He Said, She Said … Does Coffee Make You Store Fat?

Written by Grant Roberts. Posted in Unified News

The other day I was listening to a morning show radio when two hosts’ commenced debating over the advice their respective personal trainers had given them. “My trainer said drinking coffee makes you store fat,” she said, while he responded, “Well my trainer says coffee helps you burn fat”

Followed by a public appeal in search of a definitive answer. So here it is:

First let me be perfectly clear, we are talking about hot black coffee nothing more nothing less, no milk, no cream, no sugar, no artificial sweetener, no whip, no nothing… hot black coffee in a cup – that’s it, that’s all.

The next consideration is how of course how many cups, because the amount of coffee can have consequences.

The Short answer… or even the Tall or Grande answer if you prefer is, that coffee DOES promote fat burning.

Hot coffee is a thermogenic (increases your body temperature) and to address the question more accurately coffee’s active ingredient caffeine is a stimulant which increases heart rate and boosts metabolism contributing to a higher percentage of stored fat being burned as a fuel.

Personally, I highly recommend exploiting the benefits of coffee for even more reasons.

Coffee makes you alert and speeds the flow of information in the brain.

Recent studies demonstrate that coffee promotes heart health and reduce the risk of diabetes. Coffee is a rich source of antioxidants, the phenolic compounds in coffee are associated with improved insulin sensitivity, which reduces that risk of diabetes, and additionally the compounds are potentially anti-carcinogenic.

Coffee also promotes liver health (all nutrients pass through the liver… a healthy functioning liver is of vital importance). Coffee enemas, yes, you read that right… are also a great detoxifier of the liver.

The only potential problem in coffee paradise falls within the old adage… too much of a good thing.

It’s not a calorie issue. Coffee by itself has little to no calories (0-5 calories per cup on average) depending on the type of coffee. This of course is not the case if you add milk, sugar, cream or a shot of Baileys.

But again we are only talking about drinking hot black coffee. Anyone that follows my work knows that I do not subscribe to the overly simplified calorie in versus calorie out theory for body composition management, and the potential for coffee to be a contributing factor for excess fat storage is an excellent case and point.

The potential for fat storage from coffee has nothing to do with the fact that coffee has virtually no calories. I have always suggested that calories don’t actually exist, because a calorie is just a term used to describe the amount of energy produced when you burn a nutritional ingredient in a metal oven.

While it is sometimes joked about as a characterization, humans don’t actually have cast iron stomachs. Therefore, in much the same way we don’t retain a pound of body weight when we eat a pound of food, a calorie from one nutrient is not the same as a calorie from another.

The reality is, all foods are not created equal and instead nutrients break down into the molecular ingredients that elicit hormonal and chemical responses that provide a myriad of drug like reactions.

Coffee is a great example since caffeine is unquestionably understood to be powerful drug. So much so, that we can feel the effects of caffeine within just a few minutes of ingesting, and caffeine’s half-life can remain active in your system for anywhere from 4 to 8 hours dependent upon your metabolism and what other nutrients are in your system.

Caffeine promotes the production of the big three neurotransmitters, adrenaline, epinephrine and dopamine that provide the temporary boost in energy and mood  and why coffee is such a popular beverage …however too much can caffeine can make you agitated, shaky, irritable or anxious – this is perceived as stress which in turn causes the body to produce the stress hormone cortisol.

This is where the idea that coffee can lead to fat storage comes from… Chronically elevated cortisol and stress levels can have negative consequences to your mood and the ability to sleep. Therefore the shred of truth that coffee can contribute to storing fat is due to sleep deprivation from overconsumption of caffeine. Lack of sleep is a leading cause of excess fat being stored by the body.

Ironically the solution is : Don’t get stressed out about or from drinking coffee.  Stop drinking coffee early enough to get a goodnight sleep … problem solved.

So there you have it: Use coffee responsibly and it will help you shed or maintain a healthy body fat percentage.

The Takeaway … Coffee to Go

Don’t Drink Too Much Coffee – However too much is likely more than you think. Two recent studies (Harvard, 2011 and European, 2012) demonstrated positive metabolic, liver function and reduced risk of diabetes when participants consumed 4-5 cups per day (FYI – I am not saying drink 4-5 cups per day)

Stop Drinking Coffee at Least Six Hours Before You Plan to Sleep to promote a restful and recuperative and stress busting full nights sleep.

Do, Drink Hot Black Coffee Before Working Out

A pre workout coffee is a must for me! Caffeine clearly is an ergogenic aid to athletic performance, so much so that it is a banned substance by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in elevated amounts.

Caffeine has been shown to spare glycogen, by releasing fatty acids in to the blood stream. Muscle cells absorb the free fatty acids and use them for energy production, which not only delays fatigue, but positively affects fat mobilization and the use of stored body fat as a fuel.

Caffeine further stimulates the central nervous system, specifically the brain and skeletal muscles. This provides enhanced neuromuscular transmission and improved muscle contractibility, partly because of the natural release of epinephrine (adrenaline) and the additional release of calcium into the muscle cells.

What is termed your perceived rate of exertion (PRE) is lowered – meaning you will feel stronger through the workout which, can lead to the recruitment of more muscle fibers and an ultimately a more effective workout.

O (Oxygen), While caffeine does not improve your actual volume of oxygen capacity (V02max), it does enable you do become much more efficient in the utilization of oxygen uptake on the cellular level. This is beneficial two-fold, one in the delaying the onset of fatigue but more importantly if your goal is creating a defined physique – fat requires oxygen when being used as a fuel source – the more oxygen, the more fat burning is amplified.

© 2012 – Copyrights Grant Roberts, All Rights Reserved


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Grant Roberts

Grant Roberts is recognized as one of Hollywood’s most successful trainers/nutritionists and lifestyle coaches. Roberts received international acclaim following his work with actress Hilary Swank who captured an Oscar® for her performance in the Clint Eastwood film - Million Dollar Baby. Grants clients include Academy Award® winning actors, leaders of industry, world champion athletes, he is a consultant to the US military.

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