There is no shortage of fads and promises surrounding weight loss, including various diet and lifestyle approaches, along with individual products and supplements. In many cases, these ideas make bold promises but never actually live up to them.
Instead, figuring out how to lose weight can sometimes involve going back to the basics. For example, can you lose weight drinking coffee?
Now, there are some weight loss coffees on the market, including Valentus Slim and Javita. These are specifically designed to help people with weight loss, mostly by adding various herbal extracts to the coffee. But, they’re not the focus of this discussion.
Instead, I’m talking about coffee itself. In particular, I mean basic coffee that isn’t actually focused on weight loss at all. So, can you lose weight drinking coffee? And, if so, should you rely on coffee?
Can You Lose Weight Drinking Coffee?
Many of us already consider coffee a weight loss tool and this is partly why black coffee is included as a ‘free’ drink on many diet plans. But, the relationship between coffee and weight loss isn’t always clear.
Nevertheless, when you start to look at the research, it turns out that coffee can actually help with weight loss. This outcome seems to be connected to the coffee itself and also to the caffeine.
Caffeine and Weight Loss
Caffeine itself is a stimulant and it is thought to help boost the metabolism in some ways. It isn’t clear how strong this effect is but there is evidence that caffeine itself can help people to lose weight.
For example, one fairly recent study looked at the differences in caffeinated drink consumption between a population that successfully maintained weight loss and one that didn’t.
The outcomes of the research looked like this:
Now, this difference isn’t huge and there were some limitations in the overall design of the study. Nevertheless, it is one piece of evidence suggesting that caffeine and weight loss are connected.
Other studies have also found similar connections. For example, one piece of research found that increases in caffeine consumption may decrease weight gain in the long-term (1). Some research has also found that high caffeine intake was associated with weight loss (2) and with weight loss maintenance (3).
This association has been connected with processes of fat oxidation, thermogenesis and suppression of leptin (4).
At the same time, there are many mechanisms behind caffeine’s impact on weight, including the ability of caffeine to alter hormone levels and to help break down fat cells (5,6,7,8), along with potentially increasing metabolism (9,10).
Nevertheless, it is worth noting that people become accustomed to the effects of caffeine over time. As such, the ability of caffeine to promote fat burning and metabolism may not remain consistent and may be relevant for short-term rather than long-term weight loss.
Some research suggests that caffeine can help with weight loss and there is a wide range of potential mechanisms showing how this may be the case
Coffee and Weight Loss
The benefits of coffee for weight loss aren’t all connected with caffeine itself.
Instead, there is also research suggesting that coffee can help you lose weight.
For example, observational studies show that people who drink coffee regularly are less likely to be overweight than those who only drink it rarely (11).
Now, observational research does not prove cause and effect but it still offers key insight into the actions of coffee.
Some researchers also argue that the polyphenols that you find in coffee can help to boost the metabolism and decrease fat accumulation (12,13), actions that may be especially relevant for weight loss.
The Connection Between Coffee and Weight Loss
The above research offers key evidence that it truly is possible to lose weight from caffeine itself and also from coffee. Indeed, you’ll also find that many individuals have similar experiences. In other cases, people may get weight loss benefits from coffee without even realizing it.
But, what is it that makes coffee so powerful?
Well, as the research suggests, metabolism is one area of impact. So, coffee may make your metabolism function a little better, meaning that you burn more fat. There are also other areas to consider, ones that are related to behavior.
In many people, coffee tends to suppress the appetite to some degree. One of the studies that I mentioned also showed this, indicating that caffeine could suppress leptin, which is commonly known as the ‘hunger hormone’ (14).
For that matter, many people do rely on coffee between meals as a way to stave off hunger. It’s likely that there are various reasons for this effect, including caffeine and other compounds in coffee.
At the same time, coffee is a hot drink that takes time to consume. That alone can potentially have some impact on hunger, especially as water itself can help to satiate people (15).
In many cases, the process can also help to take your mind off food, another practice that is beneficial for weight management.
This may also make some diet or lifestyle approaches easier to follow. For example, one powerful way of losing weight is intermittent fasting. This is a type of autophagy diet and can be effective for weight loss. Yet, this can be a difficult approach at first, because the underlying concept means that you are hungry more often than many people like.
As such, relying on coffee early on may make the diet easier to adjust to and can improve your weight loss overall.
At the same time, coffee has an effect on behavior. For example, many people may drink coffee instead of a snack. Additionally, the fact that coffee is hot means that it takes a while to drink. That alone may be enough to take your mind off other food – or at least reduce the chance that you’ll eat.
