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Can Coffee Uptick Your Metabolism and Help You Burn Fat?

Last updated on : June 17 2019

Cup of Coffee and Coffee Beans

Coffee, Metabolism and Fat Loss

Coffee is, obviously, an indispensable part of our lives - and in the modern diet is revered across the globe.

People make coffee in various ways – some use drip filters, while others use espresso machines. Some people love cold coffee while some like it piping hot. Sugarless for some, with milk and sugar for others – coffee has countless avatars.

Despite the love and craze that coffee enjoys, some skeptics worry if coffee is perfect for health.

Well, the good news is coffee has many proven medical benefits - and the significant advantage is its ability to boost your metabolism and help you burn fat.

Understanding Metabolism

Metabolism is a term that describes the process by which our body converts food into energy. We need this energy for various chemical activities, including respiration, digestion, and the effort required to move around.

We refer to how well our metabolism functions as our basal metabolic rate (BMR).  

The higher your metabolic rate, the easier it is for you to lose weight, and the more you can eat without gaining weight.

Conversely, a slower metabolism hampers the successful conversion of food into energy. With a slower metabolism, you burn fewer calories with the excess converted into fat and accumulated in places like your belly or hips. 

Various factors determine the rate of metabolism in our bodies - our gender, age, physical activity, lifestyle, body composition, and weight.

Generally, if you watch what you eat and get enough physical activity and exercise, you'll benefit from a healthier metabolism. 

How Coffee Effects Metabolism and Fat Loss

Coffee increases your metabolism.

Studies show that caffeine from black coffee can increase our resting metabolic rate by as much as 11%. See here and here

When we consume coffee, the caffeine kicks up our metabolic state by blocking an inhibitory neurotransmitter called adenosine. Check out the science here and here

This blocking action increases the firing of neurons and the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine - making you feel more energized and awake.

Fitness enthusiasts regularly use black coffee as a stimulant before cardio exercise because of its impact on metabolism and body fat reduction. These studies here and here support this practice. 

Coffee stimulates fat loss.

Caffeine is the most commonly consumed psychoactive substance in the world. It is found in many commercial fat-burning supplements because it helps mobilize fats from your fat tissues in addition to increasing your metabolism. 

Caffeine powerfully stimulates the nervous system to increase adrenaline, which in turn signals your fatty tissues to break down fats and release them into your blood. See this study for support.

In this state, you are ready to burn fat for energy - and provided you are burning more calories than you are eating, the excess energy should come from the freed up fat.

How Much Coffee Should I Drink?

Like any other food source, you should consume caffeine within limits.

Research shows that 400 milligrams of caffeine per day is safe for most healthy adults - and is enough to do its magic in boosting metabolism and fat loss.

Considering that a typical cup of black coffee contains 75 to 100 mg of caffeine, 3 to 4 cups of coffee a day can go well with a healthy adult.

On the other hand, drinking too much coffee can bring side effects. Excessive caffeine can lead to mood swings, deprived sleep, dehydration, and anxiety.

So it's best to stick within your tolerable limits.

How To Fall In Love With Black Coffee?

To reap the most benefit from your cup of coffee, drink it black. Milk, sugar, cream, syrup, or other additives introduce unnecessary calories and are generally unhealthy.

A cup of black coffee contains less than five calories and makes the best option for a low calorie and healthy beverage.

If you want the benefits of coffee but can't stomach it black, don’t worry. Here are some ways you can make your cup of black coffee delicious without losing its metabolism-boosting and fat-burning effects.

Use natural sweeteners - Add a small amount of any of these natural sweeteners – Stevia, honey, agave nectar, and molasses.

Go less robust - Opt for a lighter coffee blend instead of a strong one till you get familiar with the taste.

Try a healthy additive - Splash a pinch of cinnamon or nutmeg to make your black coffee much healthier and lip-smacking.

Have a cheat day - On your cheat days, opt for a chocolate mocha or eggnog coffee.

Other Health Benefits Of Coffee

Can Coffee Uptick Your Metabolism and Help You Burn Fat?, Infographic

Besides encouraging your metabolism and boosting fat loss, black coffee has various other health benefits - here are a few of our favorites.

Prevents dental decay

The ingredients in the black coffee fight tooth decaying bacteria and prevent cavities. Adding milk or sugar negates these benefits. Is this not a good reason to flaunt your smile when you hold your cup of black coffee?

