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Does Caffeine Cause Weight Gain or Weight Loss? Experts Weigh In

Written by Andrew Le, MD

UpdatedFebruary 22, 2024

In the US, 154 million adults love coffee because it offers a comforting boost to their day, and 49% enjoy it daily.

But coffee also plays a role in managing weight. It can help control weight by improving your body and curbing your appetite. However, caffeine, the key ingredient, has a flip side: it can disrupt sleep and trigger sugary cravings, potentially leading to weight gain.

In this article, you will discover how caffeine can impact your weight, the critical factors involved, and tips for enjoying coffee without adding extra pounds.

🔑 Key Takeaways:

  • Coffee's caffeine content is a stimulant that can boost your metabolic rate.
  • Regular coffee consumption might be associated with decreased body fat.
  • Pure black coffee is low in calories and won't inherently cause weight gain.
  • Coffee is an appetite suppressant, so black coffee can effectively reduce cravings and snacking.
  • Coffee drinks like lattes and frappuccinos often contain high calories and added sugars.
  • Drinking such high-calorie coffee drinks regularly can lead to excess calorie consumption, undermining weight loss efforts.
  • Consuming coffee, particularly closer to bedtime, can disrupt sleep quality and duration.
  • Caffeine consumption can stimulate the release of cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to increased energy stores.
  • Instead of high-calorie creamers, consider alternatives like unsweetened almond, coconut, or half-and-half in modest amounts.
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How Can Caffeine Contribute to Weight Loss?

Coffee, a popular beverage many enjoy, has gained attention for its potential to support weight loss efforts. Beyond its energizing effects, coffee contains caffeine, a natural stimulant that offers several mechanisms that might contribute toweight management.

From revving up metabolism to suppressing appetite, coffee's effects on the body have been studied in relation to weight loss.

Here's a closer look at how coffee may aid weight loss and some strategies to maximize its potential while staying within a healthy dietary framework:

  • Increased Metabolism: Coffee's caffeine content is a stimulant that can boost your metabolic rate. A review in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition found that participants who consumed caffeine 30 minutes to 4 hours before mealtime had lower food intake. This increased calorie expenditure can contribute to weight loss over time.
  • Appetite Suppression: Some individuals experience a feeling of fullness or reduced appetite after consuming coffee. This might lead to consuming fewer calories throughout the day. It is suggested that caffeine consumption before mealtime could lead to lower food intake, potentially aiding in weight loss efforts.

👍 Recommendation:

The best natural appetite suppressant we recommend is InnoSupps Night Shred. It includes melatonin, magnesium, GABA, and other natural ingredients that help you sleep better and support your body's fat-burning process. At the same time, you rest, leaving you refreshed and revitalized.

  • Reduced Body Fat: Research suggests that regular coffee consumption might be associated with decreased body fat. A study found that drinking four cups of coffee daily led to a 4% decrease in body fat over the 24-week study. This effect may be due to coffee's ability to support metabolism.
  • Enhanced Workout Performance: Caffeine in coffee can act as a performance enhancer during exercise. It can increase alertness, energy, and focus, leading to more productive workouts. A small study found that a strong dose of caffeine 30 minutes before aerobic exercise increased fat burning.

To maximize coffee's potential for weight loss:

  • Choose Black Coffee: Opt for plain, black coffee without added sugars, syrups, or high-calorie creamers. Black coffee is low in calories and provides the metabolism-boosting effects of caffeine without additional caloric intake.
  • Minimize Additives: If you prefer to add flavor or creaminess to your coffee, consider using sugar-free sweeteners like stevia or Truvia and small amounts of low-fat milk. Avoid adding sugar and high-calorie creamers that can add unnecessary calories.
  • Avoid Specialty Drinks: High-calorie coffee beverages like flavored lattes and mochas should be consumed sparingly or avoided altogether. These drinks can contain significant amounts of added sugars and unhealthy fats, hindering your weight loss goals.
  • Moderation: While coffee can benefit weight loss, excessive consumption can lead to negative health effects. Aim for a moderate intake of coffee and be mindful of your body's response to caffeine.

How Can Caffeine Contribute to Weight Gain?

The studies mentioned above indicate that caffeine can indeed help with weight loss. However, it is also linked to weight gain but is complex. While plain black coffee has minimal calories and won't directly lead to weight gain, other factors associated with caffeine consumption can impact how you handle your weight.

Let's learn about these factors in detail:

High-Calorie Specialty Coffee Drinks

While delicious, coffee drinks like lattes and frappuccinos often contain high calories and added sugars.

For instance, a grande White Chocolate Mocha Frappuccino from Starbucks made with whole milk can contain a staggering 420 calories and 61 grams of sugar. Similarly, a medium-sized Caramel Craze latte from Dunkin' with whole milk can have 410 calories and 39 grams of added sugar.

