Can you get started with your day without caffeine? Few of us can. It doesn’t matter whether you consume your caffeine as coffee, tea, chocolate, or any other form.
Caffeine has become the universal pick-me-up, the drug we turn to whenever we need a quick energy boost. And it’s a legal drug that the US Food and Drug Authority considers generally safe to consume.
Aside from shooting you up with a quick energy jolt, did you know that caffeine may help you lose weight as well? How does caffeine help with weight loss? And does it really work? Let’s find out.
What is caffeine?
First of all, what is caffeine? Caffeine is a methylxanthine alkaloid whose main function is to stimulate the central nervous system to boost wakefulness, mental alertness and energy levels. It’s naturally found in more than 60 plants mostly native to South America and East Asia.
The main source of caffeine is the coffee bean, which is used to manufacture coffee. Even so, the guarana berry, the fruit of a maple plant that grows only in the Amazon Basin, contains more caffeine than coffee beans.
Depending on the bean species and how it was roasted, a gram of coffee beans can contain 8.39mg of caffeine. On the other hand, a gram of guarana berries can have 47mg of caffeine.
Another major source of caffeine is Camilla sinensis. The leaves of this plant are used in tea manufacturing. Cacao beans, from which we get chocolate, are another potent caffeine source. Cola drinks and energy drinks typically get their caffeine from kola nuts.
Pharmaceutical companies also make synthetic caffeine. This synthetic caffeine is generally used in over-the-counter medicines such as pain relievers and medicine for colds. Energy drinks and energy snacks also contain synthetic caffeine.
How does caffeine help you lose weight?
Caffeine’s ability to help you lose weight all boils down to the fact that it’s a stimulant. According to a 1999 study where mice were fed oolong tea, caffeine can stimulate the central nervous system to send signals to fatty cells. The signals are supposed to direct fatty cells to break down fat to make it readily available to burn for energy.
Another thing that caffeine does is to encourage the body to increase its epinephrine levels. Epinephrine is also known as adrenaline.
A 1994 study found that a caffeine-induced increase in epinephrine levels in the blood can coax fatty cells to break down fat. This fat is then used as energy. However, at the same time, a boost in epinephrine levels caused by caffeine consumption can reduce insulin sensitivity, according to a 2002 study.
Caffeine can also increase your metabolic rate, the rate by which your body burns calories. In a 1995 study on healthy male volunteers, it was found that the subjects elevated their metabolism after drinking coffee. Their metabolism remained high for up to three hours after their coffee consumption.
However, a different 1995 study indicated that caffeine’s ability to boost metabolism is more pronounced in lean subjects and less noticeable in obese subjects.
Age is also a factor; in another 1995 study, younger subjects burned calories faster than older subjects after consuming caffeine.
Additionally, caffeine can help in suppressing appetite, according to a 2009 review. The review reported that reintroducing caffeinated coffee to regular coffee consumers after a period of abstinence reduced their food intake. They ate fewer meals, though they didn’t change the size of their meals.
If anything, consuming caffeine can push you to do more – run faster, jog longer, or do more repetitions at the gym. The energy boost that caffeine gives you allows you to do so.
A 2013 study suggested that drinking caffeine an hour before an endurance exercise can improve your performance in doing the exercise.
Does caffeine have other health benefits?
Most of us get our caffeine doses from coffee and tea. Both drinks have health benefits that have little to do with weight loss.
Let’s start with the health benefits of coffee:
- Coffee is rich in nutrients such as the B vitamins, potassium, magnesium, manganese, and folate. You can fill up considerably on your recommended daily allowances (RDA) if you drink a cup or two of coffee a day. The Vitamin B content of an 80oz cup of coffee alone can make up 11% of your riboflavin RDA. Coffee is also rich in disease-fighting antioxidants. A 2004 study claims that coffee contains more antioxidants than fruits and vegetables combined. All these add up the more coffee you drink every day.
- Coffee boosts brain functions. It stimulates the release of neurotransmitters like dopamine and norepinephrine to increase mental alertness and to drive away fatigue. Coffee can also enhance mood and memory. And because coffee can improve mood, it can lower the risk for depression.
- Coffee can reduce your risk for neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s, for type-2 diabetes, as well as for liver diseases such as cirrhosis and liver cancer.
- Moderate coffee drinking can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease, especially in women.
Tea is known to have many positive effects as well. Here are the health benefits of tea:
- Tea is rich in antioxidants, particularly polyphenols. These antioxidants help prevent disease and protect individual cells from damage.
- Tea can reduce blood pressure, bad cholesterol, oxidative stress, and inflammation. All these are markers that can lead to diseases such as type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases.
- Tea can help slow down bone loss in age-related osteoporosis in both men and women.
- Tea can help prevent or lower your risk for neurodegenerative diseases like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as Parkinson’s disease.
There’s more to coffee and tea than simply waking you up in the morning and giving you a pick-me-up whenever you need an energy boost.
Regular consumption of coffee and tea can help you improve your health and protect you against certain diseases. This goes beyond what health and weight loss benefits that caffeine can supply you.
Does caffeine have potential side effects?
