Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world.
However, the effects of coffee on weight management are mixed.
Its benefits include appetite control and improved metabolism, which could aid weight loss.
Yet, coffee contains caffeine, which may lead to poor sleep and more sugar cravings in certain individuals — both factors which may negatively impact weight. In addition, many coffee beverages contain added sugar and excessive calories.
This article takes a detailed look at how coffee affects your weight.
Black coffee — without any additional ingredients — is very low in calories and may help you achieve a healthy weight.
Coffee is low in calories
When trying to lose weight, you have to create a calorie deficit. You can do this either by increasing physical activity or consuming fewer calories.
An easy way to reduce calorie intake is to choose lower-calorie beverages. For example, replacing just 1 cup (240 ml) of a high-calorie, sugar-sweetened beverage with the same amount of water may lead to over 4 pounds (1.9 kg) of weight loss over 6 months ().
By itself, coffee is a very-low-calorie beverage. In fact, 1 cup (240 ml) of brewed coffee has only 2 calories ().
However, coffee only contains this minuscule number of calories if you drink it black — without adding sugar, milk, or any other ingredients.
If you’re attempting to reduce your total calorie intake, replacing high-calorie beverages — such as soda, juice, or chocolate milk — with plain coffee may be a good place to start.
Caffeine may boost metabolism
Caffeine is a natural stimulant commonly found in coffee, tea, and soda. Per serving, coffee typically contains the highest amount of caffeine of these three beverages.
One cup (240 ml) of brewed coffee offers about 95 mg of caffeine. Still, the caffeine content varies depending on the type of bean, roasting style, and preparation ().
Caffeine may improve your metabolism — a measure of how many calories your body burns each day. This is one reason why caffeine is included in many weight loss supplements.
However, large doses of caffeine may be required to significantly influence metabolism.
For example, one study found that a caffeine dose of 4.5 mg per pound of body weight (10 mg per kg) increased metabolism by up to 13%. This would equal 680 mg of caffeine — a whopping 7 cups (1,660 ml) of coffee for someone who weighs 150 pounds (68 kg) ().
Still, some research shows that regular caffeine intake may improve body weight maintenance and weight loss.
In one study, an increase in caffeine intake was associated with less weight gain over 12 years. Yet, the participants who consumed the most caffeine were only about 1 pound (0.4–0.5 kg) lighter than those with lower caffeine intakes ().
A different study looked at people who successfully lost weight. Those who consumed the most coffee and caffeine were more successful at maintaining their weight loss over time ().
Caffeine may reduce your appetite
Caffeine may also help reduce your appetite.
Appetite is controlled by many different factors, including nutrient composition of meals, hormones, and activity levels. Drinking caffeinated coffee may reduce levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin (7).
Additionally, studies show that drinking caffeinated coffee may reduce the number of calories you consume throughout the day, compared to not drinking it (, ).
However, the research surrounding caffeine as an appetite suppressant is conflicting, and some studies report that caffeine has little to no effect on feelings of fullness ().
Thus, more studies are necessary.
Summary Plain, black coffee is very low in calories and high in caffeine. Caffeine is a natural stimulant that may boost your metabolism and decrease levels of hunger hormones, which could prevent weight gain.
Although some studies suggest that coffee may be beneficial for weight loss, it may also negatively impact weight in several ways.
Caffeine may disrupt healthy sleep patterns
Caffeine acts as a stimulant by blocking the effects of adenosine, a chemical in your brain that makes you sleepy ().
This may be helpful if you need an extra jolt of energy. However, if consumed later in the day, coffee may interfere with your sleep patterns.
In turn, this can lead to weight gain. Poor sleep is associated with higher body weight, increased appetite, and more cravings for processed food (, , ).
Popular coffee pairings may be fattening
Many people associate coffee with a sweet treat, such as a pastry. That’s because caffeine alters your perceived sense of sweetness, which may result in craving sugary foods ().
The daily addition of a high-sugar snack with your coffee may lead to eventual weight gain.
To avoid the sugar cravings and potential weight gain that may come with consuming high-calorie, sweet treats, enjoy your coffee with foods that provide a source of protein and healthy fat — such as a handful of nuts or an egg breakfast.
Protein and fat both promote fullness and may reduce the frequency of sugar cravings ().
Certain coffee drinks are loaded with calories and sugar
Although plain coffee is low in calories, many coffee beverages are packed with calories and sugar.
Coffee shops and popular franchises sell sweetened coffee drinks that contain added sugar and hundreds of calories. For example, a Starbucks Grande (16 ounces or 470 ml) Caramel Frappuccino has 420 calories and over 16.5 teaspoons (66 grams) of sugar (17).
Regular intake of sugary beverages, such as sweetened coffee blends, is associated with weight gain and a higher risk of obesity ().
Additionally, many people add butter or coconut oil to their coffee to make a trendy drink known as Bulletproof coffee.
Although adding healthy fats like coconut oil to your diet can benefit health, adding too many of these high-fat, high-calorie foods to your coffee — without adjusting for the extra calories — may backfire and lead to unwanted weight gain.
Summary Caffeinated coffee may negatively affect sleep, which can promote weight gain. What’s more, some coffee drinks are high in sugar and/or fat, which may lead to excess calorie intake and subsequent weight gain.
There are many ways to enjoy your daily cup of coffee without gaining weight.
The most important tip is to avoid adding excess sugar to your coffee. Sugar is present in many flavored creamers and pre-prepared lattés — and many people add table sugar or liquid sweeteners like agave syrup directly to their cup of joe.
Here are a few ways to reduce sugar intake while still adding flavor to your coffee:
- Sprinkle in some cinnamon.
- Use unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, or half-and-half.
- Use a small amount of a natural, no-calorie sweetener, such as stevia.
- Add a few drops of vanilla extract.
- Melt in a small square of high-quality dark chocolate.
Although half-and-half and coconut milk are low in sugar, they are higher in calories than the other additions. It’s best to use small amounts of these products in your coffee to prevent excess calorie intake.
Coffee has a naturally bitter flavor, so you may need to gradually reduce the amount of added sweetener in order to adjust your taste buds. For example, the next time you purchase a sweetened latté, try asking for half of the usual amount of flavoring syrup.
Better yet, prepare your own coffee at home. This will allow you to not only be in control of the amount of sweetener but also save money.
If you enjoy Bulletproof coffee, try to choose healthy fats — such as grass-fed butter or coconut oil — and use small amounts. Additionally, be mindful of your daily calorie intake to ensure that you’re not over-consuming calories.
Summary You can minimize your risk of gaining weight with coffee by limiting added sugar, incorporating healthier flavor alternatives, and avoiding surplus calories.
Coffee alone does not cause weight gain — and may, in fact, promote weight loss by boosting metabolism and aiding appetite control.
However, it can negatively affect sleep, which may promote weight gain. Additionally, many coffee drinks and popular coffee pairings are high in calories and added sugar.
To minimize your risk of weight gain, try cutting out added sugar and high-calorie additives.
Consuming a daily cup of coffee can be a healthy way to start your day. However, it’s important to be mindful of the ingredients used when preparing or ordering your drink.