The food or drink that first passes your lips every morning can make a significant difference to your energy levels as you navigate your day. Here's what you should be ideally waking up to

Like so many people around the world, you may love waking up to the scent of a steaming cup of coffee or tea. It stirs your senses and shakes you awake like nothing else does. But here's some interesting news for those who can't think of beginning their day any other way--coffee and tea when taken on an empty stomach can actually tire you later on, playing havoc with your blood sugar and inhibiting your body's ability to burn more calories.

Wake up and eat

The body rests and repairs itself during sleep and even in this state you are burning calories, but not as many as you did during the day. "When you're asleep, you're obviously not eating anything to fuel your body but it is still working--your heart beats, circulating blood. Your lungs aid in breathing, your immune system functions and your kidneys detoxify and clean. To facilitate these metabolic needs, your body becomes energy efficient. So you burn less calories as energy is diverted to these life support systems," says Mumbai based nutritionist and diet consultant Shilpa Mittal. "This energy-efficient mode is good but you don't want to extend this slow metabolic state into your waking hours. If you do, you will tend to store fat very easily because your body is still conserving calories. After 8-12 hours without food, the brain and the muscles need energy to function. The best way to increase your resting metabolic rate (the amount of calories you burn even when you are at rest) is to eat within 30 minutes of waking up. This jump-starts your metabolic rate for the day." Think of your body as a furnace that constantly needs healthy food as fuel, especially so when you first wake up.

Restore your blood sugar

When you wake up, your blood sugar levels are naturally low. If you don't want to feel tired or lethargic, you'll need to replenish these reserves immediately and with the appropriate foods. Eating a nutritious snack first thing in the morning will certainly help, especially if you are an early riser and can't think of stomaching a meal so soon. "Start slow, with just a piece of fruit, 2-3 pieces of dry fruit or half a cup of milk. You can choose from almonds, walnuts, pistachios, cashew, figs, dates, raisins, prunes (dried plums), apricots, roasted chickpeas (channa) and peanuts. Even if you're not in the habit of eating so early, try it for a week and you will find that you're hungry at that time," says Mittal.

Stay hydrated

Keeping your body hydrated will help maximize your energy potential.

"Before you eat or drink anything else, hydrate your body with a glass of water. Add a wedge of lime to it for a dose of Vitamin C, which is an antioxidant," recommends Delhi based dietician and obesity expert, Saritha Rajiv, who runs the clinic Nutrifil ( "An early breakfast is advisable, but not always possible. To keep you going until breakfast time, opt for something light and nutritious--a cup of green tea, fresh vegetable juice, tender coconut water." But starting your day off with coffee or tea can jeopardize your intentions to stay hydrated. "Coffee or tea can have a diuretic effect on your system (your body will flush out more water than it needs to), which may result in dehydration. It shouldn't be consumed with meals either as caffeine is known to have an inhibitory effect on the absorption of iron," says Rajiv.

If you prefer your coffee/tea in the mornings, experts advise you to have it after a light snack. "If you drink it first thing in the morning on an empty stomach, the caffeine, oils and acids in coffee and tea can irritate the stomach lining , which can cause excessive production of hydrochloric acid, leading to a variety of digestive ailments," says Mittal.

Old habits may be hard to break, but if it can make a big difference to your health, then it's certainly worth the effort. Time to wake up, but don't smell that coffee, at least not until you've grabbed a quick bite!