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. There are even SparkTeams devoted to coffee lovers.
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.

Join us each month as we sift through the so-called life hacks and miracle cures to get to the bottom of the latest buzzworthy trend. Get the facts and decide for yourself if you should Spark It or Scrap It.

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KHALIA2 2/21/2019
I drink decaf with no added sugar. Report
7STIGGYMT 12/4/2018
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
JESURMI 7/18/2018
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
ALUKOWSKY 7/16/2018
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
JAMER123 7/2/2018
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
ARTJAC 7/2/2018
Thank you! Report
I have given up sugar, soft drinks and excessive carbs. The coffee stays. Report
CHRIS3874 7/1/2018
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
AZMOMXTWO 7/1/2018
thank you Report
PICKIE98 7/1/2018
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
GETULLY 7/1/2018
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
KHALIA2 7/1/2018
I drink the decaf. Report
RAPUNZEL53 7/1/2018
Mine probably is not, since I have coffee with non dairy creamer without any sweetener. Also I do not like too much creamer. Report
NEPTUNE1939 7/1/2018
TY Report
EMGERBER 7/1/2018
Interesting article! Report
AMYRCMK 7/1/2018
Thank you Report
Great article! Thank you! Report
JANIEWWJD 7/1/2018
I only drink half a cup with breakfast. Report
Coffee does not affect me at all because I do not drink it. Report
KATHYJO56 6/24/2018
Great article-but I was left with unanswered questions. Report
ALUKOWSKY 6/18/2018
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
FOTOGRA 6/18/2018
Thanks for the article, it was interesting to know this information from a professional like you
/ Report
KITTYHAWK1949 6/14/2018
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
MIYAMO 6/11/2018
I have 1 cup, once in a while 2 cups, no sugar, just plain coffeemate in the morning. Report
SHOAPIE 6/7/2018
A couple cups in the morning are a necessity! Report
ASH2HEALTH 6/5/2018
"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
EMGERBER 6/5/2018
I love my black coffee in the morning and it makes me feel full. Report
DARKOCEAN 6/4/2018
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
MSROZZIE 6/4/2018
Good article. Good need-to-know information! Report
AQUAGIRL08 6/4/2018
Thank you for the information! Report
HEDSTS58 6/4/2018
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
SPARKFRAN514 6/4/2018
I enjoy coffee when i go out to breakfast with friends or just drink water other drinks also contain caffeine. I feel we just need to watch how manage our coffee intake it reminds me of eat this not that group. Report
SPINECCO 6/4/2018
Excellent article. Thanks for sharing. Report
JUNETTA2002 6/4/2018
Very interesting thank you for sharing. Report
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
LIS193 6/4/2018
Good info Report
PICKIE98 6/4/2018
I rarely drink coffee, and only in the winter months. I am a major tea drinker. Report
PATRICIA-CR 6/4/2018
Caffeine gives me a terrible hunger sensation, always. Report
Ok 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
SABLENESS 6/4/2018
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