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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Thank you! Interesting! Report
Thank you! Interesting! Report
Honestly, I have found that a cup of coffee after lunch keeps me fuller longer. I use only a tablespoon of Silk Soy creamer and stevia. It's like dessert! Report
Good info Report
I rarely drink coffee, and only in the winter months. I am a major tea drinker. Report
Caffeine gives me a terrible hunger sensation, always. Report
I'm on a low carb plan, and I have to have cream and stevia in my coffee. I'm limited to 2 cups a day (says my doctor), and I measure my cream (heavy whipping cream) which has little or no carbs. I too am diabetic, and lost 46 lbs a couple of years ago, doing just this. And still to this day, with no weight gain. Key is moderation, I have friends that drink almost a pot a day. Overload, because each cup also means more cream. Even though it's better than half and half and all the creamers (sugar) on the shelves, one can still over kill. Limit and moderation that's my motto! Report
I'm celebrating a whole year of drinking my coffee black at work. I've cut down from 3-4 cups to 1-2. Report
I gave up caffeinated coffee because I read studies that linked it to poor thyroid function. I have hypothyroidism and evidently caffeine sends a false message to your brain/body about the state of your metabolism. I have felt a huge difference in the way I feel and I am losing weight easier than before. I guess just draw your own conclusion. Report
interesting Report
I switched to tea in the morning as found that coffee on an empty stomach upset my tummy. Now have green tea which has a little bit of caffeine and enjoy that. Report
great info Report
... started a serious coffee habit in my forties due to my work schedule...i needed to get up at 4am and had a 1hr drive...have been drinking coffee ever since...bkz i'm diabetic, i had to lose the cream and switch to stevia but i still enjoy my coffee first thing in the morning and have no plans of giving it up!... Report
I love my coffee in the morning. I have one or two cups and if I gave up that it would be detrimental to my health and to those around me....haha! Report
This information is interesting. However, I drink one, maybe two cups of coffee daily. I don’t add sugar. To my thinking, it would be more detrimental if I did not not have my coffee. I honestly do believe that any food or beverage can be the part of a healthy diet, as long as you are aware of the amounts being consumed. So, unless my doctor indicates that coffee is detrimental to my health, I will keep having my morning coffee. Report
I have drunk loads of coffee all my life to no effect and so did the rest of my family Report
I drink a cup or two every morning and I use half and half and sugar. I decided that's the way I like coffee, and I refuse to deprive myself for less than 50 calories! I think people have a tendency to really overthink their choices sometimes. The only diet that works is one you can stick with, long term. So decide what is important and save the deprivation tactics for things that aren't! Report
I don't drink coffee Report
I never drink it Report
I like coffee in the morning. I don't find that it helps or hinders weight loss. I have tried tea over and over. It's not the same enjoyment. Memories of morning coffee with my mother, aunts, grandma's and friends are what makes it so special. Report
I love my morning coffee. Just add a splash of whole milk. Report
Good info! Thank you! Report
Good article. I think everyone needs to look at what the put in their body and decide how it benefits them or not. It can be very different from person to person. I never used to drink coffee until about a year ago. Then my long stressful hours led me to that glorious and disgusting drink. Even with some creamer and Splenda I couldn't get myself to like it but oh how I loved the way it made me feel. However, caffeine is bad for me because of the horrible PMS that I would get. So, after my 3rd or 4th attempt, 55 days ago, I gave it up cold turkey. I'm so glad I did. I feel better and my PMS symptoms have almost completely subsided. (side note: I also gave up alcohol 141 days ago and soda 78 days ago and that helped with the PMS too) for me, making all of those changes makes for a better me. I miss the caffeine and even the alcohol sometimes but I remember two things, one, I have some pretty good streaks going and two, I am so much healthier now so why would I want to change that. Report
I enjoy my morning coffee.. I seem to feel full after drinking it..I have given up many things trying to get healthy.. My coffee will not be one of them Report
I just drink coffee black every morning and it does not seem to affect my weight. Report
Never touch the stuff. I don't understand the excitement over it
I lost my weight and have maintained that loss while enjoying coffee every day. Report
For right now, my morning coffee (16 oz & 60 calories) is a luxury I would not give up. It makes me happy. Report
Mornings without coffee would be detrimental to my mental health. :-) Off to read more articles on coffee's benefits! Report
Great info Report
I kind of tried to give coffee up and use exercise as a boost when I rejoined Spark! This article really gave me some mind boggling questions about how good coffee really is! I haven’t had a cup in a long time and maybe I won’t again unless I am really lacking on sleep! Report
Interesting Report
Thanks for sharing! Report
I really enjoy the one cup of decaf a day that I have. No sugar. Report
Been drinking coffee since age five, had milk in it as a child. Was nothing else to drink then, after the war is why. Been drinking it black over 30 years, even before bed, doesn’t affect sleep. Never drank soda. Tea bothers my stomach, so hate it. Report
Coffee doesn't seem to effect me much. I use to drink it in evenings and slept fine. I usually just have with breakfast now. It seems to help me stay regular. Report
interesting article Report
Interesting. I have one cuppa coffee in the morning then switch to water. Report
I've been drinking coffee in the morning for over 40 years. I used to put sugar in it, but haven't used sugar in coffee in over 30 years. Coffee does not increase my cravings for sugar/sweets. I eat fewer sweets now than I did when I was younger, and I don't even enjoy candy, cake, etc.

What does increase my cravings for sweets during the day is having something sweet for breakfast, or a carb-laden breakfast without protein. So, if you start your day with sugary coffee, or a latte made with a sweet syrup, that may be triggering your cravings for sweets. Report
Great article. I experienced confusing observation on myself with drinking too much coffee and gaining weight. A Chinese cardiac surgeon taught me how to stay alert with tea without the side effects of coffee. I worked on Pu'erh tea early in my medical life and worked later on Matcha tea. Apparently drinking coffee help awareness if taken with moderation; using arabica mild burnt coffee. The cafeol, product of burning, is a toxic described long time ago by French herbalist. The green coffee I drunk in Saoudia from the desert nomads confirmed the observation I got to enjoy coffee with low burn process, and have no side effect. Report
Great Article. Report