If you’re on a weight loss journey, you’ll be on the lookout for all the tips and tricks for getting the most out of your diet and exercise. One of many tips is to incorporate caffeine into your diet for one reason or another. Some say it increases your metabolism, some say it suppresses your appetite. Plus, a more energized person is more likely to work out.
So what’s the science here? Let’s get into what exact caffeine is and does for the body, and how it can aid in weight loss.
What is Caffeine and What Does it Do?
Like most things, caffeine has pros and cons, and each person should make an independent decision regarding the safety, amount, and efficacy of caffeine in their diet. Caffeine is actually the most commonly used ingredient in the world (1). It’s a natural stimulant found in a slew of natural plants, tea, coffee, soda and medications. People will turn to caffeine to get ready for an early morning shift or through an overnight shift.
Caffeine works for people because it stops the brain from registering signals of exhaustion. Once you consume caffeine, it’s quickly absorbed by the gut and goes into the bloodstream. It then goes to the liver for further digestion, but the main effects are felt by the brain. The caffeine will block the effects of adenosine, which is what makes you feel tired. Instead of building up, caffeine blocks it and helps you stay awake and alert by ensuring the adenosine isn’t activated (2).
Remaining alert and devoid of fatigue will benefit your sports activity, studies have shown it can help you improve exercise performance by 11-12% on average (3).
How Caffeine Affects Weight Loss Efforts
Now that we understand the basis of caffeine, we can discuss its effect on your weight loss. The claims that caffeine can suppress appetite and increase calorie burning need more research, but some studies show some promising results in that area.
The resting metabolic rate (RMR) is the rate at which you burn calories at rest. This is sometimes referred to as basal metabolic rate (BMR). Studies show that caffeine increases RMR by 3-11% (4). This will vary depending on weight, but is a promising way to burn more calories at rest. Another study by the Harvard School of Public Health showed consuming roughly 400mg of caffeine (the equivalent of 4 cups of coffee) daily could reduce body fat by 4% (5).
One of the major concerns is the long-term effects of caffeine on the body. The more caffeine you consume, and the more often you consume it, the less effective it can be.
Others use caffeine as an appetite suppressant in an effort to consume less calories and lose weight. Studies are inconsistent here, with some showing evidence of appetite suppression in men and not women, and other studies showing neither having an appetite suppressing effect at all (6,7).
Alternatives to Caffeine
Caffeine could be a good option for you, but whenever you consider making changes that could impact your health, consulting your doctor or a dietician is the best option. Instead of trying to lose weight or increase energy with caffeinated drinks that come along with sugars, and other potentially harmful ingredients, consider alternatives like:
Prioritize your sleep
Increase the vitamins and minerals in your diet with fruits and vegetables
Exercise consistently (Take a walk outside)
Get at least 30 minutes of sunlight a day
Have a consistent night and morning routine
Fun Fact: Some researchers recommend eating an apple in the morning. Apples help wake you up, are full of great nutrients, and are a healthier alternative to a cup of coffee! (8)
Caffeine may help you in some ways but not someone else, and long-term, caffeine will not continue to bring you the same positive effects. Caffeine can often be a short term solution, but chronic fatigue or weight loss require deeper solutions. Also keep in mind, while you may feel tired after a long day of work, it doesn’t mean you are unable to work out. Often we may feel tired as a result of doing nothing (or sitting in a desk all day), but this doesn’t mean you can’t perform. A small dose of caffeine in a pre workout drink or even a small snack of fruit can give you the boost you need to get moving.