>Nutrition

Caffeine - does it help or hinder fat loss?

OH / 12 July 2019


Motus mythbuster


Caffeine is commonly consumed by many in drinks such as tea and coffee and it is also used as a performance supplement. But does caffeine help fat loss?


The research is pretty mixed - yes caffeine boosts metabolism short term but the side effects of caffeine may inhibit your ability to lose fat long term.


Short term caffeine can help you burn fat and increase your metabolism. This is because caffeine releases chemicals from the brain that make us more alert and tells our brain to break down fat for energy. Caffeine is also commonly used as a training supplement as it releases hormones from the brain that make us feel stronger and more focussed leading to improved performance. It can also suppress appetite and has been commonly used on fasting diets to get people through the morning before the first meal of their day. This may contribute to fat loss for some people as their overall calorie intake is lower due to swapping a meal for coffee - not because the coffee has some magical fat burning effect. 


Long term our bodies get used to the effect on caffeine and we need to drink more and more for it to have its desired alert and focus boosting effects. So, if we were to use caffeine as a fat loss tool, it is likely our bodies would get used to it and our fat loss would eventually stop. Most importantly though, caffeine has a half-life. This means half the caffeine is still in our system upto 6hrs after its consumption - so if you had a coffee at 4pm, you'd still have half of it in your system at 10pm - could you go to sleep straight after a coffee? Most likely not. More importantly, this affects the quality of our sleep and rest is one of the most important factors to control when trying to lose fat. When we're sleep deprived our body begins to want more food for energy so our overall calorie consumption increases leading to less fat loss. Prolonged high consumption of caffeine may therefore hinder fat loss.


Summary

The research is pretty mixed - yes caffeine boosts metabolism and may suppress hunger short term but the side effects of caffeine (negative impact on sleep) may inhibit your ability to lose fat long term. It's not the most important factor in whether you lose weight or not - your energy balance (calories in vs energy expenditure) is. Our tip would be to try and avoid caffeine after midday otherwise it may start to affect your sleep.


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