If you’ve been whining until now about how all the good things in life are unhealthy to consume, then look no further than your good old ‘‘cup of joe.’’ There’s a lot that can happen over a cup of coffee.
Coffee is a guilty pleasure that can have significant health benefits, including losing weight. Yes, you read that right!
Combined with a healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious food and regular exercise, consuming coffee is a complimentary weight loss strategy when consumed lean, in moderation, and at optimal times.
Let’s discuss how coffee helps your body burn fat and improves your metabolism. We will also learn if there is such a thing as too much coffee and the right way to drink it to reap its health benefits.
Table of Contents
- What Makes Coffee a Potent Weight Loss Potion?
- Is There a Dark Side to Coffee?
- What Makes Coffee Good for Your Health?
- How to Drink Coffee for Weight Loss
- Does Coffee Actually Help You Lose Weight?
- More About the Effects of Coffee
What Makes Coffee a Potent Weight Loss Potion?
One word: Caffeine.
Caffeine, the world’s most commonly consumed psychoactive substance, is a key ingredient in most commercial fat-burning supplements. It can boost your metabolism, make you alert and active, and help mobilize and burn fat tissues.
You will also find caffeine in most beverages like coffee, tea, colas, cocoa-based drinks, and energy drinks (colas, cocoa-based drinks, and energy drinks are not advised for consumption due to high sugar content).
Three theories indicate how coffee may help in weight loss:
- By suppressing your appetite
- By improving your metabolism
- By burning fat
Let’s take a closer look at how coffee helps you lose weight and the evidence for it.
Does Coffee Suppress Your Appetite?
Coffee can help you in working towards your weight loss goals. Drinking coffee suppresses your feelings of hunger and appetite. Your appetite is affected by many factors, including your physical activity levels, lifestyle and food habits, and hormones.
Caffeine stimulates the hormone peptide YY (PYY), also known as the satiety hormone. The more coffee you drink, the more you feel less hungry and more satisfied. It also reduces the levels of the hormone ghrelin that is responsible for making you feel hungry.
A European 2014 study confirmed the role of coffee in suppressing your appetite and hunger feelings. Participants reduced their food intake and reported feeling satiated within four weeks of drinking coffee daily.
Does Coffee Burn Fat?
Here is an interesting angle to your coffee consumption: coffee can help in fat mobilization.
Caffeine triggers the nervous system, sending direct signals to the fat cells in your body to break down fat. It achieves this by increasing the blood levels of the hormone epinephrine, also called adrenaline. The adrenaline travels through your blood to the fat tissues, signaling them to break down fats and release them into your bloodstream.
Coffee brings more good news for women than men based on the 2020 study published in The Journal of Nutrition. In the recent National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, it was found that women who drink two to three cups of coffee daily have a lower total body and stomach fat (adiposity).
The research findings were consistent among those who consumed coffee that was caffeinated/decaffeinated, among smokers/non-smokers, and among those who have chronic conditions or not. Similar effects of coffee on body fat loss have also been documented in other research studies. There may be bioactive compounds in coffee other than caffeine that contribute to weight loss.
Does Coffee Increase Metabolism?
Coffee contains several biologically active substances that boost your metabolism, such as caffeine, theobromine, theophylline, and chlorogenic acid.
Another fascinating fact is that coffee aids in calorie burning even when your body is at rest. The rate at which your body burns calories at rest is called resting metabolic rate (RMR). Various studies have proven that caffeine taken in larger doses can increase RMR by 3-11%. Caffeine stimulates the process of thermogenesis or heat and energy production from food digestion in your body.
The study also found that the effect was more pronounced in lean and young people than those who were obese or aged. The effect may vary depending on each case.
Here’s what research has to say about coffee’s metabolism-boosting properties. The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers conducted a 24-week study that monitored the effect of coffee on 126 overweight non-insulin sensitive people in Singapore over six months. Half of the participants were asked to drink four cups of caffeinated instant coffee daily. The other half of the group were asked to consume a coffee-like beverage but neither coffee nor caffeinated.
