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Coffee and Weight Loss: Do You Really Need to Avoid Caffeine?

Coffee and Weight Loss: Do You Really Need to Avoid Caffeine?

Can't live without your daily cuppa (or multiple cups) of joe? You're in good company. Did you know that the average American drinks 3.1 cups of coffee per day?

However, if you're trying to lose weight, you may feel conflicted about coffee and weight loss. After all, there's a lot of mixed research out there.

Let's get to the facts and break down what you need to know.

Understanding Weight Loss

Despite all the gimmicks and "fast claims," weight loss comes down to numbers. Cold, hard numbers. You need to create a caloric deficit.

One pound equals 3500 calories. Therefore, if you maintain a diet with a deficit of 500 calories per day, you will lose 1 pound per week.

Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) refers to the total number of calories your body burns in a single day. The BMR is established before you calculate any formal exercise or fitness. It's basically the amount your body burns by just existing!

To create a deficit, you can consider a few factors:

  • eating fewer calories throughout the day

  • adding increased physical exercise throughout the day

  • implementing a combination of both (diet and exercise)

Weight loss is a $68 billion industry. Despite all the marketing and glossy claims, remember this: the science exists in the numbers.

What Helps Weight Loss?

Numbers are numbers. 3500 calories equal one pound. Unless you struggle with any external medical conditions, if you follow a simple formula, and you will lose weight.

That said, there are some tips to consider to help you stay focused on your journey.

Focus on Protein

Compared to simple carbs, protein can help satiate your appetite and boost your metabolism. That means you get more "bang for your dieting buck."

Boost your protein by:

  • swapping breakfast cereal for eggs

  • adding chicken or fish to your lunch salad

  • grilling meat or tofu for dinner

  • eating nuts for snacks

Again, protein isn't a 'dieting hack' or quick fix. It's simply a macronutrient that can help satiate your hunger (which should result in you consuming fewer calories overall).

Eat Plenty of Vegetables

Your mother was right. You need to eat your veggies! Chock full of nutrients and fiber, they're insanely good for you. They also can be incredibly filling- without the caloric density.

Don't love salads? Consider the following ideas to increase your veggie intake:

  • blending spinach and kale into a breakfast smoothie

  • creating a cauliflower mash (to replace potatoes)

  • roasting vegetables

  • spiralizing zucchini and squash into pasta-like form

  • adding hummus or a low-calorie dip to make a snack

Can't stand vegetables? Make it a goal to try one new vegetable per week. You'd be surprised at how much your taste buds may have changed since childhood.

Add The (Good) Fat

The "low-fat" myth continues to dominate the front lines of dieting. Unfortunately, fat gets a bad rep. Most people still believe that fat "causes" fat.

This simply isn't the case. Fat is essential for a balanced diet. It contains several acids that the body cannot produce on its own.

Focus on increasing unsaturated fats into your daily diet. Not only can they help boost your health, but they also tend to be satiating. Unsaturated fats can be found in:

  • olive and rapeseed oils

  • avocados

  • nuts (brazils, nuts, cashews)

  • oily fish (salmon, trout, mackerel)

One note of caution: fat can be very caloric, so be mindful of your portions.

Exercise and Weight Loss

Although it's not technically required for weight loss, exercise can supercharge your diet. Exercise is essential for cardiovascular health, and it also improves your body's overall aesthetic look. Talk about a win-win!

Start Slowly

You don't need to run marathons to achieve your weight loss goals. In fact, jumping on an intense exercise regimen may jeopardize your health. That's because you may be more susceptible to injuries.

Instead, work your way to fitness slowly. Add a ten-minute walk to your daily routine. Join a gym and step onto the elliptical machine for a 20-minute cardio routine.

Add Strength Training

Strength training can also boost weight loss efforts. Strength training enhances lean muscle mass. This can boost your metabolism- which helps you burn more calories throughout the day.

Not sure where to start? Ask one of the trainers at your gym. They will be happy to show you the basics of how to maintain proper form.

