Dear Mark: Coffee and Insulin, Fat and Post-Workout Meals

In today’s edition of Dear Mark, I cover two topics near and dear to many of your hearts. First, I discuss the interaction between coffee intake and insulin. Does coffee stimulate its secretion? Does it impair insulin’s function, or our body’s reaction to it? Find out how you should approach coffee on a Primal Blueprint eating plan. Then, I explore the suitability of dietary fat in the post-workout meal. Does it belong? Should you be stocking skim milk, de-fatted chicken breast, non-fat yogurt, and cartons of egg whites for your post-workout meals? If you’ve just lifted something heavy, should you therefore shun the yolks and fear the fat for the rest of the day? Find out below.

Let’s go.

Does coffee raise insulin levels? A lot of contradictory stuff out there. Hoping you could get to the bottom of it. Also, how does it affect GABA?



What makes coffee research so confusing is that a lot of it is actually caffeine research. You see, researchers love isolating whole food constituents to avoid confounding variables. It’s easier to get a definitive result about caffeine than it is to get one about coffee, because coffee contains huge and diverse levels of antioxidant compounds. If you don’t, and coffee has a health effect, how do you know if it’s the caffeine or something else in coffee causing the effect? That’s helpful, but most of us are drinking coffee – not popping caffeine pills. So, while caffeine is definitely one of the main active compounds in coffee, it’s not the only one. Adjust your interpretation of “coffee” research accordingly.

That said, both caffeine and coffee have been shown to exert negative effects on insulin sensitivity. Not on insulin itself, though. As standalone substances (without a meal to accompany them), neither caffeine nor coffee have an independent effect on insulin secretion.

But insulin sensitivity, the efficiency with which your body handles incoming glucose? Yeah. Caffeine tends to reduce it. It’s not necessarily a terrible thing, though, when you consider why this occurs. Caffeine increases adrenaline, which increases lipolysis – the liberation of fatty acids from body fat. The increased sense of energy you get from coffee is partly caused by the increased availability of energy in the form of free fatty acids. Of course, an increase in free fatty acids shooting around your body causes a subsequent – and necessary – drop in insulin sensitivity to allow you to actually burn the fat. It all makes perfect sense when you consider the entire picture, but it sounds pretty scary out of context.

Despite all the clinical trials showing that acute intakes of caffeine and coffee tend to reduce insulin sensitivity, the overwhelming majority of the observational literature finds that coffee is linked to lower body weight and protection from type 2 diabetes. Heck, heavy coffee drinking is even linked to protection against non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, an affliction characterized by insulin resistance. And although what I’ve said about correlation and causation in the past holds true in this case (even though it’s supporting something that we might like), the connection is undeniably interesting, especially when you consider that heavy coffee drinking is universally lauded as unhealthy and that habitual coffee drinkers are probably more likely to smoke, stay up late, and eat bad food. Perhaps there is a mechanism there (one suggestion in the NAFLD paper is the antioxidant content of coffee).

Part of it stems from the fact that habituation to a behavior affects the effects of that behavior. You know how once you’ve been drinking coffee for awhile, you don’t really get the “buzz” anymore? You still love (need) the stuff, but it’s not so much a stimulant as it is a normalizer. Well, the coffee buzz comes partially from adrenaline, the secretion of which drinking coffee promotes. Adrenaline is also a potent stimulator of lipolysis, the release of free fatty acids from adipose tissue. Since the liberated fatty acids are causing the temporary insulin resistance, and the fatty acids are liberated by adrenaline, and the adrenaline buzz is lessened with habitual coffee drinking, maybe the insulin resistance is similarly lessened when you’re a coffee fiend. Sounds sensible, right, but what does the research say?

Sure enough, when you give overweight, generally healthy habitual coffee drinkers five more cups a day and measure their “biological risk factors for type 2 diabetes,” things look a little different. Their insulin sensitivity not only stays the same, but their risk factors actually improve. Markers of both liver function and adipose tissue function were improved after upping their coffee intake.

What does all this stuff mean for real world coffee fans?

  • Moderate your carb intake when drinking coffee. Some fruit and maybe even a bit of sweet potato hash can be okay, especially if you’re glucose tolerant, but for the most part, stick to eggs and bacon with your coffee in the morning. And whatever you do, don’t be one of those pudgy carb-loading cyclists clad in spandex I see at the cafe quaffing coffee and pounding kruellers. That’s not a good combo.
  • Get up and move around a bit when you drink. Since that coffee has just liberated a bunch of fatty acids from your adipose tissue, use them! Go for a walk, take a stroll around the office, do some gardening, hit the trails, ride your bike, play with your kids. Just move. If you don’t, the bulk of those fatty acids will simply be recycled back into your body fat.
  • Remember that coffee isn’t just caffeine. It is a whole plant food/drink with hundreds of bioactive compounds beyond just caffeine, like chlorogenic acid, which may have protective effects against type 2 diabetes. Those compounds come from and are affected by the environment, soil, elevation, climate, and region in and at which the coffee was grown. Even the roasting temperature changes the antioxidant content and composition of the beans. The taste and health effects of coffee thusly depend on dozens of factors, and that’s why coffee has different effects on different people as reflected across dozens of studies. Coffee isn’t coffee isn’t coffee. The coffee that tanked those people’s insulin sensitivity in that study may have been a mass market blend from Starbucks, while the single origin coffee from a little Guatemalan plantation could have totally different effects (or it could be the other way around).

Of course, as the ruler of Asgard, father of Thor, and a mighty Norse god, you can probably get away with eating tons of carbs with your coffee (served in a drinking horn, no doubt).

Hi Mark,

I have read somewhere that fat intake is not recommended post workout because it slows the ingestion of protein and carbs. Is it true? If yes, can I take your protein supplement post workout?



