Does a Coffee Habit Slow Weight Loss?

Will drinking coffee slow down weight loss?


I myself have had my battles with Starbucks. It's a difficult habit to break (though after writing this column, I'm going to give it a try). I can tell you this, though, both from my experience and from that of others: When you break the coffee habit, you will feel your own power and energy and be in touch with your own natural energetic rhythms. You may even find that a caffeine-free existence is a great boost to your weight-loss efforts.

Although we may not be ready to say that something as basic to American life as coffee is a "drug," we can certainly say that it has druglike properties:

  • It's addictive.
  • It's a stimulant.
  • It alters mood.

And -- it's not good for weight loss.

There are two basic reasons coffee is a problem for the person trying to lose weight. (It's no bargain for the person who isn't either, by the way). The first reason is psychological, the second physiological.



Coffee fits neatly into the receptors for a brain chemical known as adenosine, which is partly responsible for calming you down. By interrupting the activity of adenosine, coffee makes you feel awake and wired. You may think that's a good thing, but consider that virtually every study of PMS has implicated caffeine as a major culprit. The added stimulation and nervousness from the coffee makes you feel edgy at exactly the time that feeling calm would be a blessing. And the blood sugar fluctuations it produces contributes enormously to cravings.


Coffee is socially connected to rituals that involve eating. Many of these eating rituals, in turn, are connected to snacks and breaks, fast-food breakfasts and desserts. (Notice that the first beverage you think of when asked what you want with your "Dunkin' Donuts" is not green tea or water.)




Coffee stimulates the adrenals, the glands responsible for stress hormones. The constant assault on these poor glands, from coffee, sugar, stress and daily life, can ultimately lead to a condition known as adrenal exhaustion.


Coffee plays havoc with your blood sugar. The body treats a coffee jolt as a "stress response" much like the adrenals shooting a jolt of adrenaline into the system. This adrenaline response was a survival mechanism for our caveman ancestors; it signaled danger from a woolly mammoth and told the body to prepare for fight or flight. It signaled the body to release sugar into the blood, to be used as fuel for the muscles (which would be either clubbing that mammoth or climbing the nearest tree). But nowadays, it just signals the release of sugar. With no ensuing flight or flight, the sugar signals a release of insulin, and before you know it, after a couple of hours of jitteriness, your blood sugar is in the toilet, and you're crashing and burning and reaching for ... guess what? I'll give you a hint: It's not Brussels sprouts and steak.


Coffee also increases urinary secretion of important minerals such as magnesium, potassium and sodium and uses up a fair amount of vitamin B1. Not only that, the coffee plant itself is a virtual repository for toxins such as pesticides and other harmful chemicals. (If you still insist on drinking it after reading this article, consider buying organic). And it can raise blood pressure and interfere with sleep.


Although in the short run it may suppress appetite, over the course of a day most people find it stimulates cravings more than suppresses them.


One of the best reasons to give up coffee comes from my colleague, Dr. Barry Sears, who points out that if you are "running on empty," getting your "energy" from artificial stimulants like caffeine, you never really get to understand the effect your food is having on you. You never know whether your food is producing energy and alertness or tiredness and fatigue. You're masking the effects of your eating style with an overpowering stimulant. And that's keeping you from valuable knowledge about what foods work for you and what foods you ought to stay away from.

by Jonny Bowden