Caffeine – Weight Loss Benefits and Side Effects
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Caffeine – Weight Loss Benefits and Side Effects

woman drinking green weight loss tea or could it be coffeeThe debate about whether or not caffeine is a help or a hindrance with regard to weight loss is long running and fierce.
There is no doubt that it can be a performance-enhancing supplement, and many elite athletes use it during training. The fact that top class sporting competitions such as the Olympics ban caffeine shows that it does have a positive effect on performance. However, the amount of support for caffeine is matched by the amount of criticism, with various medical sources warning of the health dangers posed by taking caffeine. Before you decide if caffeine can be good for your weight loss, make sure you understand both sides. This article lays out both the benefits of caffeine on weight loss and the side effects of using it.

What is caffeine?

coffeeCaffeine is found in tea, coffee, energy drinks and diet pills among other things. It is effectively a drug and therefore an addictive substance so intake should be carefully regulated. Caffeine works by stimulating the central nervous system, heart, and muscles as well as affecting blood pressure. It is also a diuretic, meaning it can increase urine production. The way in which it affects a person depends on a variety of factors, including age, weight, and frequency of consumption.

In terms of weight loss there are many studies showing caffeine to be beneficial when taken as part of a weight loss programme. Increasing caffeine intake through diet pills and drinking green tea is common advice for fat burning.
Weight loss from caffeine has specifically been proven when taken with ephedrine. Results saw a slight decrease of approx. 5.3 kg in people with a body mass index between 25 and 40, when taking 192mg of caffeine in combination with 90mg of ephedra per day for a 6 month period. In conjunction with exercise and significant restriction of calorie intake, this directly caused a reduction of body fat. It also positively affected the body’s cholesterol level, decreasing the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol which clogs your arteries, and increasing the high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol which removes harmful cholesterol from the bloodstream, read more about it here.
The way in which caffeine helps you lose weight is mainly done through the energy it gives you and way it boosts your metabolism. The faster your metabolism is, the quicker you process food and the less fat you store. Increasing your metabolism is a sure-fire way of burning fat and one way to do this is by ingesting caffeine. The process of lipolysis in the body controls the breakdown of fat stores during the conversion for energy, and the release of fatty acids into the bloodstream. Caffeine targets lipolysis and increases its production, so your body begins breaking down more fat to use for energy.

Everyone knows that the major benefit to caffeine is the energy it provides. Caffeine is used as a stimulant in a variety of products, including energy drinks and fatigue relief tablets. It increases alertness by stimulating the brain and gives your body the energy to avert tiredness, at least temporarily. This aids your capabilities with mental and physical tasks, which is especially useful for working out as you will able to exercise harder for longer. As a result, using caffeine as an aid to exercise is definitely effective for weight loss.
One lesser known fact about caffeine is that it temporarily supresses appetite. Drinking a caffeinated drink will reduce your desire to eat so you won’t feel the need to reach for those empty calorie comfort foods. Ingesting caffeine regularly throughout the day will decrease the amount you eat in a day, which will reduce the number of calories consumed. By cutting back on snacking and focusing on a healthy planned diet, your weight loss will be expedited.

The fact that caffeine is a diuretic is usually construed as a negative aspect but it can actually help weight loss through decreasing water retention. The more caffeine you ingest the more urine is produced and the more body water is lost. Although this has no effect on body fat and can cause dehydration if water is not drunk frequently, losing water retained by the body does have an effect on body weight, even if only temporarily.

As well as energy drinks and pills, tea leaves and coffee beans, caffeine is found in herbs such as guarana berries, Yerba mate, and kola nuts. Incorporating the more natural sources of caffeine – energy drinks contain a lot of sugar which is severely detrimental to weight loss – into your diet in the right quantities can be an excellent aid to losing weight. This programme on Live Strong details steps on how to lose weight with caffeine.

Starting the day off with a cup of caffeinated tea or coffee is a common staple of many people’s daily routines, but this is actually a very good way to kick start your metabolism in the morning. Breakfast is a key component in weight loss, as it gets your metabolism working early on in the day so you start burning fat earlier. It also reduces the stress hormone cortisol which is instrumental in facilitating belly fat.

green tea in a cup for weight lossCombining caffeine with green tea extract is really effective in increasing the positive effects caffeine has on fat burning. Green tea extract contains the antioxidant epigallotcatechin gallate or EGCG, which boosts the body’s metabolic rate. 200 to 300mg of EGCG along with 200mg of caffeine produces a supplement that attacks body fat and increases weight loss to a certain degree.
Many athletes use caffeine as a supplement to their training because of the effects it has reducing fatigue and stimulating your brain. Taking caffeine before your workout makes you feel psychologically ready to exercise so you can really up the intensity without being mentally exhausted. It also gives you more physical energy so your muscles won’t feel as tired. The more exercise you do the greater the weight loss, showing that caffeine can affect weight loss through exercise in this way. For weight training 2 to 2.5mg of caffeine is recommended, and for longer cardiovascular exercise, 100 to 300mg is advised to sustain you for longer.

Side Effects

It is important to remember that taking caffeine alone will not help weight loss in any way. Small doses as an aid to fat burning can positively affect weight loss but the side effects of too much caffeine should not be ignored.
One of the key facts about caffeine that you should always be aware of is that it is a drug and therefore an addictive substance. Although not in the realms of nicotine or Class A drug addiction, caffeine addiction is a recognised medical condition. Because caffeine gives your body the impression of renewed energy and reduced fatigue your body does not feel tired and does not replace this period of alertness with sleep. This means your body constantly lacks rest. Frequently keeping your energy levels high by ingesting caffeine can lead to exhaustion and increased susceptibility to poor health. The more caffeine you take the more pronounced these symptoms become.

