If you love starting the day off with a big cup of coffee, you’re not alone! Coffee is one of the most popular drinks out there. And in addition to the energy boost it can provide, drinking coffee can offer a surprising number of health benefits.
But can coffee help you lose weight, as some sources suggest? It depends on the type of coffee you drink—among other factors!
Coffee is known for its antioxidants, cognitive benefits, and for increasing longevity. But research indicates that coffee and caffeine can also be beneficial for weight loss. Some experts believe that coffee can increase metabolism, reduce hunger, and boost energy levels.
So, how much an effect can coffee really have on weight loss? And how much coffee should you be drinking on a daily basis?
Read on to learn more about how coffee might affect your weight and what potential weight loss benefits this tasty beverage may provide.
The Relationship Between Coffee and Weight Loss
Caffeine can help us feel more alert, especially when that afternoon slump hits. This natural stimulant is derived from plants and as you probably know, it’s commonly found in drinks such as coffee and tea.
But what is it about coffee and caffeine that might be connected to weight loss? Well, researchers studying caffeine have found that this stimulant can stimulate thermogenesis, which helps burn calories more quickly.
A recent meta-analysis confirmed these findings, finding that there does appear to be a correlation between caffeine intake and decreases in body fat, BMI, and body weight. Some studies have also suggested that caffeine can act as an appetite suppressant, though more research is still needed to confirm this.
However, other studies show inconsistent results on the effect of coffee on weight management. For some people, caffeine can have detrimental effects on stress hormones and overall stress levels.
Eating a balanced diet, exercising regularly, having balanced hormones, getting enough sleep, and reducing stress are also important components of weight management.
We’ll discuss why these factors are important to take into account too later on in this article.
Which Type of Coffee Is Best for Weight Loss?
It depends on your individual body, but there are some factors that come into play here. If you want to add more coffee to your daily routine, it’s important to know that there are many factors that can influence how coffee may affect your weight loss goals. First, you’ll want to be mindful of what ingredients you add to your drink of choice and how this may impact your daily calorie intake.
- A cup of black coffee or a shot of espresso typically has under 10 calories.
- On the other hand, a small latte from Starbucks (without sugar) has 150 calories, while a small vanilla frappuccino has 280 calories.
If you regularly opt for creamers, added sugars, or other flavorings in your favorite coffee beverages, this can add a significant amount of calories to your drink. If you’re someone who is on a weight loss journey, you may want to keep this in mind and choose a coffee with fewer calories.
Using low-calorie sugar substitutes such as stevia can also help you keep the calorie count lower. You may also try switching to plain black coffee, especially if you like to drink multiple cups a day.
Interestingly, researchers have found that the type of coffee beans in your drink may also influence certain metabolic outcomes, such as cholesterol levels. According to research, unfiltered coffee, such as boiled and Turkish coffee have been linked to increased risk of high cholesterol and other cardiovascular issues.
Those at risk of cardiovascular issues, such as diabetes, may want to limit their intake of unfiltered coffee.
Can Coffee Reduce Belly Fat?
A number of studies have attempted to investigate the potential benefits of coffee and caffeine on fat loss. So, can coffee really have an impact on abdominal fat? Maybe, but more research is necessary on the connection.
According to a meta-analysis across 12 epidemiological studies, coffee intake may be modestly associated with reduced adiposity, particularly in men. While the changes in weight, BMI and body fat observed in various studies were statistically significant, the reductions were too small to impact overall body composition.
Additional research is still needed to explore whether these effects may vary. However, so far, caffeine intake does not appear to have a clinically meaningful effect on body weight.
What about those who say caffeine can boost metabolic rate? Well, some studies show that caffeine may boost metabolic rate slightly in leaner people.
However, this effect may be less significant in those who are obese. This may be because as the body adapts to the new level of caffeine intake over time, it also reduces any potential metabolic effect.
As you can probably see by now, findings from studies that have examined the connection between coffee consumption and weight loss outcomes are still limited at this time.
Can Coffee Cause Weight Gain?
So if coffee may not lead to reduced belly fat, is there any chance it could have the opposite effect? Here’s what you need to know.
