A lot of people reach for a cup of coffee in the morning to start the day. There is something cozy and nostalgic about the smell of coffee brewing, the sound of the pot dripping and sputtering, and that first hot sip. We might even drink it to help get through the day or power into a late night of work or school. But, have you ever thought that coffee might help you lose weight or prevent diseases like diabetes or Parkinson's disease?
Well, in the world of fad diets, a new one has emerged; The Coffee Lover's Diet, created by Dr. Bob Arnot. Read on to learn more about this weight loss plan and why it's not a good idea for people to follow this diet.
What is the Coffee Diet?
The Coffee Lover's Diet is a book published by Dr. Bob Arnot in 2017. The book claims that coffee can help to improve mental clarity, fend off disease (like diabetes and Parkinson's disease), promote weight loss, and improve overall health. There are multiple articles claiming that this diet can help you lose up to 50 pounds in 50 days while improving overall health and increasing energy.
The coffee diet focuses on a few major things:
- Drinking a minimum of three cups of black coffee per day. The diet states that lighter roasted coffee should be the drink of choice ( preferably something grown in a higher altitude location like Columbia, Kenya, Ethiopia, or Brazil) , as lighter roasts are higher in polyphenol content. Polyphenols are the antioxidants in coffee that are linked to health benefits. Polyphenols can also be found in many foods, including potatoes, capers, and soy products.
- Replacing one meal with a high fiber smoothie, and consuming high fiber, low carbohydrate, lean protein meals for the remaining two. Snacks include fruits and vegetables or a small amount of low-fat dairy, and all processed foods and refined carbohydrates are avoided on this diet.
The average daily meal plan for the coffee diet is about 1500 calories. The daily breakdown goes like this: wake up and drink one cup of black coffee (no cream or sugar). You can drink as much coffee as you want throughout the rest of the day, as long as you drink a minimum of three cups. It doesn't have to be caffeinated and can be hot or iced.
The reason this fad diet works is likely due to the fact that calories are being restricted, not because coffee is a magic cure-all. The average American consumes anywhere from 1800-3000 calories per day, which could realistically even be higher; a lot of times we tend to underestimate how much we actually eat. Additionally, cutting out all processed foods (which means no fast food, no soda, no frozen or packaged meals, no alcohol) can lead to weight loss, especially when these foods are replaced with a diet rich in nutritious fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins.
Can You Lose Weight By Drinking Coffee?
There is limited research on if drinking coffee can promote weight loss.
One common weight loss supplement is Green Coffee Extract (GCE), which is exactly what it sounds like; extract from green, or unroasted, coffee beans. There are a few theories behind how green coffee extract works, including its ability to influence blood sugar levels and limit production and storage of triglycerides by the liver. One systematic review found a total of three studies that supported GCE for weight loss. GCE does seem to work more effectively compared to a placebo to promote weight loss, but because the research is so limited, it's difficult to determine just how effective it can be.
Additionally, GCE is high in antioxidants, which may also explain the positive influence on blood sugar management. It's important to note that the extracts found in green coffee are present in roasted coffee, but in lower amounts. Therefore, using GCE compared to drinking black coffee for weight loss are likely not going to yield the same results.
Is There A Magic "weight loss coffee"?
Long story short, no. There is no magic coffee that can promote weight loss. Research shows that drinking coffee may help to increase energy, boost metabolism, and can have the secondary effect of weight loss by influencing blood sugar or limiting triglyceride production by the liver. But if you want to lose weight with coffee, you will likely be disappointed with your results. The Coffee Lover's Diet works because you are limiting caloric intake, which can lead to weight loss over time.
There is limited research that shows that drinking coffee right before consuming a meal may reduce how much you consume during that meal, which could lead to weight loss. Conversely, research shows that drinking coffee has no effect on how much you eat at a meal.
There are some diets, like the Ketogenic diet, that includes a "bulletproof coffee". This is a coffee drink made with butter, coconut oil, or other MCT fats. This coffee is high in fat and calories but low in carbohydrates, and is technically not considered a "weight loss coffee". It's often used to help those following a Ketogenic diet to meet their daily fat requirements. The fat can also help to promote feelings of satiety, which may lead to eating less. The Ketogenic diet has commonly been used for those looking to lose a lot of weight quickly but is not realistic over the long-term (at least for a majority of people). It's difficult to follow, expensive, and can have many undesirable side effects, including high cholesterol and stunted growth.
Is The Coffee Diet a Good Idea?
There really isn't a simple answer to this question, so let's look at the different elements of the coffee diet.
First, the coffee diet encourages a minimum of three cups of black coffee per day with no cap to how much coffee to consume. Coffee contains caffeine, a rough average of about 100 milligrams of caffeine per cup. Caffeine stimulates the nervous system and releases epinephrine (adrenaline). This gives you the feeling of being energized, but can also lead to undesirable side effects like increased anxiety, heart palpitations, or trouble breathing. Some research shows that caffeine can increase metabolism and increase the amount of fat burned throughout the day. Increased fat burn does lead to weight loss over time, but losing weight by drinking excessive amounts of coffee is not smart or safe.
Caffeine has a half-life of five hours, so five hours after drinking one cup, half of the amount of caffeine is still circulating through your body. This means that if you consume multiple cups of coffee throughout the day, the overload of caffeine could lead to difficulty sleeping. If you have trouble sleeping and need to consume more caffeine to get through the day, it can lead to a cycle of over consumption.
The coffee diet does state that you could drink decaffeinated coffee, which could be a better alternative. Decaffeinated coffee still contains beneficial antioxidants that the founder of the diet perceives to be life-changing. However, it's not a smart idea to rely on coffee to improve your overall health. Also, what if you don't like to drink coffee? One of the "success stories" from this diet stated that she did not drink coffee prior to the diet, and now she's hooked. This could be perceived as unsuccessful, as the diet led to a new addition to coffee.
Coffee also works as a diuretic, meaning that excessive intake could lead to dehydration. For each cup of coffee consumed, it's a good idea to drink the same amount of water. The diuretic effect could have you running to the bathroom, especially if consuming three or more cups!
Can You Eat Food In The Coffee Diet?
The coffee diet created by Dr. Bob Arnot does focus on eating high quality, whole foods, lots of fiber, and lean proteins. This is a very healthy, nutritious way to eat. However, the amount of food is likely not sufficient to prevent feelings of hunger throughout the day (for most people), as the calorie intake is less than most are used to eating.
The average daily calorie intake is roughly 1500, which is much less than most Americans consume. Restricting calories can trick the body into thinking it's starving, and can actually do the opposite of the diet's intent; it can prevent the body from losing weight while breaking down muscle for energy, as well as causing irregular blood sugar levels.
It would be more beneficial to talk to a Registered Dietitian to find out exactly how many calories you should be eating throughout the day, and then make a realistic plan that can be successful in the long run.
The health benefits of eating minimally processed foods include improving heart health, lowing blood sugar, lowering inflammation, improving the immune system, and can help you lose weight.
Additionally, drinking coffee may provide additional antioxidant benefits, along with a boost of energy from the caffeine. However, excessive caffeine intake can lead to undesirable side effects.
From our perspective, the benefits of the coffee diet do not outweigh the risks.
Excessive caffeine consumption is not safe, so if you do want to increase your coffee intake because you like the taste, incorporate a decaffeinated version.
However, increasing your coffee intake just to try to get the health benefits is not a very smart or good idea. The antioxidants in coffee are also found in many foods, so eating a wide variety of food can likely lead to an intake of the same nutrients.
Calorie restriction is also not a smart way to lose weight; it might work over the short term, but in the long term could lead to weight gain when resuming a more liberalized diet.
In order to lose weight and keep it off, slow, consistent weight loss is key. Rather than trying to lose 50 pounds in 50 days, 1 to 2 pounds per week is a much safer and more realistic goal.
Weight loss with coffee might sound too good to be true because it probably is.