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Can Caffeine Help With Fat Loss?

I frequently get asked about my opinion of caffeine for fat loss by my Charleston personal training clients and blog readers so I figured it’s about time I do a post on this subject.

The truth is I’ve found caffeine can be a good thing, a bad thing, or even have a neutral impact on fat loss depending on how it’s being used.

I’ve long been an advocate for the use of caffeine as a thermogenic (fat burner) if used properly. In fact, one of the components (number eight to be specific) in my “Ultimate Fat Loss Strategy” e-book is as follows:

Take 120mg of caffeine 1-2 times daily (preferably before workouts) as a thermogenic aid in helping to reduce stubborn lower body fat.

Now before you jump on me with the “ooh no Shane, caffeine is bad” rhetoric hear me out. This isn’t a “must do” strategy for fat loss but I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the potential benefits.

There’s little question that caffeine can have a thermogenic value by stimulating the adrenals and the research on this is pretty clear. But there is a “catch” just so you know…

The thermogenic effect of caffeine with exercise has been best achieved primarily in individuals who don’t regularly use large amounts of caffeine.

And if too much caffeine taken is taken for extended periods, the door can swing the other way and its impact will actually be counterproductive.

I won’t bore you with all the details on how too much caffeine affects the fat cell receptor sites but just know that consuming too much will actually make fat loss harder for you long term.

Bottom line is caffeine is a strong stimulant and has a ”drug like” effect on the body. It’s not something that can be overused or abused without a negative consequence.

How Caffeine Impacts Fat Loss

The majority of fat in your body can be broken down and released for energy with simple energy demand. When you burn more calories than you take in, you’ll release stored fat for energy.

Pretty basic stuff on the surface.

Of course this isn’t that easy in the real world due to decreased thyroid production and lower metabolism after extended periods of calorie restriction.

Then you have the issue of some very stubborn fat areas (mostly found in the hips and midsection) that don’t respond well to typical release mechanisms (caloric expenditure through exercise and diet).

The fat cell receptors in these areas are simply different (mostly because they don’t receive blood flow) and there needs to be another means of releasing the fatty acids contained within them.

One way this is accomplished is through the adrenaline hormones; adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. Without getting into too much detail, just know that caffeine has been shown to create a short term increase in the amount of adrenaline in your blood stream and thus help with fatty acid release.

I’ve seen enough “real world” evidence outside of the research that I have to confirm this idea along with the benefits of caffeine for assisting with fat loss if used properly.

energy_drinks1

How Caffeine Use Can Be Counter-Productive For Fat Loss

However, like with most things the problem is people will often assume that if a little works “good”, than a lot should work “better.”

When you take too much caffeine into your body over time the cell receptors begin shutting down and hormonal balances shift out of your favor. At the same time continued increases in caffeine dosages creates an increase in the side effects and health risks.

So Can Caffeine Be Safe For Your Health?

Caffiene overuse and addiction creates a vicious cycle where the benefits go down while the side effects and risks go up. Of course, caffeine is the bad guy but the problems typically don’t occur from its use without excessive consumption.

When used in moderation it can be very effective and safe, but when it gets overused and people develop health problems there’s a rush to label it as “dangerous.”

The eastern world has been using caffeine for thousands of years (green tea) as part of their holistic way of living and I can’t argue with their results or health.  I haven’t seen too many pictures of obese people in the Far East.

But then again you don’t see them taking “stacker 2” or drinking “jolt” colas either. It all comes down to how much caffeine is being consumed and in what form.

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

Like I mentioned earlier, taking too much caffeine can actually have the reverse effect and make it harder for you to lose body fat. While I’m by no means making specific recommendations for or suggesting ANY dosage, from what I’ve seen the problems start to occur when large amounts of caffeine (300-400 mg) and up are taken on a daily basis.

Of course this is going to vary on a persons body weight and bioindividuality but this is just what I’ve seen ballpark from experience. FYI: a typical 6-8 ounce cup of coffee has 60-90mg of caffeine and a regular soda somewhere around  30-60 mg.

