Does Coffee Increase Your Metabolism, Burn Fat, and Help You Lose Weight?

lady drinking coffee

If I told you that you probably consume the most popular psychoactive drug every day, you might be surprised.  However, it’s a fact that caffeine is a powerful drug. In fact, caffeine is the most widely consumed drug in the world.

Caffeine has many properties and compounds that can benefit your health (1).

Many supplements that are sold for fat-burning purposes contain caffeine (2).

That’s because coffee can help the body release stored fat and improve metabolism.

Coffee Contains Caffeine

This should not come as a surprise to you.  People typically drink coffee do it to wake up in the morning or get a boost of energy throughout the day (3).

Caffeine has stimulant properties (4).  When caffeine is consumed in low to moderate doses, it binds to the adenosine receptors.  This has been shown to increase locomotor activity (5).

That means that the neurons in the brain fire more often.  Caffeine also helps increase the activity of the feel-good neurotransmitters dopamine and norepinephrine.

Research shows that the caffeine in coffee can help boost metabolism (6).  Surprisingly, this effect is more pronounced in lean individuals than in obese people.

This indicates that while caffeine alone may not be the best thing to get you started on your weight-loss journey if you have a significant amount of weight to lose, it can help you maintain a healthy weight.

Still, researchers show that metabolism is boosted in both lean and obese people for up to three hours after the consumption of 8 mg/kg of caffeine (7).  This equals about four cups of coffee for a 130-pound adult.

KEY POINT: Caffeine, a stimulant found in caffeinated coffee, can help boost metabolism and help you maintain a healthy weight.

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Coffee Contains Theobromine and Theophylline

Theobromine and theophylline are substances that are in the same family as caffeine. Theophylline metabolizes into theobromine when it is ingested (8).

coffee lattee on table

Theobromine is found in coffee and dark chocolate.

In one study, participants were asked to eat dark chocolate for 15 days before trading in the treat for white chocolate (9).  While eating the theobromine-containing dark chocolate, the participants’ insulin sensitivity was improved.

This means that their bodies were better able to use insulin to metabolize blood sugars.

Numerous studies have linked insulin insensitivity with obesity (10, 11, 12, 13).

KEY POINT: Theobromine in caffeine can help you process blood sugar better, lowering your risk of obesity.

Chlorogenic Acid in Coffee May Help You Absorb Fewer Carbs

Chlorogenic acid is one of the compounds in coffee.  Studies show that it can help delay the absorption of sugar in the intestines.

In one study, results were only seen when chlorogenic acid was added to instant coffee.  Regular caffeinated instant coffee did not produce effects (14).

However, in another study, researchers found that coffee consumption slowed down the absorption of sugar.  They think this benefit may have to do with the way chlorogenic acid works against the body’s ability to transport glucose (15).

KEY POINT: Your body may not absorb as much sugar when you consume chlorogenic-acid containing coffee.

Coffee Can Help Your Body Burn Fat

man holding moka

Your body can use fat for fuel.  It can also use carbohydrates (16).

If your body is holding onto fat, it cannot be broken down to be used as fuel.  In other words, you keep the fat right on your hips where it has always been.

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, which sends direct signals to the fat cells to tell them to break down fat (17, 18).

Research shows that people who drink caffeine before exercising can burn more fat than those who don’t (19).

Caffeine also increases adrenaline (epinephrine) and noradrenaline levels in the blood (20, 21, 22).

These fight-or-flight hormones signal the fat tissues to release lipids into the bloodstream, where they can be burned off.

KEY POINT: Caffeine can help the body burn the fat that’s stored in the cells.

Coffee Boosts Your Metabolism

coffee beans in cup

Basal metabolic rate (BMR) is the number of calories that your body needs to burn just to maintain daily functions.  Your body burns calories just to get your blood flowing and respiration going.

People often refer to your basal metabolic rate as your metabolism. 

If you have a fast metabolism, you burn calories more efficiently and may lose weight more quickly on the same diet as someone with a slower metabolism.

Many different factors influence metabolism.

Research indicates that caffeine can increase BMR by as much as 11%.  This metabolism boost is due primarily to caffeine’s ability to help you burn more fat (26).

The more you consume, the bigger the effect (23, 24).  Although caffeine is considered to be a compound with low toxicity, it can however be dangerous in large doses (25).

Caffeine’s metabolism-increasing properties are more noticeable in lean people than in obese people.  For example, a study found that caffeine could increase the amount of fat burned in lean individuals by almost 30%.  Fat burning was only increased by about 10% in obese participants (27).

The younger you are, the more likely caffeine is to help improve your metabolism (28).

KEY POINT: Caffeine can help speed up your metabolism.  This effect is increased the younger and leaner you are.

Coffee Can Improve Your Physical Performance

bag of coffee beans

If you exercise enough, you can also increase weight loss and make your metabolism more efficient.

Some athletes take caffeine to enhance their mental and physical performance.

Caffeine has been shown to help you sustain long, moderately intense workouts.  It increases endurance and works as an analgesic, making you feel less pain so that you can work out longer or harder (29).

Researchers have found that caffeine can improve physical performance by up to 12% (30).

In addition, even though many people who take caffeine before exercising end up working out more intensely, they feel like they are expending less effort (31, 32).

KEY POINT: Coffee can improve your performance while exercising, which can help you reach your weight-loss goals.

Effects of Caffeine on Weight Loss May Weaken over Time

woman drink cup of coffee

As with many drugs, people can develop a tolerance to caffeine.  Many people may notice the tolerance build up when it comes to caffeine and alertness. 

The ability to develop a tolerance also affects caffeine’s thermogenic properties (33, 34).

If you’re looking to spur your body into increasing metabolism and burning more fat, caffeine may work for a short period of time.  However, it won’t help your metabolism and fat oxidization forever.

Coffee can help diminish your appetite so that you eat less, though.

One study found that men eat less after consuming caffeine, even when they have free access to a variety of foods (35).  Caffeine didn’t seem to affect women’s appetites.

When combined with nicotine, a known appetite suppressant, caffeine has been found to amplify the appetite-diminishing effects (38).

Other studies have found no correlation between caffeine and appetite suppression (36, 37).

KEY POINT: Even though caffeine can improve your metabolism and ability to burn fat, its effects weaken over time. More research is needed to confirm whether caffeine can be used as an appetite suppressant.

Bottom Line

If you drink coffee every day, you might have been excited to see the title of this article.

Coffee can be beneficial for boosting metabolism and helping to burn fat that is stored in the body.  However, many studies that have proven these findings involve higher doses of caffeine than a mere cup a day.

In addition, caffeine can create a tolerance.  If you’re using it to lose fat, you might obtain better results if you cycle it by taking it for a few weeks and avoiding it for a few weeks.

It may not be a miracle weight-loss drug, but coffee can help add the spark you need to lose weight initially. 

Coffee also has many other health benefits that make it a valuable beverage for your health.

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