Burning Body Fat with Coffee: 9 Tips for Your Fitness & Health
You’ve heard about coffee’s benefits. But have you heard them all? What about its fat-burning potential? Earl Williams, owner of Georgetown’s Definitions Personal Trainers’ Gym, interviews Katherine Tallmadge (me), about coffee, the scientific facts about its health and fitness benefits, and 9 tips for how you can make coffee work for you.
Earl: I developed Metabolic Resistance Training (MRT) to help clients optimize fat burn and I’m always looking for other ways to complement this. What are the benefits of drinking coffee for those who exercise with the goal of fat loss?
Katherine: The caffeine in coffee enhances physical performance. “Caffeine may act directly on muscle to enhance its capacity to exercise,” according to “Essentials of Exercise Physiology,” by William D. McArdle and Frank L. Katch. It facilitates the use of fat as fuel for exercise, thus sparing the body’s limited glycogen reserves, according to McArdle and Katch. “Coffee can be a positive part of a sports diet if a person chooses to drink a cup of coffee before they work out,” said Nancy Clark, author of Sports Nutrition Guidebook. Coffee / caffeine also increases metabolism causing the body to burn more calories, according to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (1).
Earl: Coffee drinkers commonly add sugar, artificial sweeteners, milk, syrups, etc. How do these additives affect the benefits of drinking coffee?
Katherine: Most of them add calories. So, keep in mind that one syrupy, high calorie drink (some as high as 500 calories — 1⁄4 of one day’s calorie needs) can make the difference between losing and not losing weight. That said, a Latte or Cappuccino are especially good to drink, not only because of the caffeine, but also because of the protein, carbohydrate, potassium and other nutrients contained in the milk.
Earl: Is there a window of time before, during, or after the workout that coffee should be consumed?
Katherine: “People have different sensitivities and reactions to caffeine,” said Clark. But, “peak concentration is within 30 and 120 minutes after ingestion to exert an influence on the nervous, cardiovascular and muscular systems,” according to McArdle and Katch.
Earl: Any guidance on the daily amount consumed?
Katherine: That would be personalized and depend on a person’s tolerance level of coffee/caffeine. But “drinking the amount of caffeine (330 mg*) in 2.5 cups of coffee one hour before exercising significantly extends endurance in intense aerobic exercise,” according to McArdle and Katch. Which means you can exercise longer before feeling its effects, thus increasing endurance.
Earl: Caffeine in coffee helps mobilize fat in tissues and the bloodstream making the fatty acids available as fuel for exercise—thus sparing and making accessible—muscle and liver glycogen for performance. What are fatty acids?
Katherine: Fat, called triglycerides, partly comes from food and ends up in the bloodstream. When you exercise regularly (every 24 hours), fat/triglycerides are sent into the muscles where it is burned as fuel. If you do not exercise often enough, the triglycerides stay in the bloodstream causing obesity, high bad (LDL) cholesterol and high blood triglycerides – all associated with an increased risk of heart disease.
Earl: The fitness community once thought coffee was a diuretic and could not provide the hydration water could. Is this still the case?
Katherine: Coffee and tea are now considered good hydrators, according to the most recent scientific analysis and report by the National Academy of Science’s Food and Nutrition Board (2).
Earl: Under what circumstances should coffee be avoided?
Katherine: You should ask your doctor if you should avoid or limit coffee, especially if you have high blood pressure or are pregnant.
Earl: What are some of the other health benefits of drinking coffee?
Katherine: The research is promising. Some recent studies suggest that coffee may be associated with a reduced incidence of all causes of death and cardiovascular disease (3), of Type 2 Diabetes (4), Parkinson’s Disease (5), Alzheimer’s (6), Multiple Sclerosis (7), liver cancer(8) – the second leading cause of cancer deaths world-wide – and perhaps other health conditions. Of course, though exciting, the research is just in its beginning stages. More controlled human clinical studies are needed to learn more specifics as to why and how coffee may or may not work to improve your health.
Earl: Any other thoughts about coffee?
Katherine: It is important that the exerciser test the effect of different levels of coffee/caffeine on their performance several times to determine the ideal amount and achieve the best level of performance before any major competition or long term bout of exercise.
(1) Normal caffeine consumption: influence on the thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postboxes human volunteers. AG Dulloo, CA Geissler, T Horton, A Collins and DS Miller. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1989:49:44-50;
(4) “Changes in coffee intake and subsequent risk of type 2 diabetes: three large cohorts of US men and women,” Shilpa N. Bhupathiraju, An Pan, JoAnn E. Manson, Walter C. Willett, Rob M. van Dam, Frank B. Hu, Diabetologia, online April 24, 2014, DOI 10.1007/s00125-014-3235-7
(5) Association of Coffee and Caffeine Intake With the Risk of Parkinson Disease. G. Webster Ross, MD; Robert D. Abbott, PhD; Helen Petrovitch, MD; David M. Morens, MD; Andrew Grandinetti, PhD; Ko-Hui Tung, MS; Caroline M. Tanner, MD, PhD; Kamal H. Masaki, MD; Patricia L. Blanchette, MD, MPH; J. David Curb, MD, MPH; Jordan S. Popper, MD; Lon R. White, MD, MPH JAMA. 2000;283(20):2674-2679. doi:10.1001/jama.283.20.2674.
(8) World Cancer Research Fund International’s Continuous Update Project (CUP)
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