First, as we mentioned earlier, you’ll want to watch those coffee additives if your goal is to lose weight. Try to minimize added sugar and sweeteners, cream, and other “extras” that add calories, sugar, and fat to your cup of joe.
The caffeine found in coffee may lead to poor sleep, increased cortisol, and heightened cravings for sugar in certain individuals. These are just a few factors which may negatively impact weight.
Let’s take a look at some of the other ways caffeine may impact weight management.
Some studies show that caffeine may increase cortisol levels in some people. Since researchers have also found a link between high cortisol levels and abdominal weight gain, you may want to limit how much caffeine you consume if you are already prone to stress.
Do you struggle with sleeping well? If so, consider how caffeine might be impacting your overall sleep.
Caffeine can stay in the body for up to eight hours and can disrupt sleep, reducing your quality of rest. Getting adequate sleep is key to regulating hormones, reducing cravings, and boosting your metabolic rate.
Poor sleep can increase risk for weight gain due to higher levels of cortisol. Lack of sleep may also encourage cravings for sugary foods and drinks, which can affect your glucose balance and weight loss goals.
While some studies show that caffeine has no impact on insulin sensitivity, others show that it may decrease insulin sensitivity. This means that your glucose levels could be impacted depending on the dose and frequency of your caffeine consumption.
Note that many studies have focused on the short-term effects of caffeine on markers of metabolic health. However, long-term caffeine tolerance and reduced benefit may occur over time.
Certain medical conditions may impact how caffeine behaves in your body and how it impacts your metabolic health.
Coffee and caffeine may also worsen digestive symptoms for some people who experience irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) symptoms. One study suggested that weight gain caused by IBS may be influenced by the hormones that reside in the gut.
In particular, hormones related to appetite such as ghrelin have been found to be abnormal in IBS patients, which may cause increased food intake and an intense hunger.
If you are someone with IBS, you may want to speak with a healthcare professional or dietitian about your coffee intake.
How Much Caffeine Is Safe to Consume?
According to the FDA, adults should aim to consume fewer than 400 milligrams of caffeine per day, or about four to five cups of coffee. One serving of regular coffee can have a caffeine content of about 100 milligrams.
Coffee isn’t the only drink that contains caffeine; black tea, green tea, and caffeinated soda should also be considered when calculating your total caffeine consumption. This is important to consider, since consuming too much caffeine can lead to side effects like:
- Changes in heart rate and blood pressure
- Headaches and dizziness
- Increased stress
Those with diabetes may see elevated glucose levels with regular caffeine intake. Caffeine may increase the body’s insulin resistance, leading to a higher amount of glucose released into the bloodstream.
4 Factors That May Affect Weight Management
If you’re on a weight loss journey, it’s important to consider that weight loss is determined by a complex interaction of different factors. These include things like:
- Hormone balance
- Physical activity levels
- Food intake
- Stress levels
- Certain medical conditions
To learn more about the different variables that may affect your weight loss journey, read our article: 8 Obstacles to Losing Weight and How To Push Through Them
Key Takeaway: Find What’s Right For Your Body
So, with all these factors going into weight loss, what impact can coffee really have? There’s really no one answer that suits every body type, because each of us are unique.
As we know, there are so many different factors that may influence weight loss and weight management. That’s why some experimentation with coffee may be necessary to learn what is or isn’t working for your metabolic health and weight loss goals.
Here’s what Nutrisense dietitian Heather Davis advises:
“When it comes to nutrition and health, it is important to appreciate and consider the individual’s unique needs, rather than relying only on generalized dietary recommendations. For optimal health, it is best to take an individualized approach.” – Heather Davis, MS, RDN, LDN
Consider working with a registered dietitian (RDN) who can help you find what amount or type of coffee may or may not work best for your unique body over time.
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Jordyn has a bachelor’s degree in biology, a graduate degree in Human Nutrition and completed a dietetic internship at the Memphis VA. She's a dietitian at Nutrisense, and has experience working as a clinical dietitian at a VA medical center specializing in oncology and at the Mayo Clinic, working with a wide range of patients ranging from neonates in the NICU to adult ICU.