How Caffeine Affects Fat Loss, Exercise Performance, and Health

March 1, 2008

Have you ever wondered whether caffeine was bad for you? I have used caffeine 30 to 60 minutes before my workouts for years and I have never felt any adverse effects. It actually has helped me burn off that last little bit of body fat on several occasions. Although it has worked well for me, I still had no idea whether ingesting caffeine was a good or bad thing. I decided to do a bit of research on the newest studies and my findings are actually very interesting. If caffeine is taken in moderation, I believe the positives outweigh the negatives.

woman on bed drinking coffee
[Melanie is doing side crunches on the bed while drinking coffee. It is a bummer that she has white sheets!]

Caffeine Right Before Exercising Assists in Fat Loss

I always figured this was the case, especially when consumed in a fasted state. What caffeine does is increase free flowing fatty acids from your fat stores allowing you to access fat instead of carbs or lean muscle for energy. If you have a bit of stubborn body fat, a bit of caffeine right before working out can help you isolate it. If you do chose to ingest caffeine before working out, make sure and make the most of your workout. Push hard! Also…drink a bit of water, because caffeine is a slight diuretic and you don’t want to get dehydrated.

Caffeine May Not Be Great if You Want to Get Bigger

This is NOT a problem for me or others who don’t want to add size, but for those who do…you may want to back off on the pre-workout caffeine. The problem lies in the fact that some studies have shown that caffeine in your system may reduce glucose uptake after working out. When you are trying to get bigger you want to eat a quick digesting protein and carbohydrate source right after working out. This “fills” the muscles up with nutrients and helps with the repairing process. It also helps build volume in the muscle. This isn’t an issue for those of us who want lean dense muscles. It is more of an issue for those looking to add a substantial amount of mass. So for those trying to add a lot of mass, you may want to limit your caffeine intake.

Pure Caffeine vs Coffee

This is something that I didn’t know and this will be a “golden nugget” for those who like to ingest a bit of caffeine before a workout. It has been shown that pure caffeine will improve performance in lifting and cardio better than coffee. Pure caffeine will also lead to a greater release of free fatty acids, which will be used as energy in your workout and lead to greater fat loss. What is funny is that now I look back on it, I got to my leanest level when I took a 200mg caffeine pill before working out. I did this 3 years ago before a beach vacation. I didn’t want “coffee breath” when working out, so I figured a pill and a bunch of water would be a better idea. I took a Vivarin tablet 30 minutes before each workout and burned almost every little last bit of body fat. Recently, I have been drinking 3 cups of Green Tea before working out…I may switch that up with a 200mg tablet of caffeine for certain times than I want to get extra lean. You guys might want to give it a shot and see if you notice a difference.

Caffeine to Increase Muscle Tone?

If you have been a reader of this site for any length of time, you will know that my big thing is that strong muscle contractions are what cause real muscle tone. Your muscles will display a greater degree of muscle tone, the better your ability to create strong muscle contractions. You will also become stronger the better your nervous system gets at sending strong signals to your muscles to contract hard. Caffeine stimulates your central nervous system, so it increases the signals sent to the muscles. This causes stronger contractions, which will allow you to lift heavier weights. This type of strength training is what will create muscle density…compact, efficient, and extremely defined muscles…NOT that puffy and rounded bodybuilder look.

Caffeine May Prevent Alzheimers’ and Parkinson’s Disease

A study of more than 600 men published in the August 2006 European Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that coffee drinkers may be protected from mild memory and thinking problems that come with old age. Another large study, published in 2003 in the Journal of Neurological Sciences, found that tea and coffee drinkers were protected from Parkinson’s. Another study of more than 8,000 men in the Journal of the American Medical Association by G. Webster Ross and colleagues found that those who drank the most coffee (more than three cups a day) were the least likely to get Parkinson’s. The evidence for caffeine reducing the likelihood of developing these neurodegenerative diseases is getting stronger with each study.

Some Negatives About Caffeine

It has been shown that caffeine does in fact elevate blood pressure temporarily, but to a much lesser degree with regular coffee drinkers. In fact, it seems that caffeine’s bad effects diminish greatly with regular use. I’m NOT saying to go crazy and drink 10 cups of coffee per day, but for most people 2-3 cups a day is no big deal and may actually do some good. People that mainly need to be careful are those people taking certain prescription medications, people with high blood pressure, or people with severe diabetes. Always consult your doctor if you have health problems.