In particular, people often make poor nutrition decisions when they are upset or depressed and may often turn to high-calorie food in order to feel better. As such, the potential for coffee to improve mood means that it may decrease the likelihood of poor decisions.
Coffee's significance for weight loss is partly connected to its impact on appetite, mood and behavior
Effectively Losing Weight with Coffee
On its own, coffee isn’t a miracle drink that is going to help you dramatically shed weight. After all, so many people already drink coffee daily and may still struggle with being overweight or obese.
However, coffee can potentially help – particularly as it has some impact on the metabolism, along with hunger and our behavior. But, you have to make good decisions to make the most of this influence.
Black Coffee Benefits Weight Loss
Needless to say, the way that you prepare your coffee is going to have a dramatic impact on your weight loss. In most cases, people will include some of the following: sugar, cream, milk, creamer, syrup, sweetener or honey in their coffee.
This means that some preparation approaches are going to be healthier than others.
At the same time, those ingredients add up. As such, you can end up consuming quite a few extra calories if you’re having coffee multiple times in a day.
With that in mind, there can be no doubt that black coffee benefits weight loss the most.
After all, you’re getting all of the advantages of coffee, without the extra calories from various extra ingredients. But, that being said, many people don’t like black coffee.
You can certainly still lose weight with other types of coffee.
After all, weight loss mostly comes down to your calorie intake versus the calories that you’re using. With coffee, this simply means that you need to take any extra ingredients into account. For example, adding 1 teaspoon of sugar into coffee may not seem like much but it can add up if you’re having 5 cups per day.
To get around this, you can look for healthier alternatives, and try to cut down on what you add. For example, milk tends to have fewer calories than cream, while also having less artificial ingredients than many forms of creamer.
So, it can be a good alternative if you’re trying to lose weight with coffee. There are also healthy homemade creamers that you can make, like this recipe from Elizabeth Rider.
Black coffee is the most relevant type for weight loss, although it isn't the only option
Be Careful with Associations
Another thing to consider is behavioral associations. By this, I mean the way that people often tend to connect one behavior with another. For example, some people tend to have a snack every time they have a hot drink.
As such, you need to pay close attention to your behaviors when you drink coffee. In particular, a tendency to snack or have a treat along with a coffee is likely to undermine any benefit that the coffee may have.
Now, many people actually drink coffee instead of a snack or are unlikely to have food with it. But, not everybody. Instead, some people tend to strongly associate food with coffee.
This is particularly true in social situations.
Coffee has become an extremely social drink, to the point that friends specifically meet up to have a coffee and talk.
Yet, it’s easy to see how you might have a sweet treat at the same time. For that matter, you have less knowledge and control over what goes in your coffee when you’re not making it yourself.
Going out for coffee isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it’s just that you need to be very aware of your associated behavior if you want to lose weight.
If you want to lose weight, then you need to pay close attention to your behaviors when you drink coffee
Weight Loss with Decaffeinated Coffee
Research suggests that the weight loss benefits of coffee are partly connected to caffeine and partly to other components of coffee. Likewise, the behavioral impacts of coffee are likely to be associated with coffee, rather than caffeine.
As such, there is still the potential to lose weight with decaffeinated coffee.
This may be particularly relevant for people who need to cut out or limit caffeine intake for whatever reason.
Decaffeinated coffee may not be as relevant for weight loss but it is still likely to have some impact
Losing Weight Successfully
At the start of this post, I asked: Can you lose weight drinking coffee?
The simple answer is yes.
There is significant evidence that coffee can help with weight loss, by improving the metabolism, helping with satiety and affecting our behavior – although some of these effects are most profound in the short-term.
Besides that, there are many health benefits of coffee and those alone make the drink worth having regularly.
Nevertheless, coffee is just one part of a larger equation.
At the most basic level, weight loss is about consuming fewer calories that you are using. It’s one of those concepts that sounds easy on paper but is much harder in practice.
Despite this, you can effectively lose weight simply by making healthy decisions and substitutions. For some people, doing so could include drinking coffee more often and decreasing the snacks you have during the day. Likewise, this could include moving towards whole and healthy foods, including meals that you cook yourself.
At the end of the day, doing this is much more powerful than relying on fad diets (like the 3 Day Military Diet, the Clean 9 diet or the 3 Day Diet Plan) or on random weight loss products (like Relacore or TruVision supplements).
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Do you think coffee affects weight loss in your own life?