Most training blogs recommend that post-workout fat intake be kept relatively low. There are a couple reasons usually given:

  1. If you’re trying to gain muscle mass, you’re going to be eating big after your workouts. Assuming you’re eating a ton of protein and carbs to jack up your insulin levels for the anabolic effect (insulin, after all, shuttles all sorts of nutrients into your cells – protein and glycogen into muscles, for example, after a workout), and your calories are high (to facilitate weight gain) enough, any “extra” fat in the meal has a good chance of being shuttled into fat cells. Thus, from that perspective, fat is “wasted” calories.
  2. If you’re trying to shuttle nutrients into muscle cells, you want insulin as high as it can get, and “everyone knows” that even a modicum of fat will blunt the post-workout insulin spike. Right? Not exactly. One study found that a mixed meal of 47% carbs, 26% protein, and 27% fat – certainly lower fat than most Primal people eat normally, but definitely not a “fat free” post-workout meal – increased insulin levels to 3x fasting at 30 minutes and 5x fasting at 60 minutes (PDF). That’s certainly enough insulin for training adaptations, I’d say. Another study found that post-workout whole milk actually led to greater levels of muscle protein synthesis than post-workout fat-free milk, even though the fat-free stuff had more protein than the whole stuff. Huh, it’s almost like milk is supposed to be whole.

Clearly, some fat after the workout isn’t going to kill you or render your workout useless (and it might even increase protein utilization, at least when it’s consumed as a whole food). And although I’m definitely biased – the fat in my protein supplement (Primal Fuel) comes from coconut milk – coconut milk is rich in medium chain triglycerides, which seems more acutely beneficial to exercise performance than longer-chain saturated fats, at least in rodents.

Stick to the fat inherent in your food – don’t fear meat, fatty fish, and whole eggs – while avoiding dumping copious amounts of butter on your post-workout meal and you’ll be okay.

That’s it for today, guys. Send along any more questions you have and feel free to leave some in the comment section. Thanks for reading!

About the Author

Mark Sisson is the founder of Mark’s Daily Apple, godfather to the Primal food and lifestyle movement, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet. His latest book is Keto for Life, where he discusses how he combines the keto diet with a Primal lifestyle for optimal health and longevity. Mark is the author of numerous other books as well, including The Primal Blueprint, which was credited with turbocharging the growth of the primal/paleo movement back in 2009. After spending three decades researching and educating folks on why food is the key component to achieving and maintaining optimal wellness, Mark launched Primal Kitchen, a real-food company that creates Primal/paleo, keto, and Whole30-friendly kitchen staples.

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162 thoughts on “Dear Mark: Coffee and Insulin, Fat and Post-Workout Meals”

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  1. I also have read (might have been here) that waiting at least 30-60 minutes after a workout before eating helps to burn the free-floating fatty acids in your bloodstream instead of recycling them by eating immediately after. However this tactic isn’t as desireable if you’re trying to bulk up.

  2. Haha I always see these cyclists in their fancy colors tight over a belly!!Wondered what they were doing wrong.Now I know.
    I guess you could spin all day and not get rid of it if you are not eating right.

    1. I don’t like to beat on anyone, but since the conversation started I’ll pile on. There is no shortage of avid cyclists around my office that boast about how many miles they did and how awesome they are and they ride to work every day and they do their 10 mile commute in X minutes etc…
      Of course they are the first ones to be seen with a coffee in one hand and a donut in the other – and they wonder why they have a gut. They really think they will be Armstrong if they ride a bike.
      I took one of guy out for a workout at lunchtime last week because he kept on my case about how awesome he is. I was giving him a friendly warning that he shouldn’t do the sprints if he felt them to be uncomfortable – he boasted that he has super strong legs blah blah – I was finishing the 100m in half his time and cranked out 4x the push-ups and pull-ups. He turned up to work the next day limping with some lame excuse not wanting to admit that I near killed him.

      1. You guys must be seeing the casual cyclists. ALL the serious cyclists I know are super lean. I am a 5’8″ tall female, weigh 122 pounds, and have 9% body fat (right in the ideal range for female triathletes).

        No one is sticking up for the cyclists so I had to chime in. The real cyclists, of which there are many, don’t have pot bellies!

        1. I used to think those stats were great for a female when I was an IM triathlete. Now I’d say those figures are eating disordered. 9% body fat for a female is not healthy. Heck it’s only just OK for a male.

        2. I’d have to agree with Kelda…I was 9% for years and was amenorrheic and had developed osteoporosis due to low hormones levels. It’s way too low to sustain the female hormonal system….IMHO

      2. your talking about cyclist who dont care about health, and ride for fun!. pro cyclist are lean with one of the best endurance engines, if you saw a tour de france rider they are very srict with there diets!. im a competitive cyclist with 4% body fat, try eating a high carb diet in the gym being 4% bodyfat dont think so! low carb diets are for lazy people. i have seen guys lifting weights thinking im big and muscular and they look fat!

    2. I remember being in a provincial park at 5 years old, looking at some adult climbers dressed up all fancy with their suits and gear and using ropes to scale a little cliff-side. I then started climbing it freestyle, faster. I was a little ways away from them, but I think the two areas were of similar difficulty.
      The primal enthusiast makes the clothes.

    3. I like to use my friend Dave as the example of the “extreme” cyclist. He rides fixed gear mountain bikes, at least 50 miles a day. He is also a classically trained French chef and a professional whiskey distiller, so the boy knows how to eat and drink. But he is beautifully muscled, has no paunch, and has so much energy he could exhaust a five-year-old.

      His secret? Whole milk instead of energy drinks. Real butter instead of veggie oils. Beautiful, fresh produce whenever he can get his mits on it (usually at roadside stands along his rides). And pastured meats. When I told him he was “living the primal life” he gave me an odd look and said that maybe us primal folks were simply “living the GOOD life.”

      Well played, sir.

      1. I work with an avid mountain biker also, but he is anything but well-muscled, healthy and brimming w/ energy.

        I’ve never seen anyone (including women and small children) with upper arms as skinny as this guy, at least not in proportion to height.

        He’s always sick, with chronic infections as well as joint pain.

        He’s also a strict vegan..

        I’m worried for the guy – it looks like he’s put at least 10 years on in the last 2, but I suspect it will take a major health crisis for him to even consider changing his diet, even though I’m positive he feels like shit 24/7.

        At least SAD eaters get a little short-lived enjoyment out of their diet (and probably don’t feel as lousy overall either).

        What bothers me about all this the most?

        He would have no problem helping to elect someone who would force the same diet on everyone else. As for me, live and let live (or die as the case may be).

  3. A little over 10 years ago, I stopped drinking coffee. I had been a big coffee drinker but I linked morning stomach irritation to it and cutting it out stopped the problem cold.

    I still miss the taste and love the aroma.

    Would you suggest I SHOULD be drinking it or just that it’s safe to drink?

    1. Ditto — curious to hear the answer. I tried a little this morning and though it was yummy, my tummy feels a little irritated.