Ingredients like whole milk, whipped cream, and flavored syrups contribute to saturated fat and sugars, turning a seemingly harmless beverage into a calorie-laden treat. Drinking such high-calorie coffee drinks regularly can lead to excess calorie consumption, undermining weight loss efforts.

Caloric Additives

Popular coffee additives such as flavored creamers can significantly increase the calorie content of your coffee.

A few glugs of liquid creamer can add around 100 calories and multiple teaspoons of added sugar to your coffee. This sudden spike in blood sugar levels can lead to subsequent crashes, leaving you feeling hungry and potentially prompting overeating. Even "healthy" creamers, like collagen creamers made with coconut milk, can contribute calories.

While the calorie count might not seem substantial, it can still impact your overall calorie intake, making it harder to achieve a calorie deficit for weight loss.

It's also worth noting that the implications of excessive sugar consumption in beverages extend beyond mere calorie counts. Research, such as a study published in the Polish Journal of Food and Nutrition Sciences in 2019, showed that less sugar intake has led to obesity increasing slowly each year. This indicates that sugary drinks are linked to weight gain. It's essential to choose coffee additives wisely.

Effects of Artificial Sweeteners

Using artificial sweeteners as sugar substitutes in coffee may impact body weight. Some studies indicate that certain artificial sweeteners can stimulate appetite and increase energy intake, potentially leading to weight gain.

Research has found that people who consumed beverages containing sugar or saccharin gained weight over 12 weeks, while those consuming drinks with other artificial sweeteners did not experience such weight changes. The conflicting results of studies on artificial sweeteners impact on weight make it a consideration for those aiming to manage their weight.

Caffeine and Sleep Disruption

Caffeine can interfere with sleep. Consuming coffee, particularly closer to bedtime, can disrupt sleep quality and duration.

A study revealed that consuming the equivalent of four cups of coffee (about 400 mg of caffeine) six hours before bedtime more than doubled the time it took participants to fall asleep and reduced total sleep time by an hour.

This means that if your bedtime is at 10 p.m. and you indulge in a coffee at 2 p.m. for an afternoon pick-me-up, you might encounter difficulties falling asleep. Consequently, you could lose an hour or two of essential sleep.

Poor sleep quality is associated with weight gain and obesity. Prioritizing adequate sleep is crucial for maintaining a healthy weight.

Skipping Meals and Using Coffee as a Meal Replacement

While using coffee to replace meals might seem like a way to cut calories, it can lead to the opposite effect. A review of nine studies found that skipping breakfast three or more times per week was associated with an 11% increased risk of being overweight or obese.

Skipping meals, including breakfast, can increase the likelihood of overeating later in the day and may result in cravings for carbohydrate-rich foods. Coffee should not replace a balanced meal or snack, as it needs more nutrients to sustain your body's energy and health.

Caffeine's Influence on Appetite and Hormones

Caffeine consumption can stimulate therelease of cortisol, the stress hormone, leading to cravings for comfort foods and emotional eating.

Additionally, caffeine can trigger hypoglycemia, causing your body to crave high-calorie foods that quickly replenish blood sugar levels. Higher caffeine intake can further intensify these effects, increasing the likelihood of consuming calorie-dense foods and contributing to weight gain.

Caffeine's Impact on Insulin Sensitivity

Caffeine can decrease insulin sensitivity, making your body less responsive to insulin's effects. As insulin sensitivity declines, blood sugar levels rise, increasing fat storage. This process can result in weight gain over time.

💡 Did You Know?

Elevated blood sugar levels signify prediabetes, a condition where your blood sugar is above normal but not yet in the diabetes range. Diabetes occurs when your body struggles to utilize insulin, a hormone that transports sugar (or glucose) into your body's cells. This can happen due to insufficient insulin production or improper insulin response.

However, coffee and tea's polyphenols may counteract some of the negative effects of caffeine on insulin sensitivity, offering potential benefits.

Soft Drinks and Sugar Content

Caffeine's potentially addictive properties, especially with sugar-sweetened beverages, could contribute to weight gain. Soft drinks and added sugars in coffee or tea can increase the risk of overconsumption and craving calorie-rich foods.

Caffeine may influence brain reward pathways, contributing to overeating and potential weight gain when coupled with sugary additives.

How To Drink Coffee Without Gaining Weight?

Coffee intake has been linked to various health advantages, including a decreased risk of conditions like liver cancer and type 2 diabetes and improved neurocognitive function.

For this reason, many health experts agree that coffee can be part of a balanced diet. However, it's recommended that healthy adults limit caffeine intake to less than 400 mg per day, roughly equivalent to about four to five cups of coffee.

