Does Caffeine Help or Hinder Weight Loss?

by Charlotte on September 30, 2010 · 15 comments

Photo Credit: Fail Blog

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to know that diet pills don’t work. If they did, we’d all look like Carmen Electra and spend our nights partying away with the Zantrex dancers. (Not to be confused with the Valtrex dancers – that kind of party is a straight shot to the Jerry Springer Show.) And yet they sell. So who’s buying? We are, apparently.

I hate the diet pill ads and yet I’m mesmerized by them. The first time through a mag, I read it for the articles but the second time – I’m all about the advertising and I admit, these hold my attention long enough to get hemorrhoids. What is so compelling about them? The lure of quick, easy weight loss. The obvious and marked change in the before-and-after shots. The (fake, probably) testimonials. The stupid doctor. And yet, it’s our modern day fairy tale. These Cinderellas went from rags to riches – beauty is the new money, honey – all with one little magic pill. That’s even easier than a glass slipper! Cheaper too.

I remember one day in GNC staring at the pretty displays of diet pills when a salesman sidled up to me, “Would you pay $80 a month to be thin the rest of your life?” Honestly? I absolutely would. In fact, most people would probably pay much more than that – it’s become that important to us. The trick, of course, is if they actually work. When I pointed out to him that they are just glorified caffeine pills, he huffed, “everybody knows that caffeine is the best legal weight loss supplement.” I suppose he was deferring to cocaine on principle.

But is it?

Judging by the sheer number of photos of celebrities carrying coffee cups, it seems like there must be some truth to it. After all, when was the last time you saw an Olsen twin (or Lindsey or Britney) photographed without a Starbucks cup molded into her twee little hand? And caffeine in some form or another is the number one ingredient in almost every single weight-loss supplement on the market, often in heart-fibrillatingly massive doses. Even Biggest Loser trainer Jillian Michaels recommends a caffeine/white willow bark/aspirin cocktail in her book Making the Cut. Hollywood’s opinion is clear.

What the Research Says
There are many studies that show that caffeine does increase metabolism by upping your heart rate causing a thermogenic effect (as is often touted in screaming letters on diet pill packaging) and increased calorie burn. Research has also indicated that it is a mild appetite suppressant. In addition, it has also been found that a dose of caffeine before your workout can help you work up to 30% harder without upping your rate of perceived exertion thereby allowing you to burn more calories.

The problem is that none of these effects have translated into weight loss. The Mayo Clinic debunks the first two points by saying that while caffeine does suppress the appetite and up metabolism, it doesn’t do it to a significant degree and the effects don’t last long enough to make a difference in a person’s weight. Although they add the caveat that caffeine will produce a temporary decrease in weight due to its diuretic properties.

As for the last point regarding your workout, this is a documented effect. But here’s the kicker: it only works if your body is not already used to caffeine. If you never have the stuff and then slam an energy drink before a big race it can definitely increase your performance. In fact, I know many a runner who swears by this. (Be careful if you try this one out though as caffeine often has the added bonus of loosening one’s bowels.) But the effect is lost if your body is already acclimated to that level of caffeine. In addition, the extra work exerted during your race causes increased hunger afterward. So while you may reap some performance gains, they probably won’t translate to weight loss.

But not only does caffeine use not correlate with weight loss, it is actually linked to weight gain. Donna Sundblad of the Love To Know blog writes:

Caffeine affects cravings for food because it raises the stress hormone cortisol. Cortisol raises heart rate, blood pressure and tells your body to increase its energy stores. This results in the body craving sweets. So if you’re wondering why you snacked on cookies in the afternoon, it could have something to do with that coffee you drank with breakfast.

In addition to increasing cravings for sweets, raised cortisol levels have been linked to increased storage of abdominal fat, a lower immune system and higher blood pressure among other things. Caffeine has also been linked to increased insulin resistance, the scary precursor to diabetes, not to mention the lesser side effects of jitteriness, anxiety, heart palpitations and fragmented thinking.