As the old adage goes, too much of a good thing can become bad for you too. Sure, you can get a number of benefits from consuming caffeine. However, taking too much can become harmful to your body. Here are a few potential side effects associated with consuming too much caffeine:
- Anxiety. Inasmuch as consuming caffeine can help improve your mood, drinking too much can become a downer. A 2015 study of secondary school students in Southwestern England showed that high caffeine intake is linked with anxiety and even depression.
- Sleep disruption. If you’ve ever observed why you have trouble sleeping after drinking a cup of coffee, the caffeine in your drink is the culprit. Caffeine consumption, especially before sleeping, can keep you wakeful. Caffeine can also prevent you from entering the deeper stages of non-rapid eye movement sleep.
- Raise blood pressure. There is no conclusive link between caffeine consumption and heart disease. However, there is proof that consuming caffeine can be problematic for people who already have high blood pressure. Caffeine can further elevate blood pressure for these people.
- Addiction and withdrawal. Caffeine may be considered generally safe for consumption. But this doesn’t change the fact that it is a psychoactive drug that stimulates the central nervous system. Thus, you can become addicted to caffeine. If you’re a habitual coffee drinker, you may find that you may need more servings of caffeine to achieve the physical effect you desire. When you stop drinking coffee, even for a short time, you may experience withdrawal symptoms, such as stomachache, nausea, severe headaches, and jitteriness.
Another thing you need to remember about caffeine is that its effects don’t last long. As mentioned earlier, the more you become dependent on caffeine, the more you may need to attain its effects.
Should you take caffeine supplements?
The energy boost that you can get from caffeine can help you get started with your workouts. They can also help you keep going whenever the workouts become more challenging. This is why caffeine supplements are often marketed towards runners, bodybuilders, and athletes.
Do you intend to train for a sport or activity that involves a lot of endurance, such as long-distance running or bodybuilding? Then maybe taking caffeine supplements can help you out.
Caffeine supplements can give you the power boost you need. Moreover, it can make more fat reserves available for you to burn as energy.
However, if you don’t intend to do heavy workouts as part of your weight loss regimen, you don’t need caffeine supplements at all. Proper nutrition and a good exercise routine is all you need.
If you need a boost, you can stick to a cup or two of good, old-fashioned joe. You’re likely to experience the side effects of caffeine supplementation if you’re not using it to power up a heavy workout.
How do I safely include caffeine in my diet?
So you can safely enjoy the boost and benefits of caffeine, you should limit your intake to no more than 400mg daily. The daily limit should factor in all the caffeine sources you drink and eat. This includes coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, energy drinks, caffeine pills, and any other caffeine sources you may consume regularly.
What does 400mg of caffeine equivalent to? Depending on how the beans were roasted and how the coffee was brewed, 400mg of caffeine is approximately four cups of brewed coffee.
That amount of caffeine is also present in around eight cups of brewed black tea and 13 cups of brewed green tea. You’ll have to drink five 20oz servings of Diet Coke to get that much caffeine, as well as five 8oz bottles of Red Bull energy drink.
If you want to know more about the caffeine content of a lot of the food and drinks we consume on a daily basis, you can find more information on how much caffeine popular caffeinated foods and drinks have in this caffeine chart.
How do you get started on caffeine if you’re not a regular caffeine consumer? The best way to go about it is to start your consumption gradually and observe how your body reacts to caffeine.
For example, you can begin by drinking a cup of black coffee in the morning. Take note of how drinking coffee makes you feel. You may experience adverse effects, such as stomachache and diarrhea, but these effects usually fade after a couple of days. As soon as your body gets used to your current caffeine dosage, then you can add to it.
So, following this example, you can start drinking two cups of coffee instead of one, and then three instead of two. You have reached your caffeine sensitivity limit when the adverse effects won’t go away after a couple of days. In that case, scale down your caffeine consumption. Remember to never go beyond 400mg of caffeine daily.
Another thing to remember is if you want to experience the benefits of caffeine, you shouldn’t add anything unnecessary to your drink. If you can take your drink without adding sugar or cream, then don’t mix anything in.
Sugar and cream, and other additives, can load up your drink with calories. This makes your caffeinated drink a beverage for gaining weight rather than for losing it. So, unless you really have to have it, stay clear of branded lattes, frappucinos, and other fancy coffee.
When should I stop taking caffeine?
Before you get started on caffeine and enjoy its benefits, you should find out if caffeine will really benefit you. Caffeine can be harmful to some people. You need to stay away from caffeine and other caffeinated drinks if you:
- Are pregnant or breastfeeding, as caffeine can travel from your bloodstream or your breast milk to your child
- Have high blood pressure, as caffeine can further elevate your blood pressure
- Suffer from insomnia or any other sleep disorder, as caffeine can worsen your condition
- Have gastrointestinal disorders, as caffeine can have negative effects on your condition
If you have any of these conditions, it would be best if you consult your doctor first before you start or resume consuming caffeine.
Caffeine can help with weight loss. After all, it’s a drug that stimulates the central nervous system into making more fat available for energy burning. Fat burning for energy can lead to your losing weight.
But there’s a limit to the benefits of caffeine, and you should stick to the recommended daily allowance if you want to reap these benefits.