Chances are, you’ve seen someone on social media raving about weight loss coffee. Its devotees claim it’s a quick-fix slim-down drink that can help you burn fat, control your appetite, and give you “visible results in one week.”
So does weight loss coffee actually work, or is it too good to be true? What’s the science behind coffee and weight loss? Grab a cup of joe and let’s dive into the facts.
What Is Weight Loss Coffee?
The ingredients vary from brand to brand, but most weight loss coffees combine instant coffee powder with a weight-loss supplement called garcinia cambogia, and many also add green coffee bean extract and green tea extract.
But research on dietary supplements has shown that garcinia cambogia has mixed results — and has been associated with negative side effects.
Green coffee bean extract and green tea extract, on the other hand, may actually have possible modest weight-loss effects — but one study showed similar benefits from drinking 4 standard cups of green tea a day.
In short, weight loss coffees are just a gimmick, says Denis Faye, executive director of nutrition for Openfit.
Can You Drink Coffee for Weight Loss?
Here’s the good news — there is some research that shows a link between a regular old cup of coffee and weight loss. Most of this science is on the effects of caffeine (the stimulant in coffee) and chlorogenic acid (a type of organic acid with antioxidant properties). Here are a few ways coffee may support weight loss.
1. Coffee Raises Your Metabolic Rate
Caffeine is known to help boost metabolism. When you consume caffeine, it blocks a chemical in the body called adenosine that promotes sleep. In turn, more adrenaline is free to circulate in your body, which boosts your resting metabolic rate. (But it’s still not a substitute for working out.)
2. Coffee Could Improve Your Workouts
Because coffee gives you an energy boost, drinking it before a workout may have benefits. “If you consume coffee—or caffeine in general—and then exercise, you may be able to exercise harder,” Faye says. “That means a better workout. Theoretically, that means you should be able to lose more weight.” (Caffeine is one of the primary ingredients in the Openfit Fuel Pre-Workout supplement.)
3. Coffee Increases the Breakdown of Fat Tissue
“Caffeine helps increase fat metabolism and reduces fat storage,” explains Marilyn Cornelis, PhD, a professor of preventive medicine in the division of nutrition at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Research indicates caffeine can also increase the breakdown of fat — but, Cornelis adds, it’s unknown if this could lead to significant weight loss.
There’s one other link between coffee and fat tissue — excessive caffeine intake can increase levels of cortisol, the stress hormone that’s been linked to obesity and abdominal fat. But keep in mind that the linked study looked at a caffeine intake of 750mg a day — that’s over seven cups of coffee. So that doesn’t mean you need to swear off coffee when you’re trying to lose weight. The research on cortisol and weight gain is usually focused on the effects of chronic stress —plus, when you drink coffee every day, the cortisol response appears to lessen over time.
Can Coffee Lower Your Appetite?
On the other hand, in a recent study, Cornelis found that drinking eight cups of coffee daily decreased metabolites in the blood related to the endocannabinoid system — the same ones affected by cannabis. So it’s possible that coffee may have the opposite effect of the munchies.
And chlorogenic acid has been shown to help regulate glucose metabolism. “That might have an impact on your eating,” Cornelis says.
But overall, the research on coffee and hunger is conflicting — there’s really no definitive answer on whether or not caffeine suppresses appetite. But if you’ve personally found that drinking coffee keeps you from feeling hangry all the time, go ahead and enjoy it.
Can CGA Keep You From Absorbing Carbs?
While there’s some evidence that suggests chlorogenic acid may block the absorption of some sugars, more research is still needed — and it definitely doesn’t mean you can eat whatever you want.
“When you say, ‘this inhibits you from absorbing carbs,’ you may think you can drink coffee and then eat another piece of cake without harm,” Faye says. “That’s flawed thinking. The amount of sugar that CGA may prevent you from absorbing is microscopic compared to what you’d eat.” If you want to lose weight, you still need to be on top of your nutrition game.
What About Bulletproof Coffee?
The weight loss coffee trend might bring back memories of the recent bulletproof coffee craze. The company behind the original bulletproof coffee recipe — which combined coffee with butter and coconut oil — claimed the beverage could improve mental clarity and help with weight loss.
But like weight loss coffee, bulletproof coffee is mostly just hype. “There is a little bit of research showing the body metabolizes medium chain fatty acids [in coconut oil and butter] differently than other fats. But they’re still fats,” Faye says. “It’s still hundreds of calories you are adding to your diet.”
And if you drink butter coffee instead of eating breakfast, you’re missing out on protein, carbohydrates, and phytonutrients you would get from eating whole foods.
Is Coffee Healthy to Drink During Weight Loss?
Bottom line: If you like coffee, it’s fine to drink it while you’re trying to lose weight. Just don’t expect it to work any weight-loss miracles.
And make sure your version of “coffee” isn’t loaded with hidden calories and added sugars. Many fancy drinks at coffee shops are an ice cream shake in disguise. “I guarantee that shot of espresso hiding in all that sugar and cream isn’t doing anything for you,” Faye says. “Be mindful of what you put in there.”
But you don’t have to switch to black coffee, either — if you like a little bit of milk and sugar, add it. “There are about ten teaspoons of sugar in a can of soda pop,” Faye says. “If you have coffee with one teaspoon of sugar instead, you’re doing pretty good.”
What Are the Best Drinks for Weight Loss?
While there’s no magic coffee that can make you lose weight, some drinks are better for weight loss than others. As much as you can, drink unsweetened beverages such as:
- black coffee
- black tea
“People always look for one thing that will be a miracle changer, and there is no such thing,” Faye says. Even if coffee had some potential weight-loss benefits, he adds, “It has to be part of an overall nutrition strategy.” So drink your coffee if you like it, but don’t expect your caffeine habit to be a shortcut to weight loss.