Keeps cancers at bay

Coffee is a treasure trove of antioxidants.

It assists in preventing inflammation and swelling of the liver and helps in keeping liver cancer at bay - see this study. However, we prefer to advocate drinking less to protect your liver rather than relying on coffee. 

Studies also show coffees positive impact on protecting the skin from cancer - study.

Protects your heart

Black coffee increases blood circulation and keeps the heart muscles active and healthy. Studies show that coffee drinkers have fewer heart-related troubles than non-coffee drinkers. 

Prevents memory loss

Coffee triggers the nervous system and brain cells, stimulating them into an active state. Caffeine has shown positive benefits in preventing life-threatening diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson’s too - see the study.

Soothes sore muscles

A cup of joe can help deal with the muscle soreness that we experience after an intense workout - two cups of coffee can decrease post-workout pain by up to 48% - study.

Ideally, a cup of black coffee an hour before a workout helps in enhanced fat burning and reducing muscle soreness.

Coffee also showed a notable increase in the performance of athletes and sports persons when consumed before the start of physical activity (see studies above).

When Is The Best Time To Drink Coffee?

Now that you know coffees many benefits, you might want to drink it all day. But please hold on, because science tells us when to drink coffee for maximum benefit.

Understanding your circadian rhythm is vital.

Each of us works to a 24-hour cycle called a circadian rhythm. In its purest form, the rhythm tells your body when to sleep and when to wake up, and it does this through the release of cortisol - your stress hormone.

Higher cortisol levels make you feel alert and lower levels sleepy, just like caffeine does. 

The best time to drink coffee is when your cortisol levels are lower. This way of drinking avoids flooding your body with high levels of cortisol and caffeine at the same time, which can make you jumpy and anxious.

If you're up around 6.30 am, your cortisol levels tend to peak between 8 to 9 am, then again between noon and 1 pm and finally between 5.30 to 6 pm.

So the best time to drink coffee for a 6.30 am riser is between 9.30 am and 11.30 am and again between 1.30 pm and 3.30pm.  

Adjust these times either backward if you get up earlier or forwards if you are a late riser.

Additionally, look to delay your first cup of coffee of the day, and avoid drinking any within at least 6 hours before going to sleep. 

Delay your first cup of coffee for the day

Caffeine takes about 45 mins to be fully absorbed by the body and lasts for as long as six hours.

So drinking a cup within an hour of waking up is likely to leave you with a caffeine intake that clashes with your first circadian cortisol peak - i.e., with the jitters, or an instant kick that soon leads to you feeling drained and energy-less.  

To smooth out the effect, take your first cup up to three hours after rising for the day. Tricky, we know.

Alternatively, be guided by how you feel, and take your joe when you think it leads to the best outcome - a crisp and clear head, and stable energy flow.    

No coffee near or after sunset

Most people should avoid drinking coffee after 4 pm.

Caffeine's stimulant effects last for as long as 6 hours, meaning a cup of coffee late in the day can quickly impact your ability to sleep. You will likely not be able to sleep deeply, which over time can trigger many sleep-related health problems.

So for maximum impact, the average 6.30am riser should drink coffee only between 9.30 and 11.30 am and a final cup between 1.30 and 3.30pm. 

Summary

Woman breathing holding a coffee mug at home

The consumption of caffeine in coffee increases our metabolism and our (resting) calorie consumption. It also stimulants the release of fat into the bloodstream, making it available for energy conversion.

These two factors provide an increased opportunity for losing weight; however, they will not cause you to lose weight alone. You must also eat appropriately and get enough exercise so that you burn more calories than you consume.

Maximize the opportunity coffee gives you by entering into a negative energy balance. In this state, you attempt to burn more calories than you are consuming by either eating less or exercising more, or both - leading to weight loss.

Coffee Intolerance

As you continue to drink coffee, you may become intolerant to its effects over the long term - see study here.

However, maintaining the negative energy balance described above will result in weight loss, whether you drink coffee or not. And so eating less and exercising more ultimately is the key.

Plus there is some evidence that caffeine reduces food cravings (primarily in men) and helps us to stay away from junk food or food dense in calories - making coffee a direct contributor to helping us maintain our healthy body weight. 

Lastly, we've established that coffee has multiple health benefits. And so sensibly drinking coffee is likely to be positive for the average healthy person.  

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