Is coffee fattening?
Thanks to its delicious taste and distinct aroma, coffee is one of the most popular beverages on the planet, enjoyed by millions of people everyday. I have a cup of black coffee every morning because it helps to energize me.
But what if you are trying to manage your weight? Does coffee make you fat? The short answer is it depends on the type of coffee that you drink.
A cup of brewed coffee contains:
A cup of brewed coffee without anything extra added to it is extremely low in calories. This is crucial information because calories are important when it comes to weight management.
The number of calories found in foods varies greatly. For example a small banana (100 g) has only 90 calories whereas a cup of sliced almonds (92 g) has 529 calories.
In order to gain weight, you need to consume more calories than what your body uses up. The extra unused calories are stored as fat in your body.
The number of calories that you need to be consuming to start putting on weight depends on your age, gender, weight, height and how active you are. You can use the calculator below to get an estimate of your calorie requirements:
This calculator will never show a number below 1000 calories per day. Please speak to a qualified health professional before attempting to eat less than that.
For example, a 30 year old lady who weighs 55 kg, is 170 cm tall and exercises 4 times a week will need to consume around 2,300 – 2,500 calories a day to start putting on weight.
Since plain brewed coffee with nothing added to it is so low in calories, drinking it cannot make you fat.
Keep in mind however, when people mention the word “coffee” they could be talking about a variety of beverages…
Can coffee make you fat?
Not all coffee is created equal and there are many variations of the beverage. Additions such as milk, creamer, sugar and syrup all help to pack on the calories.
For example, a cup of cappuccino made with whole milk has 73 calories. Whilst this has 36 times the number of calories that plain brewed coffee does, drinking a cup of cappuccino daily is unlikely to cause weight gain. The same goes for a cup of caffe latte, which has 136 calories.
However, the more you drink, the more calories you consume. Three cups of caffe latte equate to 400+ calories. If you are drinking these three cups everyday, whilst also consuming enough food to satisfy your daily calorie requirement, you will start to gain weight. This is because 400 extra calories a day is 12,000 extra calories a month, which equates to almost 3.5 pounds of fat.
Store bought coffees should also be drunk with caution. Whilst tasty, some are very high in calories and sugar. For example, a 16 oz Starbucks Caramel Frappuccino® Blended Coffee made with whole milk and whipped cream has 420 calories and 66 g of sugar!
Your body does not register liquid calories as well as it does solid calories. If you eat 400 calories worth of solid food (e.g. a grilled chicken breast with steamed vegetables), it adds bulk to your stomach. The cells in your stomach lining would sense this and send satiety signals to your brain, so you end up feeling less hungry.
Unfortunately when it comes to liquid calories, this mechanism does not work as efficiently, which means that the calories consumed are not well compensated for. This in turn leads to overeating and weight gain.
Also, the large amount of sugar causes dramatic spikes and dips in your blood sugar levels. This is often experienced after eating processed carbohydrates, and leaves you feeling hungry & irritable – and most people reach out for food when they feel this way.
Whilst this article mainly focuses on sugary soft drinks, the same weight gain principles would apply to coffee beverages high in calories and sugar.
So it is important to know exactly what type of coffee you are drinking and many coffee shops will have nutritional information on their menus.
The healthiest (and cheapest!) option is to make your own coffee using high quality beans. You can add a little bit of milk and sugar (if you must), but having it plain black brings with it the most health benefits.
Can coffee help you lose weight?
On the flip side, some studies have shown that coffee contains compounds that could help boost your metabolism and assist with weight loss. One of the primary compounds responsible for this is the stimulant caffeine.
Your resting metabolic rate (RMR) determines how many calories you burn at rest. The higher your RMR, the harder it is for you to put on weight. This study involved 18 healthy volunteers; half were able to manage their weight well whilst the other half admitted to having weight management problems, but had been able to maintain a normal body weight for at least five months before the study.
The study found that consuming 100 mg of caffeine caused a 3 – 11% increase in the RMR of both groups. After repeated caffeine consumption, the groups burnt an extra 150 and 79 calories per day, respectively. A cup of coffee has 95 mg of caffeine so drinking it should have similar metabolism boosting benefits.
Caffeine can also increase exercise performance by up to 12%, as shown in studies such as this one. This is handy because the more strenuously you exercise, the more calories you burn.
Finally, this observational study found that high coffee consumption was associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome and obesity.
The type of coffee that you drink will determine whether it makes you gain weight or not. Plain black coffee is very low in calories and drinking it might actually help you to lose weight.
On the other hand, coffee beverages that contain lots of different ingredients added to them should be drunk with caution, since extra calories do add up quickly.