It’s the reason I wake up every morning. Sometimes, the reason why I can’t fall asleep at night. It’s my motivation, my mental stimulation, and my medicine after a night of too many tropical rum smash cocktails. Oh—and it just might be my favorite drug. Relax, Mom, I’m talking about caffeine.
In the science world, caffeine is a psychoactive stimulant. For the rest of us, it’s a life force. Caffeine can almost instantly make us more alert and energized. But did you know, caffeine and weight loss are also a hand-in-hand combo that can help you hit—and hang onto—your health and wellness goals?!
Don’t go reaching for your third Iced Caramel Macchiato so quickly! There are a number things you need to know about the world’s most widely consumed drug, particularly if you plan on introducing caffeine into your weight loss regimen.
Grab a coffee or some tea—decaf is totally fine. This is what we’ll be covering:
- What is caffeine?
- What you need to know about caffeine and metabolism
- The connection between caffeine and weight loss
- How to caffeinate safely for weight loss
- Healthy (and some not-so healthy) sources of caffeine
What Is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a natural stimulant that affects the central nervous system. It’s most commonly found in coffee, tea, and cacao and makes us feel more alert, energetic, and sometimes even more focused—so long as we don’t consume too much.
Indeed, it’s the most widely consumed psychoactive substance—hence its designation as a (non-scheduled, non-regulated) drug. I don’t know about you, but I find the term “drug” to be a little uncomfortable. Especially if I’m just sipping tea. But actually, the designation is spot on because caffeine is used both medically and, of course, recreationally.
Medically? Yes! Caffeine citrate injections are often used to treat premature newborns with apnea and bronchopulmonary dysplasia, conditions that can lead to asthma and emphysema. Treatments have proven very successful in improving their quality of life.  Caffeine for the win!
But most of us know caffeine as a recreational necessity. You know, grabbing a second cup of coffee to keep you awake through Monday mornings. It’s easy to get used to—and easy to overdo.
While coffee can stimulate our minds and bodies, too much can over-stimulate us, causing hand tremors, increased heart rate, overactive mind, and speaking in rapid-fire run-on sentences.
But in some cases, excessive caffeine intake can be dangerous, which is why understanding the dynamic between caffeine and weight loss is extremely important, especially if including caffeine in your health regimen.
For starters, let’s look at the relationship between caffeine and metabolism.
Does Caffeine Increase Metabolism?
I hear it asked all the time, Does caffeine increase metabolism? The short answer is yes. But to understand why, we need to know a little more about what metabolism is, and the unique relationship between caffeine and metabolism.
What is metabolism?
Metabolism is essentially the process of converting food into fuel, and expelling the remaining waste. A “fast” metabolism converts food into energy more efficiently. Age and activity level are big contributors to metabolic rate. We tend to see a reverse correlation between age and metabolic rate because as we age, our activity levels tend to drop, meaning we process less energy and store more fat.
Caffeine and metabolism
Caffeine from teas, coffee, and chocolate can help give your metabolism a boost, even when taken in regular, everyday doses.
In a study monitoring caffeine and metabolism in both health and obese individuals, researchers found they could give patients regular doses of 100mg of caffeine and metabolism would increase accordingly.  On the whole, caffeine increases metabolic rates by 3-11%. 
This increase in metabolism equates to thermogenesis—our body’s ability to burn fat.
Thermogenesis is the production of heat, particularly in regards to our body’s production of heat.  If you’ve ever bit into hot pepper, you’ve experienced thermogenesis first hand (… or, maybe, first tongue?). That’s because, like caffeine, capsaicin—the spice molecule in chili peppers—is thermogenic.
Consider thermogenesis the “burn” in burning fat. It doesn’t actually singe fat cells, but it increases the ability for our bodies to use fat as energy. And it’s one of the reasons scientists observe a correlation between caffeine and weight loss.
Does caffeine increase metabolism in everyone? Now, that’s a bit trickier to answer.
The balance between caffeine and metabolism is different for everyone, and can vary in each individual depending on a variety of circumstances. But evidence shows that while metabolic rates increase in most people, fat loss from caffeine is greater in people with a normal, healthy weight. 
How To Properly Use Caffeine For Fat Loss
Caffeine has taken the diet market by storm. And for good reason. Because of its metabolism-boosting, appetite-controlling, thermogenic properties, caffeine is often associated with improved weight loss and better weight management in those who have already cut pounds. 
Unfortunately, losing weight and cutting fat are not so easy as sipping iced coffees all day long. But there are ways to use caffeine as an effective weight loss aid.
1. Avoid building up considerable tolerance
Regular caffeine intake will build up your tolerance, which undoes the relationship between caffeine and weight loss. Caffeine cycling may help keep your tolerance in check.
