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How Your DNA Can Influence Your Coffee Habit

By Dan Reardon, MBChB ; Updated October 12, 2017

Americans drink more than 400 million cups of coffee a day and spend $30 billion a year in the process. Caffeine (found in coffee) is the most commonly used drug on the planet, especially among athletes using it to boost their performance.

But how much coffee is too much? What’s the best time to consume caffeine? The answer may be in your genes.

The rate at which your body breaks down caffeine is largely dictated by your DNA. To get technical, the gene that codes for an enzyme in the liver called CYP1A2 determines whether you’re a fast or slow metabolizer of caffeine.

If you’re just casually curious about what your DNA may be telling you about your coffee habit, see which one of these two categories you most closely identify with.

Are You a Fast Metabolizer?

Are you someone who drinks a cup of coffee and immediately feels like you could run a four-minute mile or respond to 75 emails at once? This might be because you’re someone who metabolizes caffeine quickly, so it exerts its effects on your body almost immediately.

If you’re familiar with the fight-or-flight response, coffee has this same effect on you because it is activating exactly the same hormonal pathways, ultimately releasing epinephrine from the adrenal glands.

So how should you take your latte? If you’re a fast metabolizer, you should drink no more than three cups of coffee per day and always avoid caffeine as a pick-me-up, as it’ll result in a quick crash. When it comes to your fitness routine, avoid coffee around your workout. You don’t want an energy crash in the middle of your gym session.

Are You a Slow Metabolizer?

Or maybe you’re someone who can drink a cup of coffee and not feel any immediate stimulating effects. Yet if you have coffee too late in the day you can kiss that night of sleep goodbye.

You’re most likely a slow metabolizer of caffeine, so it stays in your system longer. That’s also why having a cup of java later in the day could be detrimental to your sleep. And consuming too much coffee throughout the day could also have a huge impact on your sleep because of the cumulative effects of caffeine.

So can you still enjoy your morning brew without affecting healthy sleep? Absolutely! Have up to two cups of coffee in the early part of the day. Given the slow effects of the caffeine, it shouldn’t have any negative exercise effects — and it might even be positive for your fitness routine!

One thing that should be noted is that people who metabolize caffeine slowly and drink too much coffee (four or more cups per day) are at much greater risk of a heart attack as compared to the fast metabolizers of caffeine. This is likely because caffeine remains in your system for longer.

Curious to Know More?

By taking a FitnessGenes DNA test and understanding your caffeine-related genetics, or by simply understanding your own response to coffee, you can figure out exactly the right number of cups of coffee for you each day.

About the Author

Dr. Dan Reardon, CEO and co-founder of FitnessGenes, is a medical doctor and genetics expert who has been featured in InStyle, The New York Times and Men’s Fitness and on Inc.com, Well+Good and “The Doctors.”

An emergency-room doctor for 10 years with a degree in human anatomy, he’s also a certified personal trainer with more 15 years of experience. Dr. Reardon has written two books and was formerly the science editor of Muscle & Fitness and Flex magazines in the U.K., Europe and Australia.

About FitnessGenes

FitnessGenes is the first DNA-testing platform of its kind to eliminate the guessing game from fitness and nutrition. With a quick DNA kit and an analysis of 43 gene variations, its team of genetic scientists reveals specific traits, including metabolic tendencies, dietary sensitivities, fat-burning capacity, muscle type, recovery time and more. FitnessGenes then prescribes personalized, week-by-week exercise programs and nutritional guides based on your genetic profile.

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