For those of us that hustle at work or at home every day, coffee is more than just a mere beverage. It’s what gives us the energy to get out of bed every morning and tackle everything on our to-do lists. It’s what removes the grumpiness from our faces and gives us the ability to smile and (appear) to tolerate other people. Basically, coffee is like the ‘Super Mushroom’ power-up in Super Mario.
Coffee isn’t just an energy booster either. The coffee benefit, according to a large number of scientific research published over the years, is numerous. For example, studies like this one have established a link between drinking coffee daily and reduced risk of type-two diabetes. The study, which included 457,922 participants, found that those who drank 3-4 cups of coffee reduced the probability of them acquiring type-two diabetes by 25%.
Likewise, coffee (or rather the caffeine and antioxidants present in it) has been found to reduce the risk of acquiring diseases of the heart, lungs, and liver.
Perhaps the most widely talked-about health benefit of drinking coffee is weight loss. In this article, we’ll be exploring the ‘Coffee Diet’ that has recently gained popularity and how it could help you shed some weight.
Is the Coffee Diet a legitimate way for you to lose a few pounds or is it just another weight loss program with empty promises? Let’s find out!
What Is The Coffee Diet?
The Coffee diet was introduced to the world in 2017 by Dr. Bob Arnot in his book titled 'The Coffee Lover's Diet' a.k.a 'The Coffee Lover's Bible'.
In his book, Dr. Arnot goes into length about how drinking a minimum of three cups of coffee can help prevent disease and helps you lose weight. According to him, the result is achieved by the combination of several different mechanisms: increasing your metabolic rate, encouraging your body to burn more fat, restricting the absorption of calories and lowering your appetite.
Bear in mind that Dr. Arnot doesn’t mean three cups of just any kind of coffee. In fact, black coffee is what he highly recommends if you want to lose a significant amount of weight. That means you have to cut out the sugar, milk, and cream. Not only do these add more calories, they also reduce the quantity of polyphenols that your body is able to absorb.
If you’re not familiar with polyphenols, they’re simply a group of plant compounds that are known to provide various health benefits. They do a variety of things, from contributing to weight loss to reducing the risk of certain types of cancers.
Dr. Arnot is particular about the beans and the brewing process as well. In his book, he recommends using coffee beans imported from places of high altitude which contain volcanic soil. Hence, countries in South America such as Brazil and Colombia and Kenya in Africa, fit the bill. Beans grown in such conditions are known to contain the highest percentage of polyphenols.
Furthermore, the beans used to brew your coffee should ideally have a light roast to them. This is because certain important polyphenols like chlorogenic acids present in the coffee are degraded by heat. Hence the darker the roast of the bean, the fewer polyphenols it is likely to contain.
As far as the brewing process goes, Dr. Arnot recommends that you prepare it using filtered water and grind the beans at home if possible.
In his book, Dr. Arnot specifies a few other dietary requirements to supplement this coffee habit. These, he claims, will help you get the best possible results of your coffee diet:
- Limit your daily calorie intake to a total of 1500
- Swap one meal each day with a green smoothie that’s high in fibre content. A few smoothie recipes are actually included in the book ‘'The Coffee Lover's Diet'
- Cut off highly-processed food from your diet completely
The Science Behind The Coffee Diet: How It Works
There’s nothing magical about the coffee diet. It’s science, plain and simple. By sticking to the specifics recommended by Dr. Arnot, you’re actually encouraging a change in the biochemical processes occurring inside your body. Let’s take a closer look at how it works.
Depleting Fat Stores
The raw, unroasted coffee bean contains many healthy stimulants. While some of these are depleted during the roasting and brewing processes, a few important ones make it into your coffee. These include:
- Chlorogenic acid - which may play a role in slowing down carb absorption
- Theophylline - which is useful in easing the symptoms of asthma
- Theobromine - which is found to have a positive impact on our mood and state of alertness
- Caffeine - which is, of course, the most highly-consumed psychoactive drug in the world.
Caffeine, in particular, does several things. It’s the reason why our moods are immediately improved after a cup of coffee. This is because caffeine directly affects the balance of neurotransmitters in our body, blocking the release of adenosine. At the same time, it actively increases the levels of dopamine and norepinephrine, both of which are responsible for making us feel joyful and energetic.
Caffeine also increases the production of epinephrine a.k.a adrenaline. Adrenaline, in turn, travels to our fat tissues and signals them to break down fat stores. Of course, this fat then has to be spent in order for you to truly lose weight. Hence, the coffee diet has to be supplemented with exercise and cutting down on the amount of carbohydrates and fat present in your meals.
Increasing Rest Metabolic Rate
Did you know that you’re burning calories even you’re not doing anything at all? The rate at which your body does this is known as the rest metabolic rate (RMR). The higher your RMR, the easier it is to shed off those pesky extra pounds.