The original goal was to investigate if coffee consumption reduces the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. Instead, the researchers discovered that drinking four cups of coffee daily could reduce body fat by 4%. They firmly believe that fat loss is fueled by coffee and the result of a “metabolic reaction.” Caffeine ramps up the metabolic process and hence, the body’s ability to burn more calories with a modest loss of body fat.
The metabolism and fat-burning properties of coffee were also studied in another research conducted by Derrick Alperet, a study co-author and research fellow in the Department of Nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study confirmed that coffee consumption leads to an increase in metabolism, burning more calories, and reducing body fat.
Is There a Dark Side to Coffee?
Coffee is like a double-edged sword. Drinking too much coffee can negatively impact your health, causing headaches, jitters, digestion troubles, a spike in blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, increased palpitations, and even weight gain.
Coffee is akin to a drug as caffeine affects your pleasure centers, increasing dopamine levels and making you happier. The problem arises when you cannot function properly without coffee and feel grumpy, anxious, or jittery. It’s a red flag signaling addiction, dependence, and a relook into your sleep habits and mental health.
If you struggle with mental health challenges, then you might be particularly sensitive to coffee and its mind-altering effects. High doses of caffeine can cause a spike in anxiety and panic attacks.
It was proven in a joint study by the Sleep Disorders & Research Center, Henry Ford Hospital, and the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences, Wayne State College of Medicine in Detroit that caffeine taken six hours before bedtime had disruptive effects on sleep, causing or worsening insomnia.
Sleep is a key weight loss tool, and when coffee consumption hampers your sleep routine, it puts you at risk for weight gain and obesity. Another study confirmed that losing sleep for 30 minutes every day can cause weight gain and promote the onset of type 2 diabetes. So, gulping coffee to keep you alert and awake during the nighttime can harm your health, leading to weight gain and other complications. Poor sleep habits are often linked to increased appetite and cravings, specifically for high-calorie foods.
Studies have proven the link between the lack of sleep and an increase in ghrelin, the hormone that regulates your feelings of hunger, leading to greater calorie consumption and weight gain.
Also, not all coffee drinks are alike. Several popular versions, such as a specialty frappuccino or macchiato, are loaded with sugar and fat, and regular consumption of these kinds of coffee will make you gain weight.
Coffee benefits are also dose-dependent. According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, drinking about 400 milligrams (or about four cups) is considered safe, and that’s the dose that optimizes the metabolic and hunger suppression effects of caffeine. Each person should discuss the appropriate number of cups of coffee with their doctor. Anything above the recommended dose can lead to harmful health benefits and may negate the weight loss benefits.
What Makes Coffee Good for Your Health?
There is a dark side to coffee consumption, but it is not as evil as it sounds either. It has scores of health benefits.
Coffee contains nutrients such as niacin, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants, all of which can improve your heart health, digestive health, and support muscle function. It also contains caffeine, which boosts your energy, metabolism and can promote weight loss.
The popular misconception that coffee is a diuretic is not proven scientifically, and it does not increase the risk of dehydration. Coffee in moderation adds to your daily intake of fluids.
Regular coffee consumption also boosts your antioxidant intake. Coffee contains powerful antioxidants known as polyphenols which are plant micronutrients. Polyphenols have been linked to brain health, digestion, and decreasing your risk for certain chronic conditions.
Let’s discuss how to drink coffee for effective and sustainable weight loss in the next section.
How to Drink Coffee for Weight Loss
Yes, there are scientifically proven ways by which you can drink coffee that can help you lose weight. Here are some ways you can drink coffee for improved health, including modest weight loss.
1. Keep Your Coffee Lean
While you can enjoy a frappuccino as an occasional treat, it’s best to make your coffee light daily. Your best bet is black coffee as it makes the perfect beverage for those aiming for weight loss. Black coffee contains less than five calories per serving (i.e., one 8-oz cup). If you have a sensitive stomach, have a light cracker with your black coffee.