Summary: A realistic intake of 2-3 cups of coffee or 5-6 cups of green tea per day actually has some long term health benefits. On workout days, you may want to take a 200mg caffeine pill to burn a bit more fat during your workout. It has been shown to be most effective on an empty stomach, so it works well with what I recommend…doing all cardio on an empty stomach to get the best fat burning effects. If caffeine isn’t your thing, then that is great as well. From this point forward, the regular coffee drinkers can proudly drink their coffee “guilt free”. Just don’t overdo it. One last thing…don’t load up your coffee or tea with sugar and cream…get used to the plain stuff if possible.

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Rusty Moore

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{ 59 comments… read them below or add one }

John December 17, 2008 at 11:42 pm

Hey, Im a first timer to this site and wanted to ask your input on Hydroxycut have just turned 18 in october and want to lose body fat before the spring any thoughts would be greatly appreciated seems like you have a great site here.

Thanks for your time

Hugh December 25, 2008 at 9:56 pm

Hi Guys, just wanted to mention has anyone considered the fact that most stubborn fat problems are related to estrogen…and caffiene increases estrogen in the body dramatically also diminish the body’s effect of eliminating estrogen. This makes caffiene a no win situation when it comes to stubborn fat loss.

admin December 26, 2008 at 10:02 pm

Hugh,

I haven’t heard of caffeine raising estrogen levels for 2-3 days during each mentrual cycle, but not throughout the month. I haven’t heard of any similar effects of raising estrogen in men. I will have to do a bit more research. Thanks for the heads up.

Rusty

David August 15, 2009 at 1:09 pm

Rusty, I am trying to build a little bit of mass while shedding that last 3% of body fat.

What should i do?

Dave August 16, 2009 at 11:41 pm

I don’t drink caffeine often, and when I do, I can’t sleep. I have stayed up well over 30 hours after drinking caffeine. Will this go away if I drink more often? Also, I thought caffeine causes an increase in cortisol. Doesn’t cortisol cause fat storage around the waist?

Chase September 17, 2009 at 11:47 pm

I buy rishi green tea. In a small box at whole foods. It’s about $9.00 a box. It has little packets of instant green tea you add to a water bottle. Its pure green tea, nothing else so tastes like grass water, but its healthy and just dissolve it in a bottle of spring water. It isn’t that Lipton or other stuff with the lemon and sugary crap. Its good stuff! I just can’t stand green tea, or any tea for that matter plus I hear that coffee is higher in antioxidants anyway!

Jan November 5, 2009 at 12:44 am

Hey rusty,

Im a big follower of your blog but i read this the other day and wanted to know what you have to say about this..

http://www.teeccino.com/weightloss.aspx

Aiden XX June 22, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Hi Rusty (and other people!)

I take creatine at the moment for my workouts to get bigger muscle growth and recovery (as well as protein shakes) but I have to cycle this to stop me getting tolerant so I cycle one mont on, one month off.

Ive read ‘NOT TO INJEST CAFFEINE’ whilst taking creatine so i dont anymore (it stops the effectiveness of creatine) but now im on my ‘off’ month i wanted to try caffeine 200mg tablets (which i just bought 500 for £10 or 15dollars i believe)

is it benificial to take a pill before heavy weights for strength + energy etc. and what would i do on the days when i do cardio in the mornings and then weights in the eve (i dont want to over do it).. THANKS!!!!!

Susan March 28, 2011 at 1:24 am

I just started using caffeine as part of my work out at 6am. Recently I’ve been feeling tired and don’t know if I’ve been working out too hard or getting addicted to the effects of coffee?

