Is Your Morning Coffee Affecting Your Weight?

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Every day, all around the world, millions of people start their days with a cup (or two, or three…) of joe. Whether you prefer yours with cream and sugar, flavored or straight-up black, your coffee is probably more than just a good-tasting source of hydration. It's a morning pick-me-up, a quick energy boost, a source of comfort and, sometimes, a social beverage. In winter, it might be a way to warm up, and on hot days, iced coffee can be a refreshing cool down. 
But have you considered how the caffeine in your daily java habit might be affecting your weight? A single 8-ounce cup of coffee contains 95 milligrams of caffeine. That means four cups is roughly equivalent to the "safe" daily amount for healthy adults, which is 400 milligrams. Even if your cuppa is calorie-free, could the caffeine be wreaking havoc on your weight without you realizing it?
It turns out, there is no one clear answer, as the research goes both ways.
Some studies suggest that drinking caffeinated coffee can help to boost weight loss. In one 2015 study from the International Journal of Epidemiology that evaluated nearly 100,000 people, coffee drinkers were found to be less likely to have obesity or type-2 diabetes. And other research has also linked caffeine to weight loss, suggesting that it could serve as an appetite suppressant, reduce fat cells and provide an energy boost for increased exercise. The Mayo Clinic confirms that "caffeine may reduce feelings of hunger and your desire to eat for a brief time" and that it stimulates thermogenesis, which boosts calorie burning.
However, conflicting studies suggest that your morning joe could actually put a wrench in your weight-loss goals. According to research conducted by the Journal of Food Science, the caffeine in coffee could affect receptors in the brain related to taste, making it harder for you to taste sweetness, which could lead to increased cravings for more sugar throughout the day.
So, which is accurate? Possibly both, says Liza Baker from Simply: Health Coaching.
Baker points out that caffeine is a drug—a naturally occurring one, but it still acts as a stimulant to the system. "Stimulants kick our adrenals into action, creating an often pleasant, sometimes necessary heightened sense of clarity and energy," she says. "It can cause an extreme reaction due to caffeine sensitivity or overindulgence, which manifests as anxiety and hyperactivity. Anything that kicks our bodies—especially our heart rate and our digestion—into high gear will initially cause weight loss."

However, after that initial weight-loss boost, Baker warns that long-term coffee consumption could eventually have the opposite effect. "Our already high-octane lives are plenty stressful, and we live in a chronic state of fight or flight," she notes. "Chronic, unrelieved stress is thought to eventually 'wear out' our adrenal glands, leaving us completely exhausted and contributing to weight gain."
This can create a vicious cycle: The more we seek out coffee and caffeine as an energy boost, the more we stimulate our adrenal glands. When those glands are stressed and overworked, that triggers the body to produce more cortisol, which impairs your ability to burn fat.
Dr. Patricia Salber, founder of and host of "The Doctor Weighs In," points out that nutritional studies are observational, and can't definitively answer the question of whether a food or beverage directly causes weight gain or loss.
"They can show correlations, but these may actually be coincidences," she says. "Also, many times the observed effect in these types of studies is quite small, and may not mean much in the real world."
That said, Dr. Salber agrees that caffeine appears to increase thermogenesis, which increases energy use even at rest, and may suppress appetite in the short run. "What is unclear is how important these changes are in the real world, given how many different factors there are, such as hunger triggered by sensory inputs (sight, smell), access to food (high- versus low-calorie density), participation in exercise, level of stress and other aspects that can overpower the benefits of drinking coffee."
Another “percolating” topic centers around coffee (caffeine) intake and weight loss maintenance. “Anyone who has lost weight knows the difficulty in maintaining,” shares Becky Hand, registered dietitian with Sparkpeople. A preliminary observation study suggested that caffeine may be a beneficial tool in maintaining one’s weight loss.

Tips for Responsible Coffee Consumption

Find YOUR moderation. Just as with any other food, coffee is not necessarily "good" or "bad," Baker notes. "There has been a lot of research about coffee's benefits, and there is almost always a caveat: 'in moderation' being the key words," she says. We each have a specific degree of sensitivity to caffeine, so one person's moderation could be too much or not enough for someone else. It's also true that caffeine sensitivity varies widely—some people are so sensitive that very small amounts of coffee will bring on the symptoms, while others have a higher tolerance.

Be careful what you add. The latest Starbucks concoction may look beautiful and taste delicious, but it could also send your calorie intake through the roof. "Especially if you're looking to lose weight, treating a venti specialty coffee drink (full of harmful fats and added, refined sugars) like a cup of black coffee is asking for trouble," says Baker. While it's okay to occasionally indulge in your favorite flavored java or to add a little cream or sugar, remember to measure and track what you're drinking.

Watch the clock. Dr. Salber warns that ingesting excessive amounts of caffeine may cause jitteriness, fast heart rate, anxiety and insomnia. Some of these side effects may actually counter whatever benefits you might get from coffee. "Drinking coffee, tea or other caffeinated beverages too late—less than three or four hours before bedtime—makes it harder to fall asleep, and lack of sleep may increase appetite, causing you to gain weight," she notes.

