Why Do People Drink Coffee After Dinner?

by Peter Taylor | Last Updated: 17 February 2020

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Why Do People Drink Coffee After Dinner?

When many people think of drinking coffee, it tends to be synonymous with the morning commute, getting up in the morning or perhaps an afternoon jolt to get through a work day. But for many people, coffee is something that is drunk after dinner, in spite of the fact that caffeine is supposed to be a way to wake up and usually in the evening, one wants to wind down (Assuming one isn’t working a night shift). So why do people drink coffee after dinner?

Well, there are any number of reasons, including:

  • Working a late or overnight shift so you want to be awake for it
  • A chance to bond with friends and family during a social period after dinner
  • Coffee is known to aid in digestion (in small amounts)
  • Coffee can aid in weight loss because it’s 0 calorie and can suppress the appetite

But the most common reasons are cultural in that people drink coffee after dinner with friends and family to socialize and spend time together after a meal.

What is Coffee After Dinner Called?

An after-dinner coffee doesn’t have a specific name, but it can be known by a couple of handles, usually based on the culture. The Dutch sometimes refer to it as a “koffie verkeerd” which means reverse coffee. This drink is a glass milk with a small amount of coffee (as opposed to a cup of coffee with a small amount of milk) and is meant to help digest food. In France, black coffee is served with cognac or might be a Café Granit which is an intense and sweet coffee flavored with mocha liqueur. In Italy, Espresso is drunk because it does not have rich milk in it like cappuccino, which is drunk in the morning, does.

There really is no specific name for the coffee after dinner though. In a multi-course, formal meal, it may simply be the end of meal coffee and that’s that. It’s traditionally the time when people are socializing and visiting and having a very small cup of coffee is considered a great way to round out a full meal.

How Soon After Eating can you Drink Coffee?

While many people drink coffee while eating (especially in the morning) or drink coffee soon after eating, depending on your diet and nutritional needs, you may want to rethink this. Caffeine does decrease the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients, including calcium, zinc, and nonheme (plant based) iron, as well as vitamin D. Now, this absorption is fairly small. For example, only two to three milligrams of calcium are lost due to caffeine interference; however, it is still something to keep in mind if you are trying to get as much of your daily vitamin and mineral intake as possible. Another thing to keep in mind is that coffee runs through the system a lot faster than food does, so if you drink coffee right after eating, it will ‘beat’ the food to your digestive tract, and again, block some of your nutrients. If you want to avoid this, it’s recommended to wait at least an hour after eating before having any coffee.

Traditionally speaking, coffee is the last thing consumed after all the food has been finished and the dishes are cleared away. It’s the last thing offered at restaurants with or without desert, and at home, it may be served in the living room or in the kitchen. There’s no set-in stone time for drinking coffee after dinner, but it’s always the last thing and it’s generally once everything else has been cleared away.

Should I Drink Coffee Before or After a Meal?

It really depends on what you are drinking the coffee for. There can be advantages and disadvantages to drinking coffee before or after a meal, depending on what you want to achieve.

Coffee is an appetite suppressant, so if you’re looking to cut down your portion size, drinking coffee before a meal can make you feel less starving come mealtime. A cup of black coffee has between zero and two calories, so it really won’t have any impact on your intake but can be really helpful towards limiting your intake later on. Coffee has been used in a similar way to prevent eating a calorie laden desert-you use the caffeine to suppress your appetite (and keep your hands busy!) so you’re not tempted to eat anything more.

Drinking coffee after a meal has the advantage that it can help digestion. It’s a diuretic, meaning it helps you urinate, and it is something of a laxative too. Caffeine stimulates the bowel and can help move things along. It’s not a big laxative, but it’s better than nothing. Other additions such as artificial sweeteners can also help to move things along. And the caffeine also stimulates acid production in the stomach which again, moves things along! So, having a coffee after dinner can help you feel less full quicker.

Why Do People Drink Coffee After Dinner?

There really is no hard and fast answer to this question, as you can see. It really depends on whether you are drinking the coffee to suppress your appetite or to move things along! The other thing to keep in mind is that caffeine can block some absorption of nutrients, so make sure to space out your coffee drinking and your eating if you’re concerned. (Most people really don’t have to be though).

Why Do I Crave Coffee After a Meal?

There could be any number of reasons why finishing up a meal makes you crave coffee and it really does depend on you. It could be a cultural thing where you are used to drinking (or at least smelling) coffee after a big supper or breakfast. It could be that you are iron deficient which can cause a craving for coffee. Or it could simply be that you are so used to drinking coffee with or after food that it has become a habit or a dependency and trying to get rid of the coffee leads to headaches, tiredness, or just not keeping it up for long!

Craving coffee after a meal rarely means much of anything other than a caffeine dependency or perhaps an iron deficiency. It’s likely a habit that you have cultivated or a cultural norm that you grew up with. But hey, why do you crave coffee after a meal?

Does Drinking Coffee After a Meal Help You Lose Weight?

Well, sort of. There are a few things to keep in mind when looking at the answer to this question:

  • Black coffee vs coffee with additions
  • The effect of caffeine
  • Tolerance levels

First thing, it’s important to note what drinking coffee means. When we are talking about drinking coffee for weight loss, we are talking about drinking straight black coffee with nothing in it. Black coffee has up two calories per eight ounces, so it’s considered a zero-calorie drink (which is why it’s always found on diet plans). But when you start adding milk and sugar and other things, the calories quickly mount up. One of Starbucks mochas for example can have up to 490 calories in it, with whip and whole milk at the largest size (and that’s nothing on some of the other drinks!) Obviously, you aren’t going to be losing weight on that drink!

Assuming you’re drinking black coffee with nothing in it, what effect will the caffeine have? Caffeine has two main effects on the body: it represses appetite and it stimulates metabolism and digestion. This helps your body to burn through food a little more efficiently and help it… exit… more efficiently! None of these effects are huge, but taken together along with other weight loss strategies, they can help. Caffeine can also help to break down fat cells, alter hormone levels, and suppress leptin.

However, it’s important to understand what else you’re doing around coffee. If you drink coffee and eat along with it, then you’re taking in those calories and that could be detrimental to your weight loss. Coffee is not going to make you lose weight no matter what-it’s just a zero-calorie drink that can have a small, but positive impact on your metabolism and digestion.

You don’t have to drink coffee after a meal to get these benefits; they happen before meals or in the middle of the day just as easily!

The final thing to note is that over time, your body will grow to tolerate the impact caffeine has on your system, so coffee is probably not going to work for long term weight loss. But it does make an effective tool for short term weight loss and it’s safe enough to add to your long-term diet.

Is it Harmful to Drink Coffee Just After Dinner?

Unless you are worried about your nutritional intake of things like iron and some vitamins or you need to go to bed early and are sensitive to the effects of caffeine, it’s not harmful to drink coffee just after dinner. It may not be the cultural norm for you, but it’s likely not harmful.

Do People Who Drink Coffee Late Find the Caffeine Affects Their Sleep?

This is the big question for people who avoid drinking coffee after dinner or after certain hours of the day: the sleep question. Caffeine is a stimulant and it is drunk to wake us up, so it follows that drinking it too close to bedtime will bring on the sleepless, restless night. And this can be true-for some people and when they drink some kinds of coffee (again, in particular when it’s loaded with sugar, milk and other additions).

We’re not going to sugar coat this for you. Caffeine can impact your sleep. It does this not only by being a stimulant in its own rights, but also by affecting melatonin levels through delaying your circadian clock. The delay was only about forty minutes, but that’s enough to throw most people off. Furthermore, it was harder for many people to wake up in the morning, creating a cycle of drinking more coffee. People who are sensitive to caffeine will struggle more with going to sleep after drinking it, even three or four hours later, leading to insomnia and restless sleep.

But this isn’t the case for everybody. A recent study found that drinking coffee four hours before bed had no impact on sleep. And some people even swear by ‘coffee naps’ where you quickly down a cup of coffee and then have a nap. The idea here is by the caffeine kicks in (about twenty minutes later), your power nap is over, and you wake up more refreshed.

In short, it really depends on you. If you find that you have regularly restless nights and you have a coffee in the evening, try cutting it out and seeing how it impacts your sleep. If you find that it doesn’t keep you awake (or you are one of those types for whom caffeine makes you sleepy in the evening), then enjoy!

There are plenty of reasons to drink coffee after dinner or in the evening and there are even benefits to doing it. Just be sure that you are able to still sleep at night and you don’t have any health conditions that may be exacerbated by drinking coffee; otherwise, enjoy! It’s a common enough tradition all over the world and can be a really nice way to finish a meal and get into the evening.

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