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Kimberly Tenner
November 29, 2019

Caffeine and Weight Loss

caffeine and weight loss “Biggest Loser” trainer Jillian Michaels was reprimanded during the fall 2013 season after she supplied caffeine supplements for her team members.

Michaels intended the caffeine supplements to be a healthier substitute for the world’s most popular caffeine source: coffee. Nevertheless, “Biggest Loser” producers declared the week’s weigh-in invalid and said Michaels’ team broke the rules. [1]

Whether or not Michaels was in the wrong, the show’s producers obviously believe caffeine affects weight loss. And for good reason: decades of research indicate a link between caffeine and weight loss.

Let’s review the most pivotal studies on caffeine and weight loss to reveal how to safely use this natural stimulant to enhance fitness.

What Links Caffeine and Weight Loss?

Caffeine acts as a nervous system stimulant. This characteristic not only gives caffeine its reputation as a mental pick-me-up but also accounts for its weight loss power.

Many diet pills include caffeine, usually as caffeine anhydrous or dicaffeine malate. Some common supplement ingredients naturally contain caffeine. These include:

• Green tea extract
• Guarana
• Yerba mate
• Kola nut
• Green coffee bean extract

Whatever your caffeine source, the effects are the same. The chemicals in caffeine trigger several reactions in the nervous system.

One of these reactions causes the sympathetic nervous system to release hormones such as epinephrine. Epinephrine encourages fat cells to break down, so muscles have more energy available.[2]

Caffeine’s effects on the nervous system are short-lived, but the result is a faster resting metabolic rate. Going head-to-head with a placebo in a 1980 study, caffeine raised metabolic rate for 3 hours after dosing and elevated levels of fatty acid in blood plasma, an indication of fat burning. [3]

Caffeine’s Thermogenic Effect

Because caffeine stimulates fat burning, it is said to have a thermogenic effect. In layman’s terms, thermogenic effect means a substance affects metabolism, usually by generating heat.

Caffeine’s thermogenic effect is dose-dependent: the higher the dose, the greater the heat. [4]

Interestingly, caffeine’s thermogenic affect appears to be higher in leaner individuals. [5] For example, according to one study, several 100 mg caffeine doses over a 12-hour period raised metabolic rate in lean and obese individuals. But, the obese people burned 79 extra calories while the lean individuals burned 150 calories. [6]

Of course, burning around 100 extra calories, thanks to caffeine, won’t shrink anyone’s waistline overnight. But no matter what size you are, caffeine causes your body to use more energy. This attribute makes caffeine a trusted weight loss ally.

Workout Energy from Caffeine

In addition to stimulating themogenesis, caffeine amplifies available energy to improve workout performance. Consequently, people following a balanced weight loss program benefit from taking caffeine before their workout.

Participants in a 2011 study took caffeine or a placebo before a resistance training workout. The caffeine group performed more reps and lifted heavier weights than the placebo group. [7]

These research results and others like them indicate caffeine allows people to work out longer and harder. For people trying to lose weight, that means more calories burned and more lean muscle built.

Caffeine even earns a stamp of approval from the International Society of Sports Nutrition. In an official statement, the ISSN said caffeine safely and effectively enhances sports performance. The recommended dose is between 3 and 6 mg per kg body weight taken as caffeine anhydrous. [8]

How to Lose Weight with Caffeine

caffeine and weight lossWhile research establishes a clear link between caffeine and weight loss, caffeine isn’t a fool-proof weight loss ingredient.

Caffeine’s fat-burning power cannot cancel out the less-than-healthy consequences of consuming some caffeine sources. Consequently, it’s best to avoid excessive intake of sugary soft drinks (diet versions included), over-stimulating energy drinks, and cream- or sugar-filled coffee if you want to lose weight.

One way to include caffeine in your diet without adding calories is through a weight loss supplement. Many of the top 10 weight loss supplements on feature caffeine as a primary ingredient. Weight loss supplements, especially those with caffeine, enhance the efforts you put in at the gym and in the kitchen so you see results faster.


[1] Harris, Nadia-Elysse. “Jillian Michaels Caught Cheating On ‘Biggest Loser’: How Caffeine Pills Help Speed Weight Loss.” 2012 Nov 14. Available from:

[2] Kim, Tae-Wook,Young-Oh Shin, Jeong-Beom Lee, Young-Ki Min, and Hun-Mo Yang. “Effect of caffeine on the metabolic responses of lipolysis and activated sweat gland density in human during physical activity.” Food Science and Biotechnology. 19.4 (2010): 1077-1081. Available from:

[3] Acheson, KJ, B Zahorska-Markiewicz, P Pittet, K Anantharaman, and E Jequier. “Caffeine and coffee: their influence on metabolic rate and substrate utilization in normal weight and obese individuals.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 33.5 (1980): 989-997. Available from:

[4] Astrup, A, S Toubro, et al. “Caffeine: a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of its thermogenic, metabolic, and cardiovascular effects in healthy volunteers.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 51.5 (1990): 759-767. Available from:

[5] Bracco, D., J.M. Ferrarra, M.J. Arnaud, E. Jequir, and Y. Schutz. “Effects of caffeine on energy metabolism, heart rate, and methylxanthine metabolism in lean and obese women.” American Journal of Physiology: Endocrinology and Metabolism. 269 (1995): E671-E678. Available from:

[6] Dulloo, AG, CA Geissler, T Horton, A Collins, and DS Miller. “Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 49.1 (1989): 44-50. Available from:

[7] Duncan, MJ, and SW Oxford. “The effect of caffeine ingestion on mood state and bench press performance to failure.” Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. 25.1 (2011): 178-85. Available from:

[8] Goldstein, Erica R, Tim Ziegenfuss, et al. “International society of sports nutrition position stand: caffeine and performance.” Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. Epub 2010 Jan 27. Available from:

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