A few studies, including one conducted by King’s College and University of London, has demonstrated that caffeine can actually increase your RMR by three to eleven percent. This is mainly done by increasing the rate at which your body burns fat. These studies also show that this effect is more observable with larger doses of caffeine. Hence the more coffee you drink, the greater your chance of increasing your RMR.
- Caffeine doesn’t increase the RMR as much in obese people. According to one study, the leaner you are, the greater your chances of increasing your metabolic rate by ingesting caffeine
- The effect seems to be more pronounced in younger people aged 19-26 and appears to diminish as you get older. Hence if you’re in your thirties or beyond, caffeine may not work in the same way for you.
Suppressing Your Appetite
In his book, ‘The Coffee Lover’s Diet’, Dr. Arnot makes the claim that coffee can help suppress your appetite. However, the truth is that the scientific literature available to date doesn't provide definitive proof of this.
For instance, one study carried out jointly by a few colleges in USA and Australia shows that while drinking coffee just before a meal can result in you eating less, no such effect is observed when you drink coffee around four hours prior. However even this particular study admits that further research is needed before this relationship between coffee and appetite can be proven.
The Effect Of Chlorogenic Acid And Other Polyphenols
Chlorogenic acid is a polyphenol that is found in abundance in certain types of coffee beans, especially green coffee bean species. Concentrations can vary from 70–350 mg per cup, depending on the species of bean and how dark the roast is. As mentioned previously, lighter roasts retain a higher concentration of chlorogenic acids. Research has shown that it plays a role in reducing our calorie intake, as well as increasing the rate at which we burn fat. How exactly does it bring about these changes in our bodies?
One way it does this is by reducing glucose uptake through our intestines, thereby forcing our body to cut down on the new fat stores it creates through the conversion of carbohydrates into lipids. Similarly, chlorogenic acid has been found to inhibit the absorption of fat in our bodies as well.
Chlorogenic acid also helps to increase the fat-burning rate, as mentioned above. It does this primarily by helping the liver process fatty acids in a more efficient way. In addition, it may actually prevent new fat cells being created in our tissues.
Green coffee beans, in particular, contain a variety of different polyphenols including neochlorogenic acid and feruloylquinic acid. These two compounds have also been found to share similar functions in our bodies. For instance, they help increase the tolerance we have for glucose by modifying the way in which it's absorbed through our intestinal tract.
Just How Effective Is It For Weight Loss?
The truth is that just drinking three cups of coffee a day isn’t enough to help you lose a significant amount of weight. That’s why Dr. Arnot also suggests cutting out highly processed food from your diet and limiting your daily calorie intake. However, if 1500 calories is a significant reduction from the amount you normally consume, there can be some negative consequences as well.
Your body may try to offset for this drastically-lowered intake by slowing down your metabolic rate. This means that calories will be burned off less quickly and therefore your body will still be able to hold onto its energy stores – something it often tends to prioritize. Furthermore, when you take in fewer calories than you're used to, hormonal changes may take place inside of your body. As a result of this, you may find that your appetite has suddenly increased.
For instance, leptin is one of the hormones that cause you to feel “full” and notifies your brain when it should stop eating. As demonstrated by several studies, the amount of leptin present in your body can be drastically lowered when you restrict yourself to low-calorie meal plans.
The Consequences Of Drinking Too Much Coffee
‘A minimum of three cups of coffee a day’ can give people the impression that you consume as much you like. But the reality is that like with anything else, you need to monitor the amount of coffee you drink daily.
Drinking excessive coffee is linked to a variety of health problems including raised blood pressure and even cardiac arrests. As per one Spanish study, even drinking three cups of coffee a day can cause a significant spike in your resting blood pressure.
In addition, depending on how much sugar you use in coffee, you may end up taking in more calories than you’re losing in the process.
Caffeine is what's known as a 'diuretic substance', which means that it will increase the amount of fluid that is passed out through your urine. Hence, the more coffee you drink, the more trips to the bathroom you'll have to take.
But that's not all. A lot of important electrolytes such as potassium will be secreted more often through urine. When you lose too much potassium, you may begin to lose control of your muscles and you'll be at greater risk of experiencing a heart attack. However, truth be told, it’s very rare that coffee causes such a thing unless you happen to drink a huge amount of it.
While Dr. Arnot's Coffee Diet doesn't sell any outright lies, it's definitely not as effective as it is hyped up to be. Even though the weight-loss benefits of coffee are backed up by decades of science, you won’t see any dramatic results with this diet alone. If you’re relatively lean, to begin with, and you’re not older than thirty, you may actually manage to lose a few pounds with this plan. However, as your body tries to adapt to the lower calorie intake, you may very well start to regain weight.
Hence, it can hardly be considered a viable alternative to regular exercise and a healthy diet plan.
That being said, if you supplement a moderate coffee habit with a workout schedule and a well-rounded meal regiment (with a healthy amount of calories), you’ll definitely be on track to achieving your weight goals.