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FISHGUT3 2/14/2020
Plain Black Coffee in the morning everyday! Report
LCMCCREE 2/12/2020
Good information! Report
GETULLY 2/11/2020
Drink it black. Report
LIDDY09 1/28/2020
Thanks Report
1CRAZYDOG 1/28/2020
I drink my coffee black. And all I can say is . . . . Monday's would be pretty difficult w/o coffee! LOL Report
MSROZZIE 1/27/2020
Good need to now information, black coffee for me! Report
PICKIE98 1/27/2020
black is best! Report
MAREE1953 1/27/2020
Love my dark roast, black coffee. A few cups of regular first thing before crossfit class, then I switch to decaf the rest of the day. Suppresses my appetite and greatly helps me to avoid insulin producing snacks between meals. Giving up stevia in my coffee made a huge difference! Report
PAMBROWN62 1/27/2020
The studies over the years have made foods bad for your, good for you, disease causing, disease fighting, etc., to the point where I don’t give them much credence. Do what works best for you. At least that’s how I intend to continue my journey. Report
ILOVEROSES 12/10/2019
Thanks. Report
J0491B 12/1/2019
I find decaf coffee ok but any caffeine makes me hungry for "real food." If I gain a pound or two I quit drinking any coffee and stick to green tea (plain) for a few days. That helps. Report
CECELW 11/23/2019
I started drinking coffee when I turned 11. I am now 60. I wouldn't think about giving up coffee. It just seems like there seems to be a negative something or other with just about everything...except broccoli! hahha Report
FRAN0426 10/17/2019
I enjoy a cup of coffee in the morning, sometimes regular, most times decaf. Generally I don't add anything to the morning cup of coffee. Imagine too much of anything we eat or drink too much is not good for any of us. Report
KHALIA2 4/26/2019
Thanks! Report
KHALIA2 2/21/2019
I drink decaf with no added sugar. Report
I make my own version of French Vanilla Coffee … My cup is about 16 oz. I put in 1/2 cup milk, some vanilla, and a teaspoon of raw honey. I add the coffee, milk and vanilla, then heat it up, then add the honey. Its not nearly as syrupy as the commercial French Vanilla coffee. Its about 90 calories and I know what is in it and can pronounce all the ingredients. Milk is a good source of calcium and other nutrients. Report
My husband has been bringing me morning coffee in bed every morning since 2012. I don't like coffee. But who cares about that? My husband brings me coffee! Report
Coffee is a must for me! Report
Not. Giving. Up. My. Coffee. Ever!! Report
I used to be an avid coffee drinker, you might say that I overconsumed the heavenly smelling substance. About 2 years ago, I noticed my pulse would race after drinking even decaffeinated. I decided to quit and have been fine since. I did have a half cup of decaf several weeks ago about 3 hours before going to bed and I lay awake most of the night. Being a Biochemist I would say that we are all a little different biochemically meaning some would be able to drink it with no problems (lucky you) and others like me cannot. Report
Today it was announced on the news that drinking coffee can add years to your life by 15% Several studies over the yrs. have been done. I would guess that's in moderation. Report
Thank you! Report
I have given up sugar, soft drinks and excessive carbs. The coffee stays. Report
I don't know what the big deal is -is this going to be another fat / cholesterol thing? Beware the swinging pendulum!! (ITS BAD NO ITS SAFE) Report
thank you Report
I drink a half gallon of ea a day, but one cup of coffee keeps me awake for over 18 hours. Report
Very informative Report
I love my coffee, the way it tastes and the aroma. I drink it black and usually add a bit of hot water to make it less strong (so I can drink more). The smell of coffee on a cool morning takes me back to summers with my grandparents. Report
I drink the decaf. Report
Mine probably is not, since I have coffee with non dairy creamer without any sweetener. Also I do not like too much creamer. Report
Interesting article! Report
Thank you Report
Great article! Thank you! Report
I only drink half a cup with breakfast. Report
Coffee does not affect me at all because I do not drink it. Report
Great article-but I was left with unanswered questions. Report
I started drinking coffee when I was about 8 years old, and laugh at people who told me it would stunt my growth (I'm 5'9".) Although I rarely drink more than two 10-to-12-oz mugs at breakfast, I couldn't imagine life without it! Report
I like coffee. usually just with breakfast but doesn't seem to keep me up if I drink it later in the day. everyone is different Report
I have not had coffee in over a month now Report
I have 1 cup, once in a while 2 cups, no sugar, just plain coffeemate in the morning. Report
A couple cups in the morning are a necessity! Report
"there is no one clear answer, as the research goes both ways." Probably because we aren't all made the same and have to determine what works best for ourselves.

I think drinking coffee has had a positive effect on my weight. I used it to help cut out soda completely (I drink my coffee black - no added sugar). I did however cut back my coffee consumption lately more due to HBP than weight problems. Report
I love my black coffee in the morning and it makes me feel full. Report
I like it with breakfast, can't drink it on an empty stomach it gets acidic. 2-3 more cups though the day with 1 tsp of creamer and a packet of splenda and I'm happy. None after noon time to switch to water it makes me thirsty! I love the stuff, a starbucks latte once every few months is a nice treat. Has around 330 calories for a grandie, so watch it! Even better is a homemade version using my magic bullet (egg white in the coffee + splenda and whip it up until foamy, a lot less calories! 77 calories. ) So try it. Yw. ;) Report
Good article. Good need-to-know information! Report
Thank you for the information! Report
I enjoy my morning coffee but now I have to be careful because of hypothyroidism. They suggest that we, who are on medication for hypothyroidism, wait 30 min before ingesting coffee due to poor absorption of medication. Report
Coffee is something that I enjoy in the morning and sometimes later in the day. It has not increased my appetite at all. I neded it to wake up; tea would not do the trick. I only put 1 tablespoon of creamer in and do not drink it to the bottom so I do not have to keep adding creamer each time I have a cup. It is not coffee that causes my weight problems but sodium instead and maybe too many snacks during the day sometimes. Report