      1. you might also want to alter the method of making your coffee – drip vs french press vs pressure espresso machine (to make a good cup too not just a shot) all contain differing amounts of acids and other components as each draws them out of the grind differently – a little internetting will garner you details on the differences and your stomach may also react differently – for me – the most common – drip coffee – has always been irritating to my GI whereas i drink morning 2 cups of espresso machine made now for years with zero ill effects–

        1. and of course – the roast and different countries beans are yet another confounder – trial and error i think–

        2. I LOVED coffee for…20 years and have finally got off that roller coaster ride as it was a huge contributor to a gut and skin condition. I know, now, that coffee contains acidic rancid oils that are pulled out with the hot water. French press pulls out the most due to the coffee sitting in the press. Then drip coffee. The cleanest is espresso because the water goes thru the coffee so quickly.
          Just look at a few whole coffee beans after sitting out at room temp for a few days to see how shiny it gets…that’s the oil. Then, slowly chew and dissolve one or two in your mouth for a minute or so…you can taste the bitter/rancid oil flavor this way…it might even upset your stomach. Coffee is acidic to the body…like a pH of 6 or so…no good for gut if abused/taken on empty stomach…or not at all for many who don’t know it.
          LOVED it, but finally glad to LEAVE it.

      2. As Mark pointed out, coffee is not just coffee. If you haven’t, try and source the best quality beans possible – even if it costs more. It could be mycotoxins and/or mould in the beans causing the stomach issues.
        Beans produced en-masse have the potential for more quality issues around handlng, shipping, storing etc.

        1. “As Mark pointed out, coffee is not just coffee.”

          Coffee is notoriously saturated in pesticides; moreso than any other crop. Putting poison on your food and eating it is not the most prudent course of action for a person trying to avoid the trappings of modern life. The best course is to buy organic green beans from a reliable source (the best is Sweet Marias imo), roast them yourself and brew it with a vacuum brewer. You can get away using nonorganic beans if you’re buying them from areas where the farmers cannot afford pesticides or paying for the organic label, such as Yemen, Indonesia, and many (though not all) African countries.

    2. I have similar irritation problems. I recommend trying chicory root tea. it’s got the bitter taste (strong!), it’s got the dark brown color. I use it to curb coffee cravings. I find it aids digestion during and after meals, too. It’s also got a whole list of health benefits, which my herbalist wife could recite of the top of her head. I do remember that it contains a good amount of inulin, which serves as a pre-biotic. (full disclosure: I’m drinking coffee with butter and heavy cream right now, but I’ll probably switch to chicory in the afternoon)

      1. An old (east) Indian trick is to put a pinch of cardamom into your coffee to help digestion. You can add cinnamon as well if you like. That might help the tummy issues.

        I go back and forth on coffee and when I’m off of it I drink dandelion root tea. I like one by traditional medicines. I also found an awesome coffee substitute from mountain rose herbs, although I don’t like the maca powder in it (women watch out as it messes with hormones in not such a good way).


        1. Cardamom coffee also tastes amazing!

          I’ve found it tastes best by very finely grinding up coffee beans & cardamom (discard the husks) and storing in an air-tight container. Place in a fridge for a week to allow the flavours to mature.

          Then put a large teaspoon of the coffee/cardamom mix (or more!) in a mug and add boiling water (must be as hot as possible). Stir well & wait 2-3 minutes for the coffee to cool & the solids to float to be bottom. Do not stir again.

          The finer the grind of coffee the more the grinds form a thick solid mud which stays at the bottom of the mug & not in your mouth.

        2. I like sprinkling some cumin in my coffee. It gives it a slightly richer, earthier taste. A bit of honey added to this makes it taste even better, if I have a craving for something sweet.
          A good substitute for coffee is cocoa or cacao, hot or cold, mixed in water, milk, or coconut/soy/almond or whatever milk, and probably more.
          As a kid I used to mix hot chocolate powder in milk with a cinnamon stick and microwave it until hot, which was delicious.

        3. I just recently discovered dandelion root tea. It’s a great substitute for those days when I want to ditch the coffee. I highly recommend it.

        1. When I first read Erok’s reply about Dandy Blend I thought “whoa, that has Barley and Rye in it”.

          Turns out that may not be much of an issue:

          I will give this a try myself, thanks Erok!

    3. Try small amounts of Cold Press coffee. Make sure it is Cold Press and not just “iced coffee.” Cold press has a lower acidic content which can reduce stomach irritation.

      I have a very sensitive stomach, but I drink only cold press and only once or twice a week. Whenever I have it, it’s 12 ounces or less, spaced out over 30-60+ minutes.

      I still get jittery if I overdo the coffee, but I don’t have any stomach irritation anymore. Try cold press and stick to moderation.

      1. i “cold-brew” my organic decaf as well. it actually tastes better than made with hot water 🙂

    4. Simple solution: If it bothers you, then don’t drink it.

      I used to love a good cup of coffee lightened with a bit of heavy cream. Unfortunately, it didn’t love me back. Anything more than half a cup invariably gave me rumbling innards and diarrhea. I gave up on coffee years ago as being more of a problem than it was worth, and I switched to tea, both green and black. In fact, my #1 pig-out (if you can call it that) is unsweetened iced tea with plenty of lemon. As addictions go, it’s not such a bad one.

      1. I think this is the same with any food. It is just hard for some people to tell what exactly is bothering them. I find that a lot of people try to blame food based issues with environment issues, or other factors that just dont make sense. People need to start seeing the obvious cause and effect of food intake with health.

      2. Not sure how your system reacts to coffee or cream individually but maybe it was the combination that gave you that result. Coffee can inhibit fat metabolism, by disabling an enzyme or something.
        On an empty stomach, or after having eaten some carbs and to a lesser extent protein, (and not too much working through my guts, without having eaten fat recently) I can drink a lot of coffee before any digestive disturbances. I can also drink a bit of coffee with cream without ill effects. However, if I have a lot of fat with my coffee, such as a big meal of eggs, a trip to the bathroom will be imminent.

      3. Have you tried White Tea? From what I’ve heard it has less caffeine and is higher in anti-oxidants being less processed than green or black.

    5. could be the acid in the coffee – try using full fat cream to help with that

    6. When I started working from home instead of in an office, I switched from coffee to chai tea in the morning. It was more because I’m too lazy to clean my french press every day than for any health reason, but everything I’ve read says that tea is great for you, and it’s nice to still have a nice caffinated drink to start the day.

      1. I love chai, but read the ingredients first if you are strictly avoiding grain. Most chai has some sort of toasted grain in it: wheat or barley at least.

        1. Do you have some kind of cite for that?

          Chai spices are just spices – tea is tea, and cream is cream.

          Maybe some of the instant drink mixes do, but no self-respecting Indian, Pakistani, or Tibetan adds grain to their tea.

          Butter, yes. Grain? NO.

        2. Maybe the nasty pre-mixed “chai tea” in a carton has grain in it, but a regular chai tea bag shouldn’t have anything more than tea and spices (ginger, cardamom, black pepper, etc).

        3. The coffee shop I worked at in college served chai made from whole ingredients (not a concentrate or syrup). I don’t remember the brand (this was in the early 1990s), but the owners of the chai company were Indian and the ingredients included toasted barley and wheat kernels. Not as filler, but as a flavoring ingredient. The grains added some natural sweetness and nuttiness. The chai was delivered in cloth bags and the ingredients weren’t ground – whole tea leaves, spices, and yes, grains. Maybe it was a recipe from a specific region of India or maybe it was something they discovered while tinkering with their recipe. Either way, I think it’s unfair to say that “no self-respecting Indian, Pakistani, or Tibetan adds grain to their tea.” Another interesting note is that we had Jewish customers who didn’t consume grains during Passover, and somehow they knew to ask if there were grains in the chai.

      2. Is it okay to mention the Aeropress? Like a french press but without the sludge! And unlike with drip, there is no stomach upset or burning from a big mug of it!( Or so say several friends, I have never gotten a bad sensation from coffee in my cast iron stomach!) (And it make delicious coffee!)

    7. I find I have more of a problem with light and medium roasts. Dark and espresso roasts have a bolder flavor, but seem to be easier on the stomach.

    8. I’ve found roasted chicory to be the best coffee substitute for taste & aroma. Nothing else comes close. There is NO caffeine bump, but I can live without that. You can brew it like coffee, but I just put a TB in a 2-cup teapot & add boiling water, wait 8 minutes, pour up & enjoy. Hope this helps.

    9. I found I couldn’t even *look* at the cheap name brand coffee can at work…made me feel yucky and I developed an aversion to it. But the more expensive stuff that I made at home…*glunk glunk glunk*. No tummy troubles with it.
      Trader Joe’s has a few selections of low acid/smooth/light roasts, I’d try those to start. But usually I have a medium roast bag from costco in the pantry.

    10. Ok so i have also experienced upset stomach after drinking coffee but only sometimes. So I was trying to figure it out and low and behold if I drank darker coffee like French Columbia or Italian Roasts I’m ok but some coffee brands even if dark still hurt my stomach. The only two I know are Maxwell house and Floldgers (how ever you spell that.) Try some darker coffee’s and let me know.

  4. Poor cyclists. You can’t exercise away a bad diet. Since finding the Primal Blueprint I ride for fun, not exercise, and I don’t use my time in the saddle as an excuse to justify a sweet treat at the coffee shop.

  5. That is a good question that I haven’t seen addressed on all these study’s, Is it safe and healthy or SHOULD you be drinking it. I personally haven’t ever drank coffee for religious reasons and get my caffiene from other natural sources. Should I though find a substitute for coffee to get the other alleged benefits.

  6. My post workout meal is 3-4 Raw Eggs. High Protein and Fat. No sugar or carbs.

    1. From time-to-time I, too, will have 3 or 4 raw eggs. I figure I’m getting enough biotin from the yolks, plus other sources, to counter the avidin effect of the raw egg whites. However, I read a study, can’t remember where now, showing that actual amino acid uptake from cooked egg whites was substantially higher than from raw egg whites.

  7. If you eat sugar after a workout like that it will actually mitigate the whole growth hormone effect of that workout program.

    The old mentality, is YOU NEED SUGAR, YOU NEED GLYCOGEN, CARB RESERVES, that’s just stored sugar. That’s not going to work, only 2-42 atp’s, not sustainable. Way better HGH response from low sugar. Eat protein after workouts helps with spiking HGH.

    1. HGH is THE bomb! I put 2 raw pasture raised eggs, 4 oz. unsweetened coconut milk, 4 oz. unsweetened hemp milk, 4 oz. fluoride free H20, and 2 tablespoons hulled hemp seed in my protein shake, and take this after the HIIT workout days, then sub the eggs with fresh strawberries and blueberries when I’m on the easy/rest days. Before I knew about the post workout/sugar/HGH issue, I used to drink a big ole glass of orange juice after the workout, with toast and eggs. No wonder I felt like crap! I now shun fruit juices and bread (thank you Mark). If I want some fruit flavor, I go eat the dang fruit! But that little detail of avoiding ALL sugar for 2 hours post workout makes all the difference to me. With the HGH boost, I don’t even need coffee!

  8. Coffee has never made me jittery. I can drink pots and pots of it. Even if I drink it at night it just takes a little bit longer to fall asleep but doesn’t keep me awake – not many things can keep me awake when my body’s ready for sleep. And since I’m prediabetic I’ll take all the help I can get for protection.

    1. Broccoli for sulforaphane, if you haven’t heard that yet. I read somewhere, I’m guessing here, that it helps deal with diabetic symptoms.

  9. I drink three large mugs of coffee (that’s just coffee, no cream or sweetener…yuck!) every morning before I go for my 45 minutes walk (in hill country). No jitters no stomach problems. I go to bed at night looking forward to my morning coffee. (Mmmm!) But, that’s it, just coffee first thing early in the morning. Rarely, I might have an iced coffee later in the day. Been doing this for decades. I’m 65 and have exercised induced angina. I take various supplements but no prescription drugs. After I get to the top of the first big hill, no more angina. When I get home, once or twice a weeek, I might do interval sprints up the driveway, 75 yards, 10% grade. And twice a week I do heavy lifting. I’ll probably keel over dead on one of my morning walks some day. Oh well, we all have to go sometime.

    1. You are probably better off than someone with your exact same condition taking prescription drugs! Kudos to you for living your life on your terms 🙂

  10. Ive given up process foods, Ive given up all grains, Ive given up sugar, Ive given up my beloved legumes (all needed from my glucose meter readings),,,, no one , and I mean no one is taking my coffee away from me! Lol, they’ll pry it from my cold dead hands 😉

    1. That’s what I said, too. Since I stopped coffee, I’m sleeping better so it’s an acceptable tradeoff for me. I enjoy a variety of teas and I’ll still have coffee on occasion.

    2. Ha, ha, you are so right. Not a day without a good cup of coffee.

  11. Hi Mark,
    I have a question regarding your recommendation to avoid consuming carbs and caffein together. I’m currently following a paleo/leangains approach where I lift heavy things MWF am and then eat my first meal at noon. I make workout days high carb (350g carbs from fruit, white rice, sweet potatos), and then keep my non-workout days under 50g carbs. If I’m using caffein pills (and occasionally cycle ECA) in the mornings, should I stick to my low carb days only, or is it fine to use stimulants during the fast even on high carb days? I normally would start consuming carbs about 2 hours after my last stimulant dose. Thanks!

  12. Right now I’m having coffee with paleo creamer and stevia. Yum! I feel better about myself already. (Day 3 paleo!)

    1. Try Dave Asprey’s Bulletproof coffee…some grass fed butter (Kerry Gold), coconut oil, and mct oil. Throw in a little cinnamon or dark chocolate for a real treat.

      1. I could never drink a whole cup of coffee until Upgraded Beans/Bulletproof coffee {First cup of coffee and I’m 34!}

        Now I look forward to my Kerrygold/MCT/stevia/cinnamon coffee every morning! Deeelish.

    2. After reading this post I feel a little better about the 4-pack of Monster I snagged to help me push a shopping cart two towns away tonight (or until too sleepy), though after being showed a way to get past the standard 1 hour a day internet limit in this library, I kind of want to stay. Decisions!
      This city has an abundance of “crackheads” and the like, and rude wastes of flesh though, so that’s kind of a motivator to get out of it. But no matter where one goes, there’s always going to be at least one asshole!

  13. Definitely, the bad diet has got to go. Speaking through experience…working out and not seeing the desired results coz of all the regular unhealthy foods I was consuming. As they say, the diet is worth 80%…how I really wish this weren’t the case…lol.

  14. I drink 16 oz of Peruvian organic coffee in the morning with a TBS heavy cream, walk/run on treadmill 2.5 miles, shower, feed animals, then eat breakfast, 2 egg omelet with org squash, red pepper, broc, onions, 2-3 oz red grapefruit juice and multivitamin. 32 oz filtered water before lunch, all of this makes me feel great every single day.

  15. I wonder if tea would be similar to coffee as it relates to stimulating the fat burning process but also affecting insulin sensitivity?

  16. i’ve just started drinking “Bulletproof Coffee” and it is amazing. i’ll let you google the details, but it really helps you up the fat % of your diet in an easy and delicious way.

    basically, a large serving of GOOD coffee (i order direct from Peet’s. still oily when i open the bag). put into blender along with half-stick of grass-fed butter, and a tablespoon of MCT oil. commence feeling on cloud 9 and not needing to eat again until dinner. energy up. ketosis up. calories down. many benefits of all-out fasting included.

    give it a whirl. caution, explaining this to shocked family members watching you drink a half-stick of butter is much much MUCH harder than explaining “the whole low carb thing” itself. but it’s fun to watch the expressions on their faces!

    1. Just to clarify this is Dave Asprey’s (The Bulletproof Exec) bulletproof coffee recipe. It truly is amazing.

    2. How much is this ‘half a stick’ of butter I keep hearing about? I’m from Australia and our butter comes in 250g bricks. You guys aren’t putting 125g (~4 oz) in your coffees are you??!

      1. A half a stick of butter would be about 60 grams. And Yes, I agree, who in the world would put any butter in their coffee, let along that much!

        1. Don’t knock it till you try it. It’s fabulous. I also used to think it was crazy and now I have a cup every morning before I walk my dog.

        2. I’d always wondered that too. I’m from New Zealand and our butter mostly comes in 500g bricks.

        3. i’ve been using about 10g butter and 10g coconut oil. it’s pretty good but you DEFINITELY have to shake/blend it up. made the mistake of just stirring the fats in when i started out-disgusting!

      2. In NA, a block of butter is typically ~1 lb (454 g) or 4 sticks of butter. So half a stick would be about 57 g.

  17. I alternate between coffee, black, green, and herbal teas. Five years of gestating and breastfeeding had me on a no caffiene lifestyle, but without a few hot cuppas a day had little will to keep going.

    Since going Primal I no longer have the tummy issues that had been present before with coffee. I am very curious about that. The closer I was to a pre-diabetic, insulin resistant state the more coffee would cause jitters, emergency bathroom visits, and even blackouts (especially when accompanied by teramisu! lol)

    Now I enjoy it two or three times a week, but if I don’t back off to the lighter cuppas I find myself dehydrated and sleep deprived.

    I am thrilled to have coffee back in my life, even in moderation. My mother always, always had a pot on and the smell and taste are better than any carb-loaded comfort food.

  18. Gave up caffeine for New Year’s Resolution 1999, which led to a defining moment of pure clarity in February 1999: “A world without caffeinated coffee and tea is not a world I want to live in!”

  19. had a beer guzzling friend who, upon being told that he would live longer if he didn’t drink so much beer he replied “no – it would just seem longer…”

    my sentiments if told the same about coffee–

    1. I am going to use that line if needed. Your friend said it right! Life is for living, which is why PB is so easy to enjoy. Steak and cheese omelet cooked in bacon fat with a side of bacon? That’s living. 🙂

  20. I don’t know if you all have heard of this, “Bulletproof coffee”. It is a coffee with unsalted butter and MCT oil which it could last you all day. It helps you to lose the weight and perform 10 times better. I have had been on it for 2 months and I have increased my performance in a big jump.

    My post-WOD meal is: two (2) canned of Bear and Wolf Pink Salmon.. Easy 68mg of proteins and no carb! Yes it is high in sodium, however, you will need to drink lots of water to flush those sodium out.

  21. Love my morning coffee. I like the comment about getting up and moving around after you drink it to use the fatty acids that are released. I honestly had never even considered it.

    Great post as always!

  22. very interesting piece about coffee. i tend to limit my intake to weekends only, but i also believe there are benefits to drinking coffee more than just 2x/week.

  23. “Huh, it’s almost like milk is supposed to be whole.”

    Thanks, Mark…you made my Monday

    1. I read in an enjoyable book about coyotes yesterday (Myths and Truths about Coyotes: What You Need to Know about America’s Most Misunderstood Predator) that bears will often eat the udders of animals they kill first.
      Probably likely they occasionally get the milk from them too. I think this gives a little more back-up to the idea of milk being primal.

  24. I’d like to see some actual studies on how certain things affect our wellness levels rather than the symptoms of our diseases. Degenerative disease is nothing more than the body adapting to a toxic situation, which means researching how something affects the affects is pretty much useless.

    1. So true, couldn´t agree more. Unfortunately, RCTs costs thousands/millions and the findings could contribute to the demise of Big Pharma and their world as they know it.

  25. I love my coffee. Try to stick to one in the morn as that is all I need for breakfast and one as a reward/dessert after I’ve got the kids to bed. ( my sons name is Odin by the way)
    I also find it very helpful when out with the ladies for lunch If there is nothing safe to eat I can have a coffee while they are munching down their cakes and I feel full and don’t feel I’ve missed out on anything.
    I havnt started any exercise yet as I have been following the Pb eating for around 3 months to try to cure my chronic fatigue and while feeling a lot better am still very tired. Not sure if I should just start to exercise anyway and that may make me feel better or give the food a bit longer to heal my poor body.
    I am possibly not eating enough fat I am eating eggs and meat which is pretty good considering I have been a low fat vego for 20 yrs, but the thought of butter or cream still turns my stomach. It makes sense in my head but hard to change old habits.
    I love this site and your book and this is definately my way of life going forward!!

    1. How does cheese sound? Great source of fat and protein — the good stuff!

      Good luck with continuing the PB eating!

    2. Sometimes coffee can contribute to chronic fatigue by depleting adrenaline stores.
      At one time I was drinking lots of coffee [still do, but there was also], lots of energy drinks/shots, and popping ridiculous amounts of caffeine pills, plus using a drug with stimulant properties. At the time my diet was poor, and loaded with carbs.
      The result: lots of tweak outs that could last all day, and lots of crashes that could last for days, steadily getting more and more tired and lethargic, and looking pale and gaunt. My workouts began to suffer and I was beset with fatigue and became dependent on caffeine just to feel awake. When I cut back on caffeine, went sober, and ate a bit better for four months, I got back to normal.
      Since then, and after making the choice to eat primal, coffee has basically been a staple for me and doesn’t seem to be doing any harm, except sometimes I have to cut back or eliminate it for a few days or so to avoid addiction and loss of sleep.

  26. I wonder if having a little extra omega-6 post workout is beneficial, since a little inflammation after a workout is part of muscle-building, and omega-6 is pro-inflammatory, though I really have no idea of the chemistry, just the basic facts.
    A few years ago when my living situation was stable and I had a good deal of free time and a weight set, I’d lift weights all the time and afterwards would gorge on trail mix (with peanuts as the first ingredient) and regular industrial egg and cheese omelettes after workouts. My diet was quite high in omega-6 and low in omega-3, but during that time I put on muscle fast. Also possibly worth noting is that I often fueled my workouts with energy drinks or coffee loaded with sugar and some milk, including a couple cups of plain milk often, so the insulin might have been a factor. So could the routine. Plus I did a lot of sprinting back then, and max-lifts, thus increasing HGH and testosterone, and slept in regularly.

  27. I used to find that coffee would upset my stomach and for sure irritate the lining of my bladder so that I felt like I had to urinate, even when there was very little there. Since making the switch to good, locally roasted organic coffee a few years ago, all those issues went away. I swear that it was the chemicals (pesticides, mycotoxins, whatever) in the mass-produced, cheap coffee that was the problem. It still can affect me if I end up drinking more than a cup of commercial coffee. I invested in a good thermos and most days, carry my own coffee. Always be prepared, eh?

  28. Since I gave up coffee about 2 months ago, the last of my anxiety symptoms have finally gone away! Which more than makes up for not having it in my life anymore 🙂 I have heard that Decaf can still have small amounts of caffeine in it, this makes sense to me as a had a cup of decaf last week for the first time in a month and bang! Anxiety symptoms back within 20 mins of drinking it. Back to herbal tea for me, as I’m obviously just way too sensitive to it.

  29. Cheese is good Nicole, however I have been having sore a sore tummy after eating cheese lately so I guess that is the next thing I’m going to have to eliminate unfortunately.
    Animanarchy that’s interesting. I did drink a lot of coffee before (8 cups a day) so hopefully limiting it to two will be ok. It’s a vicious cycle I guess feel fatigued makes you want coffee which makes you feel more fatigued.
    Glad to hear you have had a major adjustment and are now feeling much better 🙂

  30. I’m a coffee drinker (coconut milk and stevia) and an avid 53 year old cyclist who is also overweight. It took me a long time to realize that what I ate determined whether I lost or gained fat. Since going what a I call Paleo I’ve lost 30 pounds without much exercising other than my cycling which I do because I love it and not to lose fat. I average only 50-60 miles a week in good weather and probably 25% of that in winter. So for me, cycling is not much of a factor. My rides are short intervals of about 45 minutes with some hill climbing. I occasionally ride the 50 miles round trip to work but admit that it just makes me hungrier. I can tell you that I have a internet friend who has gone down from over 500 lbs. to 168 (six years now)by cycling about 11-25 miles daily and lifting dumbells all the while eating Vegan and drinking coffee…….but I’m sure no sweet rolls etc.

  31. Is it true the molecular structure of coffee is similar to gluten? Therefore, those of us who are gluten intolerant should stay away?

    I love coffee, but I get varying degrees of nausea/rumbling bowels/running to bathroom depending on the brand, quality etc. I still prefer coffee made with a french press, or an americano.

  32. I love being bulletproof!!! I drink BP coffe 4 days a week…IF, in ketosis for most of the day…killin the fat and stayin charged all day…Kerry gold, cinn., and MCT(coconut oil) is a godsend to being beyond Paleo!!! on my off days, hit breakfast hard w/ 30-50 grms protein w/in 1/2 hr of waking….coffee is awesome, bulletproof is even more awesome! primal warrior!

    1. I’m curious to know why you don’t just do BP coffee/Yak Butter Tea and/or Fat Shakes 7 mornings a week. How long have you been in ketosis? I have been in now for 30 days, and I’m wondering if hunger or hypoglycemic feelings ever return (I have not had a single episode of hypoglycemia in the past month), and generally no longer fall asleep 2 hours after lunch at my desk. I try to keep my diet at about 75% fat, 20% protein, 5% carbs. I could not consume 30 to 50 grams of protein within 1/2 hour of waking, nor am I ever hungry enough to do so anymore. My worry is that ketosis is just a dream, and that the 19 pounds and five-and-a-half inches around the waist I’ve lost in the last 30 days was just water weight. I’m terrified of waking up and being back in the nightmare that is glucose addiction/insulin resistance. Please promise me that the cravings for food don’t ever return. I love being able to “easily” not eat for 12 – 15 hours at a time. Yesterday, I ate at 3:00 in the afternoon, and then wasn’t hungry again until 9:00 this morning.

  33. I’m so glad to hear that coffee won’t kill me! If you told me that coffee would make me grow a third arm out of my skull, I’d probably still drink it. A possible, small decrease in insulin sensitivity? I’ll take it!

  34. Oh coffee..

    1) how long after drinking coffee does the (inch or so of) fat covering my steel-hard abs melt off and enter my bloodstream?

    2) I quit coffee about nine months ago (three days of hell, but people tell me it’s nothing compared to giving up sugar) because I didn’t like the thought of it numbing my adrenal receptors. These days I drink about one cup a week, but I’m looking forward to these caffeine-free varieties that I believe are due for harvest this year.

    1. Extra cortisol resulting from too much caffeine could possibly promote fat storage.

  35. My grandma and uncle have coffee farms in kona hawaii. Love the smell of it…wish I loved the taste more. Some of you coffee lovers should have been born into their lineage-not me!! 🙂

  36. Coffee / Fasting Question! — I’ve been fasting every morning and sometimes drink black coffee (along with water and tea.) Is it okay to sprinkle things into my coffee (cinnamon, etc?) I see some people put coconut oil in there, is coconut cream okay as well?

    Please advise, I don’t want to screw up my fasting state because I’m getting bored with the plain black coffee,..

  37. I gave up caffeine 8 days ago. I hate coffee my delivery system was sugar free Rockstar (bad I know) at four cans a day it was time to quit. I don’t know of anyother way to cleanly get caffeine in so it’s out. The withdrawal was brutal I still have some symptoms but it’s getting better.

    1. Congratulations. I think only people who have gone through it can appreciate it.

  38. I’ve run into some studies where they found out that the casein protein in milk binds with the beneficial flavonoids in coffee, tea and berries, and renders them useless.

    So adding milk or cream to your coffee or tea might be a bad idea?

    Not sure though whether it rendered the flavonoids completely useless, or only slowed down their digestion and absorption…. can anyone confirm?

    1. I’ve very interested in this, too.
      Do u remember where u read that?

  39. Spicegirl, the cinnamon and cardamom coffee sounds yum, I’m going to try it. Your comment about Maca concerns me though… I take Maca daily in an attempt to regulate my (female) hormones; do you have information to the contrary? Sorry to go off topic a bit, but Mark or anyone else here, do you know much about Maca? Thanks.

    1. I’ve been taking maca daily for the past month and for the first time in 30 years my PMS symptoms have vanished. I’ve never read or heard about any negative side effects; just not to take massive doses of it in the beginning. Side note: mix it with cocoa and white clay powder for a great face mask; moisten with a teaspoon of cream. Your skin will glow!

  40. I have bulletproof coffee every morning and sometimes one later in the day, organic coffee/MCT oil/30g organic grass fed butter, kerrygold is good but Yeo Valley is better! I also cycle, i cycle to work and cycle for the sake of it, i also lift heavy (5×5 stronglifts) and HIIT (Shin Ohtake Max workouts)my diet is probably 90-95% primal which accounts for my cheat day i suppose. My post workout drink is organic goat whey protein with coconut milk and a tablespoon of pure cod liver oil and /or a raw egg, its the only way i can take cod liver oil, i’ve been having this for about 2 years and i’m doing OK 🙂
    I also read some time ago Vince Gironda mentioning you need fat to help digest the protein, seems to work for me.

  41. As an aside and additional potential benefit of coffee, I find it curbs by appetite and especially my sugar cravings. Great comments all around!

  42. I drink a lot of coffee myself and I think the various health benefits are incredibly interesting.

    I try to buy organic coffee from a nearby health food store. I do find that the quality is much better than the generic store brands, both the flavour and the “buzz” are completely different IMO.

  43. Nice info on caffeine and coffee. For those that want to know about lowering the insulin spike after meals you can just go for a light walk. 5 minutes of any kind of light exercise lowers insulin.

  44. Any of you coffee lovers roasting your own? I use a standard chicken rotisserie and a small drum to roast green coffee beans on my grill. Takes about 15-20 mins to roast a lb. and I guarantee that you have not had coffee til you have had fresh roasted. It is a bit more work than store bought, but it’s not even the same drink. Caution: you will become jaded and have a hard time drinking commercial coffee after you learn to roast your own.

  45. Since turning 20, I’ve been having problems with coffee. After a few sips I usually crash and feel out of it for hours to come.

    it’s a similar feeling to a sugar crash I’ve been getting since going primal after eating desert.

    I’ve tried drinking coffee multiple times, mostly without milk or sugar and always have the same results. Even with decaf.

    I haven’t tried again since going primal.

    However, I’m able to drink lots of tea (pure, unsweetened) with no problems. I usually drink 3-6 cups a day!

    Any ideas?

    1. Please, allow me to diagnose you over the internet:
      First guess would be the quality/source of said coffee – organic, fair trade, folgers… Decaf is often made with nasty chems, and, let’s face it, folgers just ain’t real, crystals or no.
      Second would be the Brewing method – drip, percolator, espresso… I’ve found espresso to be very low acidity & gentle compared to standard drip.
      Third, maybe your adrenal system is easily knocked out of whack? I know my 20s were a time of weird sleep patterns, inconsistent dietary practices, and lots of stress.
      Fourth, I just read what primal pat suggested above about glutenaceous molecular structure. If that’s true, it’s something to really think about.

  46. thank you Mark! You just answered 2 of my most burning questions! I’m 1.5 hour post workout. Just had a coffee blended with coconut oil with my low carb lunch. Sounds like I did o.k…


  48. All good info, Mark.

    Over the years, I’ve gone from coffee (sweetened) to tea (sweetened) to tea (unsweetened). My fave, by far, is tea (unsweetened) – especially when it’s my fave brand, Yorkshire.