Although taking caffeine before exercise can improve results by increasing the ability to do exercise at a higher level for longer periods, the energy boost is only temporary. On average, caffeine lasts between two and four hours in the body. During this period your energy level is heightened but afterwards it is common to experience an energy slump when lethargy sets in. Your body has to recover from the heightened period of energy by resting. This decrease in physical activity and probable increase in appetite will be disadvantageous to weight loss.

couple drinking waterAs shown above, caffeine is a diuretic which increases urine production. While the above shows how this can benefit weight loss through reducing water retention, it can also have serious adverse effects regarding dehydration. Dehydration is one of the most common side effects of caffeine and drinking plenty of water while taking caffeine is essential to replace the fluid lost in urine. This is particularly important when doing exercise.

The recommended intake of caffeine per day is no more than 500mg-600mg. To give you some perspective, energy drinks can contain anywhere between 80 and 300mg of caffeine, and a cup of black coffee has around 95-200mg of caffeine. Just two cups of coffee or two energy drinks can take up your entire day’s caffeine quota. Exceeding this recommended dose can result in insomnia, anxiety, irritability, and headaches. There have also been severe cases in which extreme ingesting of caffeine through addiction to fizzy or energy drinks has resulted in cardiac arrhythmias because of the stress caffeine has on the heart.

The way in which you take caffeine seriously impacts the way it affects your body. Caffeine is a predominant ingredient in sugary drinks which play on the fact that caffeine temporarily boosts your mental and physical state, for example, Red Bull. It is important to know how many calories these drinks contain before you exalt the merits of its caffeine content as they can actually cause increased weight gain.

coffeebeansOne of the best known and ready sources of caffeine is coffee. Coffee can be good for you if you have straight black coffee in reasonable amounts. Coffee at its simplest – black with no extra sugars or milk – has a very low calorie count and therefore will not affect your calorie intake. However, the luxurious coffees from those infamous, on-every-street-corner coffee shop chains contain no end of sugar, cream, and fat. These creamy, syrupy, giant coffees can have up to 800 calories in just one drink – that’s nearly half the daily recommended calorie allowance for a female per day! Because they contain so much fat and so little nutritional value, they are effectively empty calories and will be incredibly detrimental to your weight loss.

Energy and soft drinks are also packed with caffeine and calories. The worst ingredient though is sugar. The amount of caffeine in relation to the amount of sugar makes these drinks completely useless for weight loss as the empty calories you consume from them will actually make you gain weight. If you want to ingest caffeine as a way to aid weight loss, doing it through drinking energy or soft drinks is not the way to do it. Stick to straight black coffee or green tea to get the benefits of caffeine without the calories, read here for more advise from a body building website.
In addition to addiction, dehydration and even cardiac arrhythmias, caffeine also has some lesser known side effects. These include instant onset diarrhoea, high blood pressure, and high blood sugar which can lead to diabetes. Instant onset diarrhoea is caused by the effect of caffeine on your large intestine. Contractions in the intestine are usually provoked by your body releasing stress hormones and as caffeine puts more stress on your body your intestine is likely to suddenly and repeatedly contract, causing diarrhoea.

diabetesIt well known that high blood pressure increases the risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease. Because caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and temporarily raises heart rate and energy level, blood pressure is also heightened. If caffeine is constantly ingested your blood pressure remains unnaturally high for extended periods. This puts extra strain on your heart and blood vessels unnecessarily, affecting blood flow and damaging blood vessels.
Type-2 diabetes is common in heavily overweight people and drinking highly caffeinated drinks can accelerate the onset of this disease with excessive consumption. Caffeine impairs the body’s insulin sensitivity so it cannot manage blood sugar levels properly. If insulin is not regulating the movement of glucose into cells sugars just collect in the blood, causing severe damage to vital organs. By affecting insulin resistance, caffeine emulates the symptoms of diabetes and with frequent caffeine ingestion your body will lose its ability to secrete insulin, requiring insulin injections to manage your blood sugar level manually. The risk of diabetes is heightened significantly in overweight people but the effects of caffeine in relation to insulin sensitivity and resistance also occur in healthy people, showing that caffeine can be detrimental to everyone. Read an article here on how caffeine could kill.
One of the major side effects that high blood sugar and decreased insulin sensitivity have is weight gain. Sugar is required for the body to generate energy, but too much sugar from empty calorie foods just gets turned to fat by the liver. If your body cannot manage this sugar properly as with diabetic persons, or people whose insulin sensitivity is affected by too much caffeine, more fat is produced by the sugar, causing significant weight gain. The less risk you have of developing type-2 diabetes, the better control your body will have over weight management. Therefore, caffeine can actually have an adverse effect on your weight loss.

diet pillsTaking caffeine diet pills or more natural forms of caffeine such as green tea extract should reduce the health risks associated with caffeine. Steering completely clear of energy drinks, soft drinks, and creamy coffees is essential to ensure you get the benefits of caffeine without the huge number of calories and amount of sugar also in the drinks. Strictly regulating caffeine intake and using it to boost your workouts is the best way of using caffeine as an aid to weight loss. Ultimately caffeine can be beneficial for weight loss, but moderation and implementation as part of a calorie controlled diet and exercise plan is imperative to produce the best results and avoid the severe health risks that can be involved.

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