How many of you can begin your day without getting up and grabbing a coffee first thing?

I am definitely not one of those people, I especially love my morning coffee. I do drink a couple of glasses of water on waking before my first cup though as my body needs to rehydrate after 8 hours of sleep.

There is something just so good about the smell of coffee, and of the ritual surrounding that particular coffee of the day. For me there is no rushing, just savouring the taste while sitting in the sun trying to grab a few precious minutes of Vitamin D before being stuck in the office all day.

There are some interesting and may I say conflicting stories surrounding coffee consumption, is it good for you, is it bad? I guess like many things it depends on how much you drink as well as what else you are putting in it.  But more on that later. First let us investigate if there is a link between coffee and weight loss.

Has coffee the ability to speed up your metabolism and to help you to lose weight?

Some research suggests that 4 cups of coffee daily may help shed body fat.  In a 24 week investigation that examined the impact that coffee had on 126 overweight men and women experts found that those drinking four cups of coffee a day over 6 months had dropped nearly 4% of body fat in comparison to the other half of the group participants that drank a beverage that mimicked the taste of coffee however, was neither coffee nor caffeinated.

Dr Derrick Johnston Alperel (Dept of Nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health), the study author was surprised by the observed weight loss which was specifically due to loss of fat mass among the coffee drinkers and suggested that this may have been due to a metabolic reaction rather than being due to lifestyle changes attributed to diet and physical activity.

Some other theories surrounding the way caffeine benefits weight loss are through appetite suppression. Caffeine may reduce feelings of hunger for a short period of time, caffeine may also increase energy use even at rest by stimulating thermogenesis (your body’s response to digesting food via heat and energy) meaning that it can stimulate fat burning. Some research shows that due to this mechanism caffeine may be beneficial in weight maintenance and is why we are now seeing more weight loss supplements that contain caffeine. During the hCG diet you are able to consume coffee in moderate amounts, and it’s amazing how quickly you get used to having black coffee or just a tiny amount of milk and of how much you look forward to it. I have not gone back to drinking coffee with milk since being on the diet and am now able to enjoy a mid-morning black coffee in lieu of a snack.

Coffee Benefits: outside of weight loss, and the downside of coffee

As well as having weight loss benefits coffee also contains antioxidants including polyphenols which can lower oxidative stress, and may lower the risk of some components of Metabolic Syndrome  including vascular endothelial function impairment, obesity and type 2 diabetes.

Considering this evidence, and the profound benefits coffee consumption may bring you may wonder if drinking caffeine or coffee could possibly have a downside? The short answer is yes, the fact is we are overloading ourselves with caffeine not solely from drinking coffee but also from tea, soft drinks, chocolate, and energy drinks. In Australia between 2004-2010, there were 297 calls to the NSW Poisons Information line concerning toxicity from caffeinated energy drinks. With the most reported symptoms including palpitations/tachycardia, tremors, shaking, agitation, and restlessness.

Consuming this heavy amount of caffeine may also have the potential to adversely affect blood sugar levels. When blood sugar levels are elevated this will also spike insulin levels. Insulin is an anabolic hormone and one of the properties of this hormone is that it is exceptionally good at storing fat particularly around your midsection. Consistent insulin elevation will also make your cells less sensitive to its “signalling”, leading to insulin resistance.

Please note that results like these often occur in a dose-dependent manner.  For example, drinking 7 cups of coffee a day will have a more dramatic impact on blood sugar and insulin levels than if you only drank 2 cups a day.  Additionally, we know that everyone is physiologically different therefore, the impact of caffeine will vary from person to person.  As some individuals are slow caffeine metabolizers which means that caffeine tends to hang around in their system longer than others which, could potentially lead to a high risk of health issues.  Whereby fast metabolizers clear caffeine a lot quicker lessening the potential risk.

I will be the last person to tell you to give up your beloved morning/mid-afternoon coffee, which can be the most exciting part of rolling out of bed in the morning or a much needed break in a ridiculously hectic day, at the end of the day it all comes down to balance and of recognising how you feel after you have consumed caffeine.  If you have a cup of coffee and cannot sleep that night, you should not be drinking it.  Alternatively, an herbal tea may be a better fit for you.

Final discussion on whether caffeine can assist in weight loss

If you are trying to lose weight, please do not rely on caffeine alone.  Particularly if you are loading your coffee up with syrups, milk and sweeteners and having several large cups a day.  This will make it extremely difficult for you to lose weight as these syrups and sweeteners although they taste good, in terms of kilojoules you may be surprised just how much your daily coffee is adding to your overall daily calorie intake.  Remember if weight loss is your focus, try it black with no sugar, in the long-term it’s definitely worth the change.

 

Liza Brunell

Adv Dip Health Science Naturopathy, Nutrition

 

Further Reading:

Why Water is Beneficial for your Health and When Dieting

Foods to Avoid During Dieting

How to Quit Sugar