Laura April 5, 2011 at 8:10 am

Hey Rusty,

is there any advantage in taking a thermogenic over caffeine pills? The thermogenic contains caffeine and some other stuff, but it seems like the caffeine pills would have the same overall effect…

By the way, I live in Brazil and totally loved your blog! Everyone here wants me to be bigger (especially in the lower body) and I just want to be long and lean! So, thanks for all the tips!

asma June 17, 2011 at 12:10 pm

well today i took those energy tablets ., it says its natural its jamieson , do u think ill be ok , cuz i heard that i u take vitamins and drink water it will have reverse effect , i need to loose some weight i a month and doing cardio with a fitness center , the energy tablets i am using states
wheat grass ………..41.6 mg
ginseng…………………33.3 mg
caffiene…………………100mg
vit b 12………………….83.3
pls tell me ok

Kevin July 18, 2011 at 5:25 pm

Helder, please don’t scare people especially if you are not knowledgable about macronutrients.
I am a resident at a hospital, caffeine is a very safe stimulant.
First you said that you shouldn’t ingest more than 100mg of it, then you stated you should drink 2-3 cups of coffee a day.
Fact: the average cup of coffee contains 100mg of caffeine. 2-3 cups is 200-300 mg of the stimulant.
You can safely ingest 600 mg of caffeine a day with out any adverse side effects, for a person just starting caffeine therapy, please note that the first few days you may feel light headed and have a few head aches, this is completely normal as your body adapts to the stimulant.
Caffeine is also known for it’s disease fighting characteristics, do. Some research online and take a look for yourself!! Good luck everyone.

Wilson August 12, 2011 at 11:53 am

Like most food and drink that has people proclaiming its effects on the body, the answer usually lies somewhere in the middle. If you wake up every morning and have 2 pots of coffee, you may feel some side effects. On the other hand some studies, such as the one’s the article mentions on Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s shows that coffee in moderation may be good for you. The same has been said for coffee as one of the heart healthy foods, as studies show it reduces the likelihood of getting heart disease.

In the end, every person will have their own response. It’s important to know your body and understand how caffeine effects you.

tomson October 12, 2011 at 4:30 am

Hi what about caffeine in those Green tea? isit much better than coffee :)

Doug December 13, 2011 at 9:05 pm

How many caffeine pills could I take a day when trying to get really lean?

cindy February 21, 2012 at 4:02 am

I NEED TO HAVE MY COFFEE WITH AT A PACK OF “SPLENDA” AND 2% MILK..VERY LITTLE. BLACK PLAIN COFFEE WIL NOT DO. IS THAT BAD?

Amruth April 22, 2012 at 5:11 pm

Its very common to drink black coffee in the early mornings , here in india. Doing it for generations. And i can tell this website justified the cause. I am slightly over weight and i have tried workouts with and without coffee. And with it. Shows great improvement. Thats final.

Seth July 20, 2012 at 8:29 am

To answer your question cindy, its not bad at all, it just slightly changes how much you could inturn burn if you only had black coffee.

angel nobles July 21, 2012 at 9:15 am

caffeine has helped me lose a lot of weight in shrunk 4 sizes in a matter of three months, without exercise or any aerobics i still achieved this. Without switching any of my regular eating habits for healthier choices, i ate what i wanted drank what i wanted, i didnt over eat though only three meals a day but no discretion on what the meals contained.

zainab mohammed August 1, 2012 at 9:48 pm

I want to grow slim without coffee and caffeine is it possible.

XK September 4, 2012 at 10:19 am

I read the article on this page and it’s great and then I read this: http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Does_coffee_and_caffeine_hinder_weight_loss

I am so confused now…!! Does coffee/caffeine support or hinder weight loss?

Betty Rocker September 18, 2012 at 8:48 pm

Great information as always, really appreciate how your combine personal experience with research – thank you Rusty.

I also experience better fat burning when I include caffeine with my workouts. Because I am not really trying to lose fat right now, I have also been experimenting with drinking it post-workout instead. I usually work out with plenty of energy already and get such a great endorphin boost from the workout, the post-caffeine allows me to carry that feeling farther into the day.

Just a personal observation.
-Betty Rocker

legend of_zen September 25, 2012 at 11:20 am

I actually prefer energy shots over all other forms of caffeine, you just can’t beat the convenience. Why pop pills or drink coffee when you can just pop a shot and go? Just my thoughts.

I agree with you that caffeine has a lot of beneficial aspects, I personally would never go without it for my late night workouts (only time I can fit it in)

- Kyle

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