Will Coffee Help Me Drop Weight?
Does caffeine burn fat? What about spicy hot peppers or ice-cold water? Learn if these and other “metabolism boosters” are worth your time and effort.
I’ve seen the headlines.
- Best Metabolism Boosters to Shed Pounds Fast
- Lose Weight with Coffee and Jalapenos
- Rev Your Metabolism with Hard-Boiled Eggs and Chicken Breasts
Could these claims be true? Is it wizardry or wishful thinking? If I follow the yellow brick road of promises, will I boost my metabolic rate and firm my flabby thighs?
Are metabolism boosters worth your time and effort?
If I lost an ounce of fat every time a client asked me about metabolism boosters, I’d be a skinny minnie, for sure!
Weight loss is about as easy as learning calculus in a foreign language, so it’s no wonder we grab hold of each promise – no matter how magical it appears. And there’s no escaping the claims. Bloggers, friends, even health professionals talk about a weight-loss edge with this food or that supplement.
But are they helpful, or do they waste your time and energy? Even worse: can they harm you?
Here are 7 diet tricks you’ve heard of. Let’s check them out.
#1 Does caffeine burn fat?
I started drinking black coffee in college to manage my weight. All these years later and it still sits on my list of three favorite foods. I love the way it warms my hands when I wrap both around my cup. And I love the way its slightly bitter taste wakes up my mouth and gets my brain moving first thing in the morning.
But coffee has other qualities to admire. It’s:
- almost calorie-free
- loaded with health-boosting phytonutrients
- linked to lower risks of endometrial and other cancers
- a source of our most consumed stimulant: caffeine
Caffeine and other compounds in coffee may actually boost your metabolic rate, at least according to short-term studies.
But: Long term studies have not shown caffeine to cause weight loss. Some researchers speculate we build a tolerance to the metabolism-revving effects of caffeine. Caffeine also speeds your heart rate and can cause sleepless nights. For healthy adults (who are not pregnant or lactating), the FDA suggests a safe amount of caffeine is 400 mg per day, which is the equivalent of 3 – 4 cups of coffee.
What to do: Drink caffeinated beverages in amounts you tolerate. Avoid caffeine supplements.
In college, drinking black coffee was my way to enjoy the company of my friends without ordering and eating calorie-loaded food and drink. Now I drink black coffee every day. Lots of it. Because I could drink it by the pot instead of the cup, I mix regular and decaffeinated coffees together. I like the burst of energy from an espresso or cup of coffee, but I love sleeping soundly even more.
#2: Should you put your lips on fire?
Capsaicin, the compound responsible for the burn of chili peppers, also has some science supporting a metabolic boost. These hot peppers bump up your metabolic rate and use a few more calories for a short time after meals by stimulating your sympathetic nervous system.
But: Because capsaicin is so pungent, researchers found that it’s hard to comply long term. Plus, the extra calories are pretty slim.
What to do: Eat jalapeños and other spicy peppers if you like them, but remember food is meant to be enjoyed. Don’t make your food unpalatable just to burn a few extra calories.
#3: Does green tea rev your metabolism?
I love green teas (and coffee and spicy peppers too) and it’s got a lot of health-boosting compounds.
But: studies don’t show gobs of weight dropping off by drinking tea of any type.
What to do: Drink green tea if you like it. Don’t go overboard because it too has caffeine that can keep you awake and make your heart race. Skip the bottled teas. They don’t have the health-boosting flavonols found in freshly brewed tea.
#4: What about drinking ice-cold water?
I first heard this advice from another health professional, so I dug into the science to make sense of it. Indeed, we do burn more calories when our bodies warm very cold beverages compared to thirst-quenchers of other temperatures. Researchers found we burn about 8 – 12 extra calories when we warm up a cup of water.
What to do: Drink water. Drink it at any temperature you like. It’s a healthful beverage – and way better than sugary beverages or coffee drinks that resemble milkshakes.Spicy peppers, cold water + 5 other metabolism boosters. Here's what you should know.Click To Tweet
#5: What happens if you pile on the protein?
While I’ve got nothing against hard-boiled eggs or chicken breasts, they’re not a solution to a sluggish metabolic rate.
But it is true that every time you eat, you burn calories to digest, absorb and store nutrients. This is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). The TEF is greater for protein than it is for either fat or carbohydrate, so beefing up your diet with protein does burn a few more calories. Note the emphasis on few.
But: Adding extra protein adds way more calories than you burn through the TEF. And good health requires the nutrients and health-boosting compounds from a variety of foods, including fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and more.
What to do: Include protein-rich foods in every meal for balanced nutrition and to help with appetite control, not because you’ll burn a few extra calories.
#6: Is grazing good?
The myth that eating frequently is universally good for weight loss especially irritates me. Check out Are Snacks Good or Bad for Weight Loss to learn why.
So many myths have an inch of truth but a mile of misunderstanding. This is a perfect example. Yes, every time you eat, you burn calories for digestion, absorption and storage. On average, the TEF boosts metabolic rate by 10%.
But: It has nothing to do with the number of times you eat in 24 hours and everything to do with what you eat and the total calories you eat in 24 hours. In other words, if you ate the exact same food ringing up 1600 calories over three meals or seven, the TEF would be no different. Your 24-hour metabolic rate would essentially be the same.
What to do: Choose healthful foods. Eat at the frequency that satisfies you and helps you manage hunger. Don’t snack for the sole purpose of managing your weight.
#7 Should you take diet supplements?
Lots of supplements claim to boost metabolism or stoke metabolic rate. Some contain green tea catechins, guarana, yerba mate or caffeine among other things.
But: These supplements are not federally regulated and come with risks. In fact, about 20% of the cases of liver toxicity are caused by herbal and dietary supplements.
What to do: Take no supplements for weight loss before talking to a member of your healthcare team.
Are metabolism boosters worth your trip to Oz?
When you’ve reached the end of the yellow brick road and pulled back the curtain, you discover there is no wizard, no magic at all.
Though some of these diet tricks might help you burn a few extra calories a day, no science proves a benefit. The bigger problem is distraction. Forcing yourself to drink 12 glasses of ice-cold water or to eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with jalapenos sprinkled about takes time, energy and focus from things we know matter.
Here’s what you should do
Put your energy – a limited commodity – into de-stressing and burning a few calories by taking a walk. Spend more effort planning your meals, shopping for groceries and preparing tasty, nourishing foods. Instead of wondering if caffeine burns fat, simply enjoy your coffee or tea (without the calorie-packed sugars, syrups and creams).
Know that the best (and safest) boost to your metabolic rate comes from moving. Take a walk. Hop on a bike. Mop your floor. Repeat.
Finally, join this community to discover the mindset and habits to stick with healthy lifestyle choices most of the time — and drop the guilt when you don’t.
I'm Jill, and I believe simple changes in your mindset and health habits can bring life-changing rewards. And I don't believe in willpower. It's waaaay overrated. As a food-loving registered dietitian nutritionist, certified diabetes care and education specialist and certified health and wellness coach, I've helped thousands of people solve their food and nutrition problems. If you're looking for a better way to master this whole healthy eating/healthy living thing or if you're trying to prevent or manage diabetes or heart problems, you'll find plenty of resources right here.
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Welcome to my Blog
Hi there! I'm Jill, a nutrition & diabetes expert and the author of 4 books.
I believe simple changes in health habits can bring you life-changing rewards.
And I believe willpower is way overrated.
Right here is where you can discover the mindset and habits to stick with healthy lifestyle choices most of the time - and drop the guilt when you don't.