that caffeine sits in our system longer. That half-life of 8 hours is going to be much longer, maybe 10, 12, 15 hours. A half-life is how much it takes to take the caffeine in your system and cut in half. So if it takes 8 hours to cut in half, every 8 hours we continue to cut that caffeine in half. We want to make sure we’re able to metabolize it fast. If we’re not able to, doing any caffeine at all may cause jitters, anxiety, and tachycardia. This feels like the heart is beating out of your chest.

CYP1A2 genotype

So you got to be careful. This CYP1A2 genotype, if we have that we’re going to have decreased enzyme activity for breaking down caffeine. Now should you go and get a genotype test, personally don’t waste your money. Everyone here who has this issue knows it. They’re sensitive to coffee. They have it –there’s caffeine from tea or coffee, they are sensitive. If that’s the case, definitely you want to avoid caffeine. If you have energy issues, though; and you’re using that to help increase the energy and it’s too stimulatory, then you got to go get your adrenals looked at. Have it checked and assessed, and get on a functional medicine program.

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Now when I do my coffee, I mix it with butter, grass-fed butter, and MCT oil. If you have autoimmune conditions, you may want to do ghee or not even use coffee. You can maybe do a chai tea instead, if you’re sensitive.

MCT gives you these various ketone precursors that are about 6-8 times higher than in your typical coconut oil where MCT is extracted. And then also using good quality butter, we have butyric acid, these short-chain fatty acids that are really helpful. The goal is it kind of time releases the caffeine.

Essentially, if here’s the caffeine coming down the pipe here, it basically time releases it. Now the caffeine comes in much slower. So instead of having this really big bolus of caffeine, when we have the fat in it, you’re going to see what happens is this. We have what I call the magic carpet caffeine ride experience. We now have the fat and caffeine together having this gentle up and down type of effect. This is much more gradual which is nice. You don’t have the up and the down, and you’re also getting a lot of good fatty acids which can help your appetite which is really good.

Coffee and Hydration

You just got to be really careful because when you do too much caffeine, it also put your body in that sympathetic state which can shut down your appetite. This is especially true if you’re doing a lot of ketones. It’s going to cause to pee out a lot of water, so you got to make sure you’re staying hydrated with good water that has sulfur and minerals in it. Whether it’s a Pellegrino, or a Topo Chico, or a good clean filtered water that you add minerals to, it can also affect your appetite.

Coffee and other nutrients

And remember, just because you have a whole bunch of calories of good healthy fats in that coffee, people call it Bulletproof coffee or butter coffee, your body still needs nutrients. That means you’re still not eating grass-fed meat, Omega 3’s, nutrient-rich antioxidant vegetables or low sugar fruit. You’re not eating those because your appetite’s now gone south. So we got to make sure we’re not affecting our appetite so much where we’re missing the other amino acids and nutrients. Our body still needs those for optimal health. So be careful of too much appetite suppression. Ketones can do that. You just got to be careful of it. And also if your adrenals are fatigued, you may not be able to handle that stimulation.

Decaffeinated Coffee

A couple of things you can do is have decaffeinated coffee which could be helpful. You got to be careful because caffeine is a natural pesticide in coffee. Typically, decaf coffee is sprayed in a much higher rate with various pesticide compounds because the coffee doesn’t have that caffeine; so it can be attacked by mold and other things. If you do get caffeine or decaf coffee, you got to make sure it’s a Swiss water process, not the benzene or methyl chloride process that’s involved in decaffeinated coffee in the past. You want to make sure it’s the water-based Swiss water process that just involves water and no methyl chloride or benzene since benzene is carcinogenic.

Quality Coffee

So we got to make sure, if we’re going to do it, have good clean coffee. Try to make sure it’s small sources, make sure it’s roasted. Central American’s pretty good, higher altitude coffee. Don’t go for the blends that can have a lot of different bad beans. Go for a single source if you can. A couple of my favorite coffees are Bulletproof, Premier, Research Labs makes a great coffee; and there is a handful of good coffees that you can find at different shops. Just try to go for single source. Try to go roasted and try to go for companies that have a good reputation, organic if you can. Some places are organic but they don’t pay for the label. You just got to know which ones are of that organic quality standard. So be careful of the appetite.

What’s the Verdict?

So in the end, is coffee good or bad? It really depends. Choose quality. Prepare it the right way with healthy fats. If you have an autoimmune condition, cut the coffee out and use some very benign sources like a chai tea or even do nothing in the morning for a period of time. If you’re going to use butter, use ghee if you’re autoimmune, then progress to the healthy grass-fed butter. Well, if you have adrenal or thyroid issues, and you feel that caffeine is exacerbating things or your problems or your health issues; or it is abrasive on the gut, pull it out for a period of time. Add it back in. Get your adrenals and your thyroid and your hormonal system working better.

So again, this is the truth about coffee. I hope I instilled some really good info. If you feel like you’re having some issues with coffee or with your energies or your adrenals or anxiety or mood stuff, and coffee could be connected, click on screen or reach out below and make sure you subscribe to get access to more great videos coming your way.


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Content on this website is not considered medical advice. Please see a physician before making any medical or lifestyle changes.