But if you still find yourself concerned about the potential weight gain from drinking coffee, here are some tips that can help you:

  • Reduce Sugar Intake: Pay attention to the sugar content of your coffee. Many flavored creamers, syrups, and table sugar can contribute to excess calorie consumption. Opt for minimal or no sugar additions.
  • Choose Healthier Additives: Instead of high-calorie creamers, consider alternatives like unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, or half-and-half in modest amounts. You can also use natural, no-calorie sweeteners such as stevia or add flavor with a few drops of vanilla extract.
  • Control Caloric Content: Be cautious when using ingredients like half-and-half or coconut milk, which, while low in sugar, can be calorie-dense. Using small quantities will prevent unnecessary calorie intake.
  • Adapt Your Taste Buds: Coffee has a natural bitterness, and gradually reducing added sweeteners can help you develop a preference for less sweetness.
  • Home Brewing: Preparing your coffee at home offers control over ingredients and portion sizes, contributing to a more balanced consumption.
  • Balanced Breakfast: Enjoy your coffee with a nutritious breakfast, as this can support energy production and help prevent muscle loss during weight loss efforts.
  • Mindful Indulgence: Specialty coffee drinks loaded with cream, sugar, or syrups can be enjoyed occasionally, but they should not be a regular habit.
  • Enhance Flavor Thoughtfully: Experiment with flavor-enhancing options like spices (cinnamon, nutmeg) or extracts (vanilla, peppermint) to add variety without excess calories.
  • Avoid Late Consumption: Drinking coffee too late in the day can interfere with sleep, which may indirectly impact weight management.
  • Supplement Consideration: Be cautious when considering coffee supplements like green coffee bean extract, as there's no substitute for a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle in achieving sustainable weight loss.

🗒️ Related Articles:

To learn more about weight management, check out some of our articles:

The Bottom Line

Coffee itself doesn't inherently cause weight gain; however, excessive caffeine consumption, especially later in the day, can disrupt sleep patterns, potentially contributing to weight gain.

Consider the calorie content and additives in coffee drinks. Flavored lattes and sugary options can be high in calories and added sugars. Opt for simpler coffee choices and be mindful of added sugars to manage weight.

When enjoying coffee, prioritize moderation. Choose options with fewer added sugars, control portion sizes, and use natural sweeteners or flavor enhancers like cinnamon to satisfy taste preferences without excess calories. Remember, coffee alone isn't a direct cause of weight gain; the accompanying habits and choices play a significant role.

FAQs on Caffeine and Weight Gain

Is coffee for weight loss or gain?

Coffee can aid weight loss due to its caffeine content, which boosts metabolism and energy levels. It contains nutrients like niacin, potassium, magnesium, and antioxidants that support overall health.

Can coffee cause belly fat?

In some cases, yes. Studies suggest that caffeine can elevate cortisol levels, potentially contributing to abdominal weight gain. If you're susceptible to stress, it might be wise to moderate your caffeine intake.

Does coffee with milk increase weight?

While milk isn't bad for weight loss, adding too much to your coffee can increase its calorie content. Opting for black coffee or using a moderate amount of milk can better manage calories.

Should I avoid coffee to lose weight?

No need to completely avoid coffee. It can be a part of a balanced approach to weight management. However, relying solely on coffee for weight loss isn't effective. It's more about your overall diet and lifestyle.

Can coffee make you fat or bloated?

Yes, coffee can contribute to bloating. Its laxative effect can increase bowel movements and lead to gas production, causing discomfort. This is especially true when consumed in excess.

Does coffee affect body fat?

Caffeine in coffee can enhance fat burning, even while at rest. However, it's not a guaranteed solution for weight loss and should be different from a healthy diet and regular exercise.

Does lack of sleep cause weight gain or loss?

Lack of sleep is linked to weight gain. It disrupts appetite-regulating hormones, leading to increased hunger and overeating, which can result in weight gain over time.

How many times can I drink coffee to lose weight?

Having 2-3 cups of coffee daily is reasonable for weight loss. Opt for black or green coffee to minimize calorie intake. However, moderation is key to avoiding excessive caffeine consumption.

Does coffee bloat the face?

Yes, coffee's ability to constrict blood vessels can reduce facial puffiness, making it less bloated in appearance.

When should I stop drinking coffee?

To ensure a good night's sleep, it's recommended to stop consuming caffeine, including coffee, around 2 or 3 pm, especially if you have a typical 9 to 5 schedule and a regular bedtime.

Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
Virtual weight loss solution
A personalized GLP-1 medication program delivered to you via our partner Korb Health
Illustration of a healthcare provider asking questions on a smart phone.
  • Free consultation; program starts at $269/mo
  • Checkmark Inside Circle.Customized online program and wellness coaching
  • Prescription medications and supplies shipped to your door