Try a two-on, two-off approach. Two weeks of appropriate caffeine intake, followed by two weeks of little or no caffeine. Try to keep as diligent records as possible of both your caffeine and weight loss to know if it’s working.
2. Natural vs supplemental caffeine
As we’ll dive into in just a second, caffeine comes from many different sources. Obviously, different sources provide different levels of caffeine. And different side-effects too.
Caffeine from tea, coffee, and cacao will not likely cause dehydration. But caffeine pills can. When deciding which caffeine sources to incorporate into your weight loss diet, consult your water bottle. If you’re good at rehydrating throughout the day, caffeine pills may work in your favor. If you’re not used to drinking water regularly, maybe stick to healthy tea throughout the day to keep your metabolism cranking!
3. Metabolism is good. But moderation is key.
Does caffeine increase metabolism? Yes. Is caffeine *the best* way to increase your metabolism? No.
Remember that caffeine provides a metabolic boost, but caffeine alone will not significantly elevate your metabolism to the point where you’re shedding pounds effortlessly. You’ll still want to practice other healthy, metabolism-boosting habits, such as working out, drinking water, eating protein, and getting adequate sleep.
4. Caffeine recommendations
Caffeine can help your body burn through an extra 150 calories a day. . But to use caffeine healthfully as a dietary supplement, you need to be conscious of how it affects your body.
Caffeine tolerance can vary depending on a number of factors, and what your body recognizes as “too much” changes as you change. As a general rule of thumb, the FDA recommends capping your caffeine intake at around 400 mg per day—about 4-5 cups of joe. 
But as with everything, moderation is key. Over-caffeinating can result in:
- Fast heart rate
- Upset stomach
- Feelings of unhappiness (dysphoria)
And lastly, be sure to get your caffeine from the right sources. Be smart about it. You’re looking to use caffeine as a weight loss aide, right? Well, you’re not going to have much luck if you’re chugging Mountain Dew and nom-ing away on Hershey’s bars. The caffeine you would be ingesting won’t come close to countering the calories—most of which is from refined sugar that your body struggles to burn through. Instead, supplement your workouts and weight loss diet with caffeine from healthy sources.
Types Of Caffeine To Boost Weight Loss
Yerba maté—Tea, but not tea. Yerba mate is a South American herb used to make maté, an earthy, caffeinated drink. It’s traditionally sipped from a gourde, though can now be commonly purchased in can form and served cold. I highly recommend giving yerba maté a try, especially with a traditional gourde-like vessel. A whole new world awaits!
Coffee—The simpler the better. If you’re a fan of black coffee, you’re in luck. But err away from fancy coffee delicacies. Starbucks’ famous Iced Caffe Mocha, for instance, has 350 calories.  So even if your caffeine intake does burn an extra 150 calories a day, you’re still doing more harm than good.
Green tea—One sip of high-quality green tea and you’ll see (actually, you’ll taste) why green tea is the world’s most popular drink.  As such, there are many (many, many, many) teas to choose from. But SkinnyFit Detox has been my go-to for years because it’s organic, super-high quality, and loaded with antioxidants and metabolism-boosting superfoods (including yerba maté, among others). It’s also got just 18mg of caffeine per serving, so it’s a safe, perfect option if you’re looking to lose weight with caffeine without going overboard. Plus, it tastes incredible!
Caffeine pills—Caffeine supplementation is another route. Pills can provide similar amounts of caffeine as a cup of coffee or energy drinks, but may be easier on those with sensitivity to sugar or acidity. I personally avoid them, as I absolutely love the taste and experience of drinking tea and coffee.
Semi-sweet chocolate—Yes, chocolate makes the list! As mentioned above, chocolate and cacao (from which chocolate is made) contain caffeine. And while chocolate does contain sugar, semi-sweet chocolate, or chocolate with a high percentage of cacao, can be a nice little caffeinated treat, and a little pick me up throughout your day. Just be mindful of the calories if weight loss is your goal.
The Bottom Line On Caffeine And Weight Loss
A medicine, a stimulant, a metabolism-booster, and not just the best part of waking up but sometimes the only reason we’re motivated to… Yes, it’s safe to say—caffeine is a wonderful drug!
By now, you’ve got a good idea of the balance it creates with your metabolism, and hopefully you have a better understanding of the different and dynamic ways that caffeine and weight loss are related.
If your doctor gives you the thumbs up for caffeine as a means to weight loss, then, for whatever it’s worth, I do too!
Please be responsible, though. Only get caffeine from natural sources, such as Detox tea, and stay within the recommended daily dosage.
Whether it’s just an afternoon pick up, or something you use to trim down, do so safely and in a way that you enjoy!