Make Fitness Goals

One of the best ways to stay motivated with exercise? Challenge yourself to a goal! Whether it's running a 5k or completing your first pull-up, there's nothing like the satisfaction of pushing your body beyond what you thought was possible!

The Relationship Between Coffee and Weight Loss

Now that you know the building blocks of weight loss, you may still be asking yourself, This all sounds great, but what about COFFEE? Can I still drink it?

Let's examine how coffee works first.

Understanding Caffeine

On its own, caffeine doesn't provide any inherent nutritional value. In its natural form, it's tasteless.

However, caffeine is a central nervous stimulant. When the caffeine reaches your brain, it enhances alertness. That's why most people start their mornings with a cup of coffee- it wakes you up and gets you ready for the day!

The stomach absorbs caffeine, and it reaches the highest levels within an hour or two after entering the bloodstream.

Health Benefits of Coffee

At one point, people assumed coffee was dangerous. They focused on how it could impair sleep, accelerate heart rate, and even attribute to cancer.

The research has since shifted. Science now shows incredible health benefits associated with caffeine.

Moderate coffee consumption (about 3-5 cups per day) may yield a longer lifespan. It may also be associated with reducing your risk for:

  • cirrhosis

  • Parkinson's disease

  • cardiovascular disease

  • cirrhosis

  • gout

  • Type 2 Diabetes

In 2016, the World Health Organization removed coffee from its list of potentially carcinogenic foods. Today, experts are still examining caffeine's health benefits.

Coffee and Weight Loss

First of all, coffee does not cause weight loss directly. However, it can be a fantastic tool for propelling weight loss efforts.

As mentioned, caffeine is a stimulant. This means that it can act as a natural appetite suppressant. Ever notice how a cup of coffee can tide you over for an hour or so? That's because the caffeine is helping to suppress your hunger.

Furthermore, caffeine can help boost your metabolic rate. As we know, the higher your metabolic rate, the simpler it is to lose weight. That's because you can eat more calories without it impacting the number on the scale.

Some research suggests that caffeine can boost your metabolic rate anywhere from 3-11%.

Finally, let's not forget that caffeine helps wake you up in the morning! In that regard, it can be a natural boost to incentivize you to hit the gym (instead of hitting that snooze button for the fourth time).

Tips to Consider

Yes, coffee can be an excellent dieting aid, but you also need to keep a few considerations in mind.

For one, you want to stick with drinking coffee in healthy amounts. Excessive coffee consumption can backfire, as it may lead to increased stress, insomnia, and agitation. Those symptoms can all trigger overeating!

If you purchase specialty coffee, read the labels. Many 'packaged' coffees come with excessive sugar and calories. This can obviously hinder your weight loss goals.

As a general rule of thumb, aim to drink your coffee black. If you do this, you'll only consume a meager two calories per cup. Once you add the cream and sugar, you're also adding potentially hundreds of excess calorie throughout the day.

Can't live without the cream and sugar? Swap to unsweetened creamers or experiment with lowering the cream amount. Consider zero-calorie sweeteners like stevia or Splenda. Experiment with adding natural flavors like plain cacao or a bit of cinnamon.

If you love specialty coffees, aim to order the smallest size on the menu. Ask if you can swap the syrup to a sugar-free version. Opt for skim milk instead of the full-fat version, and avoid any whipped cream.

Finally, don't forget to stay on top of your daily water intake! Even though caffeine has numerous health benefits, it can be dehydrating. You need to be drinking plenty of water regardless of your coffee intake.

Aim to stick to a minimum of 8 glasses per day. If you exercise, you may need to increase this amount.

Final Thoughts

As it turns out, you don't have to surrender your favorite drink to meet your health goals. When paired correctly, coffee and weight loss can be a winning combination!

Ready to supercharge your health without having to do all the guesswork yourself? We have you covered. Check out our meal replacement shakes today!

About the author

Dr. Constance Odom, MD

6 min read