It takes a lot to beat a good cup of coffee first thing in the morning. As somewhat of a coffee junkie, I rarely go a day without a cup or three. I’m not the only one either; coffee certainly has a lot of fans. Literally.
So, what is the truth about coffee? Can we consume it regularly when our goals are to lose body fat and develop lean muscle, and if we can, is coffee healthy? Let’s see…
A Closer Look At Coffee
Most people know that coffee beans come from the small ‘cherries’ of the coffee plant. I don’t want to spend too long answering the question “what is coffee?” though so if you want to start with the very basics take a quick look at the Wikipedia page.
One fact I do find interesting though is that 100% of the world’s coffee is grown inside the Bean Belt which is an area between the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn (mostly very hot, exotic places I would love to live). Who knew eh?
The Common Effects Of Coffee
Other than it’s amazing taste and smell, coffee is mainly of interest because of the Caffeine content. Most people are familiar with caffeiene, a stimulant, and it’s effects: short-term energy increases, improved concentration and improved memory. Basically coffee is often used as a ‘pick-me-up’ although some people seem to rely on it as a constant energy source from the moment they sit down at their desks!
Everyone seems to experience the above effects to varying degrees. You probably have an idea of how coffee affects your energy levels and concentration. We say that as long as coffee gives you a positive experience then drink it for sure; do not get to a stage where you are relying on it for consistent ‘boosts’ though.
On the subject of coffee affecting people differently, sleeping can be a problem. You may find that the affects of caffeine stay with you for a number of hours after finishing a drink so this should be accounted for if you want any chance of sleeping that night. Some people can drink an espresso at bedtime and sleep like a baby. Others will be up all night. Common sense prevails here; don’t opt for a small energy hit in the evening if you are going to lose out on sleep. Sleeping patters are very important and there are a lot of potential long term problems if you interrupt them.
Basically, learn how caffeine affects you and be sensible. Simple eh?
A Note About Dehydration
Contrary to populary opinion coffee does not dehydrate you. This is a common concern which seems to have spread around and gotten out of hand; the research does not support any claims about coffee having any such effect on us though – thanks Mark Sisson for clearing this up.
Is Coffee Paleo?
The Paleo purists tend to shy away from coffee. It wasn’t available to the cavemen in the way most people drink it. There are a lot of coffee drinking Paleo lovers though, including myself. In our opinion Paleo is not supposed to be a historical reenactment, but an application of solid nutritional principles developed over millions of years.
Coffee does not seem to pose any health risks to most people, especially those of us following a sensible diet such as Paleo. It is something I enjoy and it even has some minor benefits. That, for me, is enough to make it part of my daily routine.
So let’s move on to the interesting stuff…
Coffee And Weight Loss: Help Or Hinderance?
There is a fair bit of discussion around whether coffee affects fat loss and body re-composition. You may come across some negative opinions claiming coffee contains certain tars among and acids; this is true but the amounts do not appear to be anything to worry about, especailly if you are drinking only one or two cups per day.
On the contrary, coffee is a powerful source of anti-oxidants which we all know are essential. It is true though that with a correct Paleo style diet you will never need to rely on coffee for these. Still, a nice bonus nonetheless.
In terms of calories and effects on body fat coffee actually does fairly well. Keep in mind though that here we are talking about black coffee with water, which is not how most people drink it. Let’s look at some of the most common additions to coffee and how they are likely to affect your fat loss efforts…
Healthy Ways To Make Coffee – Where Do People Go Wrong?
Luckily, making coffee healthier is not difficult at all. Let’s first cover what you need to avoid:
Sugar – Hopefully our regular readers know this already. Don’t add sugar to coffee, just don’t. Sugar makes you fat, plain and simple. Here is how sugar can end your fat loss progress.
Artificial Sweeteners and Creamers – These are just as bad as sugar. Ignore the low-calorie claims and don’t even go there. Below we highlight some much better ways to sweeten or cream your coffee.
All The Fancy Extras – I couldn’t think of a good name for these but what I am referring to is all of the junk you can choose to put in your coffee at Starbucks and other chains. Things like hazlenut syrup, caramel, chocolate flavorings etc. These are really just different forms of sugars and sweeteners but I thought they deserved a special mention; these beauties are what commonly pushes a cup of coffee up over the 400 calorie mark! Just don’t!
So What Can We Add To Coffee? – Creaming
The good news is that you have a lot more whays to make coffee healther than you think…
We don’t really recommend adding milk but if you can’t live without it (really?) then a little splash is fine. There are some much better options though. The two most common are:
Real Cream, Organic – Choose full-fat.
Coconut Milk – This adds a delicious twist to coffee and brings with it a lot of health benefits too.
Healthy Ways To Sweeten Coffee
There is room for some healthy experimentation here, which is always fun. Here is a rundown of how to add taste or sween coffee healthily:
Raw Honey, Organic – Honey is delicious in coffee. You don’t need much at all to create a lovely, unique taste.
Vanilla – This is a new idea for a lot of people but a few vanilla drops really brings a cup of black coffee to life.
Natural Stevia – This extra from the sweetest plant in nature has zero calories. It is estimated to be around 300 times sweeter than sugar though so don’t add too much, even when using the extract.
Cocoa Powder, Organic – Love mocha but hate the sugar calories? Sprinkle organic, un-sweetened cocoa powder into your black coffee for a real treat.
Cinnamon (My Favorite!) – Cinnamon really is an incredible spice. Add a light dusting to black coffee and create the kind of smell dreams are made of; the taste is equally good. You may have heard cinnamon brings with it a long list of health benefits, the most interesting of which to us is the apparently ability to control blood sugar spikes. We have written more about Cinnamon and blood sugar levels here. This spice is our top recommendation if you are looking for a healthy way to make coffee.
What Are Your Views On Coffee?
We have summarised our opinions and research here for you. Simply learn how you react to coffee, don’t drink too much and most importantly… keep a close eye on what you add to it (always drink organic too). We are very happy to answer questions from readers in the comments below so please get in touch
Please let us know your own thoughts on coffee and weight loss, along with any ideas you have for making it healthier, and hopefully tastier too!