If black coffee is not your thing, then you can add a dash of skimmed milk—regular or plant-based with preferably no sugar or low-calorie alternative natural sweeteners like stevia and erythritol. Coffee can be a healthy or unhealthy drink, depending on what you put in it.
Try not to consume more than four 8-oz cups of coffee that amounts to 400mg of caffeine every day for modest weight loss. If you prefer strong coffee, then consume less than the recommended four cups as too much caffeine in your body can unleash the dark side of it. Also, factor in the other caffeine-based foods, beverages, and medication you currently consume before deciding upon the cap on your daily coffee count.
2. Drink Your Coffee at Optimal Times
The world population consumes around 167 million bags of coffee annually. The average American drinks four cups of coffee daily, while the Europeans consume an average of seven cups of coffee daily.
Coffee is a popular drink globally as it’s proven to boost energy and keep you alert. These properties of coffee can aid you in your weight loss goals.
Having a cup of black or lean coffee before your daily workout can help you lose weight fast. Research has proven that caffeine improves your exercise performance by around 11% on average. It’s why coffee is consumed before doing endurance sports like running or biking as it helps you move faster with less muscle pain.
Caffeine blocks adenosine, an inhibitory neurotransmitter, and releases a spurt of neurons and neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine, making you feel more energized and alert.
There is also a cut-off time for having coffee. Since coffee blocks adenosine, making you feel more awake, it can interfere with your sleep and hormone regulation if you consume it in the latter half of the day. It takes about 45 minutes for caffeine to affect your body and as much time to be absorbed in your cell membranes. The effect of caffeine can last for several hours.
Sleep is a critical weight loss tool. So, abstain from having coffee at least six to seven hours before your bedtime for quality sleep and hormone regulation. If you have insomnia, it’s suggested to stop coffee or any caffeine-based food consumption at noon.
3. Take Intermittent Breaks
You will become tolerant of the effects of caffeine over time if you regularly consume it. So, all the positive effects of caffeine or coffee, such as speeding up the metabolism and burning fat, flatten out as time passes by. However, it does continue to suppress your hunger and appetite and may make you eat less.
To make coffee a sustainable weight loss tool, give it and other caffeine-containing foods a break for some time before incorporating them into your diet again. You can gradually cut down coffee or go on a complete caffeine detox for cycles of one week, two weeks, and so on. This way, your body doesn’t get used to caffeine, and its positive effects on your body aren’t wasted.
If you are habituated to coffee, opt for the decaffeinated kind in the interim period, or try other healthy beverages such as fruit and vegetable-based drinks as you work towards better health.
Does Coffee Actually Help You Lose Weight?
Coffee alone won’t help you lose weight. But it can be used as a weight-loss tool when consumed lean, in moderation, and at optimal times. As long as you are having your coffee lean at no more than 400mg of caffeine a day and not before six to seven hours before bedtime, it is a healthy beverage that’s superpowered with antioxidants. Please consult your doctor regarding your personalized coffee drinking plan.
However, you have to be mindful of the dark side of coffee if you have chronic conditions or struggle with mental health issues. Too much coffee can make you nervous, irritable, dependent, cause digestion problems, nausea, insomnia, increased blood pressure, heart rate, and other health problems.
You may also need to take a break from coffee for it to work as a sustainable weight-loss tool for you as its effect is diminished in the long term due to tolerance.
When combined with a healthy lifestyle that includes nutritious food and regular exercise, consuming coffee can be a complimentary weight loss strategy. But as coffee affects everyone differently, it’s advisable to consult your family physician about its use as a weight-loss tool for your lifestyle.
More About the Effects of Coffee
- Does Coffee Really Improve Work Performance? [Experiment + Infographic]
- 20 Wonderful Health Benefits Of Coffee
Featured photo credit: Crystal Shaw via unsplash.com