    The day’s gotta start with it. Recently there was a whole day I couldn’t have any because of a test I was doing. It made me very cranky.

    A little addicted, maybe? I don’t think so. I see my tea as a big huge life pleasure. Sipping away at it makes me feel like everything’s all right in the world.

    In the course of Grocking on, we’re supposed to include well-chosen pleasures, right? This is mine. No matter what its effect is on my insulin (or whatever), I’m sticking with it. 🙂

  49. I am so confused about coffee. I just love having a cup in the morning. Since it raises insulin levels, and therefore can keep that belly fat stuck like a donut around my waist, at least that is what I have read and heard from nutritionists, it really has taken the joy out of drinking coffee. I now feel guilty whenever I indulge. And to top it off, I now see warning signs at Starbucks that the way the beans are roasted can cause cancer. Arrgghhh!!!!

  50. When I drink coffee I usually do 2 shots of espresso with 1Tbsp of grass fed butter and 1Tbsp Coconut oil. It is to die for. No sugar or cream needed.

  51. I used to love coffee with enthusiasm to match many of those posting here. Had to detox for a medical procedure and decided i never want to endure that withdrawal again. It’s great to wake up and have zip naturally. After caring for my mom in the last months of esophageal cancer and reading about the impacts (sometimes asymptomatic) that coffee has on the lower esophageal sphincter, I’ve decided to avoid it.

  52. Hi Mark, great info about coffee. I agree, there’s definitely more to the story. With regard to the acute effects on insulin sensitivity, decaffeinated coffee is better than placebo, but regular coffee is better than caffeine alone (and decaf is better than regular) ( Does this mean something else in coffee is inhibiting a negative effect of caffeine?

    1. Yes, the chlorogenic acid in coffee improves insulin sensitivity. From the balance of studies I’ve read it appears that the beneficial effects of chlorogenic acid (and likely other compounds in coffee to some extent) outweigh the negative effects of caffeine in most people, hence the conflicting results when considering caffeine vs. coffee studies with respect to insulin sensitivity.

  53. Hi, Can anyone tell me why I get severe muscular aches in the tops of my legs whenever I give up coffee for a few days? It’s baffling.

  54. I guess its a personal thing but I love my morning coffee/s.

    I fast very day until 12 noon so my black coffee and cinnamon really help fill the gaps and ‘fuel’ my workout more mentally.

    If I can drink lots of water and 1/2 cups of coffee per workout (am) then I find everything works Great. My rule is no caffeine after training, seems to work ok

  55. As someone who writes regularly on coffee and recommends that one eat before and not after exercise, this article confuses me, especially after your fasting after exercise article.

    Perhaps it is because my target audience is trying to lose fat rather than an audience of elite athletes trying to bulk up.

    If you are trying to lose weight or build muscle, you should only eat before and not after a workout. Ditto with sports drinks, or better yet have salt and minerals in your paleo food, then drink water. The workout if done at high exertion will bring down your blood insulin curve that had elevated from the meal. Biologically you can only burn fat stores when insulin levels are low. This effect persists until you eat again, so if you eat after exercising, you stop the metabolic fat burning.

  56. I’ve recently run into a health issue where if I wasn’t ‘strict’ Primal before, I have to be committed now…with some caveats. The absolute worst for me being I cannot have coffee (or tea)! Not even for the caffeine, but because apparently coffee/tea tend to have molds. I need a stimulant in the am, so I am doing a fat-burner that has about 100mg of caffeine plus some other stuff.

    I’ve noticed that a) even if I drink a cup of hot water with the supplement, I don’t get the same ‘diuretic effect’ if you catch my drift, and b) I don’t seem to have the same type of energy throughout the day as the regular coffee (I average 1.5-2 cups a day).

    Hopefully I will be able to go back to the one luxury I have left soon (dying over here!), but would be incredibly grateful for any suggestions on brands or ways to avoid possible mold/contamination…!

  57. I’ve read that coffee can trigger autoimmune issues in people with gluten intolerance. Is this true?

  58. Everyone I know always refers to the “golden window” of time after the workout when getting the right food in is super important.

  59. What about decaf coffee?? I have been drinking that for years due to being pregnant (3 kids later) and I still continue to drink it.

  60. Great post. I am a type 1 diabetic, well into my 4+ years paleo journey, and no one has been able to describe the biochemistry of coffee/insulin resistance. Much appreciated. The paleo journey can have some questionable areas and through diabetes in the mix, and you have one science experiment.

  61. hello mark,
    what abut black coffe, with out milk and sugar?

    In the morning I eat a tablespoon of cocoa Is it good?

    thank’s ricky

  62. I hardly leave a response, but i did some searching and wound up here Does
    Coffee Decrease Insulin Sensitivity? | Mark’s Daily Apple. And I actually do have 2 questions for you if you usually do not mind. Is it simply me or does it look like a few of the responses come across like they are left by brain dead people? 😛 And, if you are posting on additional online social sites, I would like to follow everything new you have to post. Would you list of all of your communal pages like your twitter feed, Facebook page or linkedin profile?

  63. Heya i’m for the first time here. I came across this board and I to find It really useful &
    it helped me out much. I hope to offer one thing back and help
    others such as you helped me.

  64. “pudgy carb-loading cyclists clad in spandex I see at the cafe quaffing coffee and pounding kruellers.” – phew, I felt my blood pressure spike for a second when I read that.

  65. Coffee is a cause of PANCREATIC CANCER! According to Barry Groves, the roasting of coffee beans creates the carcinogen 3,4 benzopyrene.

    Pancreatic cancer rates increased in the United Kingdom and the United States after the introduction of coffee drinking. The increase in consumption of polyunsaturated fats later on made the problem even worse.:

  66. Hi guys, maybe somebody will read this, as the last comments are quite old…
    Does anyone know if the bad combo caffeine+carbs also applies to green tea? I’ve read multiple times before, that having green tea with your slice of occasional cake reduces the bad effects. buuut green tea contains caffeine, right? should do the same in handling glucose worse, as coffee.., but also, green tea is way more than just caffeine..
    thanks in advance if anyone knows something on this!

  67. So how long does the insulin suppression last? I have noticed that I started trimming down – nothing dramatic – when I made sure I left 2 hours between coffee and/or carbs of any kind/amount.

    Since I am getting positive feedback from this change want to make sure I am getting the time right. Thanks.