A quick note on the sugary caffeinated energy drinks like Red Bull, Jolt, Surge, etc. In my opinion this stuff is nothing but garbage and only works to skyrocket insulin levels (fat storing hormone) while also overloading the adrenals.

I’d stay away from it if I were you. And just so you know my discussions on the benefits of caffeine will never include processed, sugary, energy drinks OR soft drinks so don’t bother asking me my opinion of them.

What Amount Of Caffeine I’ve Seen Work Best For Fat Loss?

I have found from personal experience and my research that 100-150mg of caffeine works best for fat loss when taking prior to exercise.

If you’re going to use caffeine I would recommend you stagger your servings to no more than two times during the day.

If you drink tea or coffee in the morning there’s one time and the other would be 30 minutes prior and or during your workout (that is of course unless you workout in the AM).

If You’re Already A Large Caffeine User, Will It Still Help For Fat Loss?

If you consume a lot of caffeine, you might find benefit by cutting out coffee and caffeinated drinks for about 3-4 weeks before beginning this fat loss strategy. This is just to allow your cell receptors the chance to turn back on and return to normal function, along with giving the adrenals a break.

During your time period of “no caffeine” still workout 3-5 days per week with resistance and cardio exercise and allow your body’s natural energy systems to restore. You may experience headaches and fatigue for a few days, but after a week or two you should find you can function surprisingly well without the caffeine.

If you don’t consume caffeine currently in high amounts, you might start out with a small amount (60-75mg), especially if you’re lighter, prior to your workout, and then work your dosage up from there. Everyone is different but just keep your intake under 150 mg per serving for best results.

When You Consume Caffeine Is Equally Important

I should note that caffeine is most effective when it’s taken right before your workout and perhaps one other time during the day. Research overwhelming shows that the effects are NOT the same when caffeine is consumed regularly through the day.

What I Recommend If You’re Going To Use Caffeine

While I’m not going to recommend that you should take caffeine one way or the other, if you do decide to use this strategy this is how I would go about. The best sources of caffeine will always be natural sources like coffee and tea.

Remember I’m not talking about latte grandes, mocha cappachino, and all that other crap I can’t spell or say. You can’t have an effective fat loss strategy with loads of sugar and cream. Straight up tea or black coffee will work fine, but if can’t go that route, you’ll have to look at other options.

One option I highly recommend and take myself is a product by Advocare® called Spark Energy Drink. It is without a doubt the most thoroughly researched product of its kind on the planet. It contains just the right amount of caffeine (120mg) along with B vitamins and synergistic nutrients to make it effective yet safe.

I often use it myself before workouts and I love the taste. The drink mix comes in a powder form with (cherry, grape, orange, fruit punch) flavors that you simply put into your bottled water, shake, and drink or sip on before and during your workout.

While it’s not available in nutrition stores, you can purchase the Spark Energy Drink packets at Shaping Concepts since we’re a distributor.

The Disclaimer Stuff On Using Caffeine…Since I’m Not Your Doctor Obviously!

Once again I want to conclude by reiterating that this is not a “must do” strategy for fat loss and obviously you will want to stay away from caffeine if you have cardiovascular health problems or other health concerns that could be affected by a stimulant.

Take what I’m giving you for what it is…nothing more than my experience and opinion on caffeine and how it impacts fat loss after countless hours of reading research.

I “get it” that some people don’t do well with caffeine and/or shouldn’t be taking it for specific health reasons.

If that’s you, eat primal, train hard, do BOTH cardio and resistance workouts and you’ll do just fine. You know I just have to say this disclaimer stuff even though it’s common sense but here you go.

Consult with your physician regarding the impact of caffeine on your personal health and interaction with any medications you may be taking.

Having said all that…here’s the bottom line. If I were a healthy adult male or female with no adverse risk to caffeine and my objective is fat loss, I’d be taking 1-2 Advocare® Spark Energy Drinks per day in conjunction with a supportive nutrition diet.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studios. Learn more how you can receive a FREE no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal training programs and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.

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Category: Nutrition.