Not everyone reacts to caffeine the same way. Even amongst the Gym Buddies, there are large discrepencies. I am super sensitive to caffeine and feel like I’m having a heart attack, a panic attack and diarrhea all at once but Gym Buddy Allison loves her caffeine pills to help her power through her workouts. Gym Buddy Krista seems to have built her tolerance up so high with Mountain Dew that even when she took 3 of Allison’s pills, it didn’t faze her a bit. It all depends on your level of sensitivity to caffeine, what dose you take and how often, and for what purpose you are taking it. If you just like your cup of joe in the morning or use it as your secret weapon in that sprint triathlon you are competing in, then more power to you. Just don’t count on it to help you lose weight. And, also, don’t count on the GNC salespeople to know anything.

What are your experiences with caffeine? Hate the stuff? Can’t live without it? And what’s your preferred form of delivery?

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

weight loss ulcerative colitis February 19, 2014 at 10:08 am

It’s appropriate time to make some plans for the future and it
is time to be happy. I’ve read this post and if I could I wish to suggest you few interesting things or advice.
Maybe you could write next articles referring
to this article. I wish to read even more things about it!

Reply June 24, 2014 at 8:47 am

It is appropriate time to make a few plans for
the future and it’s time to be happy. I’ve learn this put up and if I may just I desire
to suggest you few fascinating issues or tips. Maybe you could
write next articles regarding this article. I wish to read more issues approximately it!


lose weight easily June 30, 2014 at 2:54 am

That’s interesting, You’re a very qualified blogger. I’ve truly signed up with ones feast and show off forward to trying to find more of your fantastic submit. Furthermore, I have provided your web site at my myspace

Reply July 1, 2014 at 9:09 pm

Hello! Do you know if they make any plugins to help with SEO?
I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted
keywords but I’m not seeing very good success. If you know
of any please share. Many thanks!


testosterone booster side effects July 2, 2014 at 9:32 pm

My partner and I absolutely love your blog and find most of your post’s to
be just what I’m looking for. Does one offer guest writers to write content available for you?
I wouldn’t mind producing a post or elaborating on a few of the subjects you write with regards to here.

Again, awesome blog!


raw hemp juice July 5, 2014 at 3:04 pm

This piece of writing will assist the internet viewers for creating new weblog
or even a weblog from start to end.

Reply July 7, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Greetings! I’ve been reading your weblog for some time now and finally got the bravery to go ahead and give you a shout out from Houston Texas!

Just wanted to say keep up the good work!


best muscle builder Supplement July 7, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Wow, incredible blog layout! How long have you been blogging for?
you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is fantastic, as well
as the content!


best weight loss programs July 8, 2014 at 3:36 am

A vegan chooses to eat foods that have no feet, faces, or fins.
I have been taking into account that I have to find a genuine choice for my
nose that can transform my life. It means “Sobrinos de Antero Gonzales” translated
as “Descendants of Antero Gonzales”.


garcinia hca natural weight loss supplement July 10, 2014 at 3:28 pm

Hello there, You’ve done a fantastic job. I will definitely digg it and personally suggest to
my friends. I am sure they’ll be benefited from this site.


prolexin July 11, 2014 at 5:14 pm

I’m amazed, I must say. Seldom do I come across a blog that’s equally educative and engaging, and let me tell you, you have
hit the nail on the head. The issue is something which not enough people
are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I found
this during my hunt for something regarding this.


get muscle fast July 14, 2014 at 3:40 pm

My partner and I stumbled over here by a different web page
and thought I might as well check things out. I like what I see so
i am just following you. Look forward to finding out
about your web page repeatedly.


the tao of badass pdf July 14, 2014 at 9:17 pm

Pretty nice post. I simply stumbled upon your weblog and wanted to say that I have truly enjoyed surfing around your
blog posts. After all I’ll be subscribing to your feed and I hope you write once more
very soon!


Pure Garcinia and true cleanse complete July 24, 2014 at 7:30 pm

It’s a pity you don’t have a donate button! I’d without
a doubt donate to this fantastic blog! I guess for now i’ll settle for book-marking
and adding your RSS feed to my Google account. I look forward to new updates and will share this blog with my Facebook
group. Talk soon!


Leave a Comment

{ 1 trackback }

Previous post:

Next post: