Does coffee inhibit weight loss?
Here's our look at coffee and weight loss. Caffeine or coffee can hinder weight loss, often without people being aware of it.
Coffee beans are chemically complex. (This is one reason why different studies about them have yielded different results.)
Furthermore, since different people have different sensitivities to those chemicals, even though coffee is generally recognized as safe for most people, no single general recommendation is right for every individual.
Caffeine is the chemical in coffee that causes the most difficulty. It comes from parts of various plants such as the beans of coffee plants and the leaves of tea bushes. Caffeine is the world’s most widely used psychoactive stimulant.
90% of North American adults consume it daily, usually by drinking coffee, tea, sodas, or energy drinks (as well as in pill form).
Although it’s addictive [sudden withdrawal can cause severe headaches], products containing caffeine can be delicious and are relatively inexpensive.
Coffee and Weight Loss: 4 Problems with Caffeine
Problems in relation to weight loss can arise with any product we ingest that contains caffeine.
There are four reasons:
- As a stimulant, it negatively affects our ability to sleep.
- It correlates with or contributes to causing, insulin resistance and food cravings.
- It can increase appetite.
- GABA is an important neurotransmitter in the central nervous system of mammals. In humans, it helps to regulate neuronal excitability (as well as muscle tone). Caffeine interferes with GABA’s ability to calm us.
Coffee and the Quality of Sleep
What about people who do not need to lose weight?
- For example, should you be concerned if you are nondiabetic (which means you ordinarily maintain a blood sugar level between about 80 and 100 milligrams per deciliter), you have a relatively low percentage of body fat (which means below 15% for men and 20% for women), and you lead a relatively calm life?
- Our answer is “yes.” (Note, though, that someone like that is not likely to be reading this page!) Only if you are certain that you are getting sufficient sleep would such a person not likely experience any harmful physical effects from moderate (1 to 3 cups) daily coffee consumption.
- Since only an extremely small percentage of the population is getting sufficient sleep, this means that nearly everyone who uses it would benefit physically by reducing daily caffeine consumption.
- In short, coffee and weight loss do not go together.
Coffee and Weight Loss: Meet Your Ancestors
Everyone understands that caffeine negatively affects our ability to sleep.
What’s so bad about that?
Surprisingly, the answer is, “a lot” (and so too in relation to coffee and weight loss). So let’s focus only on the first reason listed above. It’s the most important of the four.
Earth is an interactive system of forces, flows, and feedback. We live in what earth-system scientists call the Quaternary period, which includes the Pleistocene epoch that preceded the Holocene epoch that preceded our own epoch, the Anthropocene.
Anatomically modern humans evolved at least 200,000 years ago in Africa from their hominid [great ape] ancestors.
The most recent common ancestor of the Hominidae [hominid bush of species] lived about 14 million years ago.
Nearly all our evolution occurred in the Pleistocene epoch, which began about 2,588,000 years ago and ended just 12,000 years ago.
Our social, cultural, and economic environments have dramatically changed in the last 12,000 years. The central fact that underlies all, or nearly all, of our health problems, is this we are living in the Anthropocene with Pleistocene bodies.
Therefore, in relation to coffee and weight loss, or if we want to improve our health, we should return to acting in ways that are more suitable for our bodies. This means eating, exercising, and sleeping more like our ancestors of 50,000 or 200,000 years ago.
What about sleeping?
What did our ancestors do? Generally, they went to sleep when it got dark and got up with the morning’s first light.
What they did not do was use electric lights to stay up way past dark. Nor did they read a book or listen to the radio or watch television after dark.
After the sun went down they did not talk on telephones, cell phones, or VOIP phones. They did not drive their cars at night to go shopping or to movies or bars and they didn’t surf the world wide web.
We have stopped emulating them. We have paid a serious physical price for doing so.
Diseases such as obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and cancer ultimately come from metabolic dysfunctions grounded in physics and our biology. SLEEP IS OUR MOST IMPORTANT IMMUNOLOGICAL DEFENSE SYSTEM.
By not getting sufficient sleep, we are over-stressing our bodies.
By over-stressing our bodies, we are suffering from the ubiquitous diseases of civilization that were unknown to our ancestors.
(A very good book on this is T. S. Wiley’s Lights Out.)
To maximize your ability to stabilize your percentage of body fat at a healthful level, sleep all night long in the dark every night.
Permanently eliminate anything in your life that interferes with your doing that.
Insofar as caffeine interferes at all with your ability to go to sleep in the dark when the sun goes down and to sleep all night, it is counter-productive to good health.
The same goes for everything else that interferes with your sleep; during the dark stop using electric lights, radios, television, phones, automobiles, and so on. Avoid shift work if you can.
In a way, this is unfortunate: there’s no free lunch. If you want your body to work as well as possible for you, you need to take proper care of it.
On the other hand (in relation to coffee and weight loss and good health), this is good news: by returning to a more natural way of living, you can be healthier as well as enjoy the benefits of civilization that were also unknown to our ancestors!
Our ancestors did not need to worry about the coffee and weight loss. They were fitter, leaner, stronger, and healthier than we are.
(Yes, their lives were often shorter but only because they lived in more physically dangerous conditions.) Not many of us would have been a match for them. They had no need for weight-loss diets.
We cannot recommend that you drink coffee, either (apart from the occasional treat).
The basic idea is that we would all be better off physically if we returned to living much more like our ancestors. We would also almost certainly be better off psychologically as well.
We, therefore, encourage you to examine your own habits with respect to coffee and weight loss from that perspective.