Is decaffeinated coffee good for losing weight?

Coffee is one of the most popular beverages in the world. Many people drink coffee for its taste and energy-boosting effects. Coffee contains caffeine, a stimulant that can increase fat burning and improve physical performance (1). However, some people choose to avoid caffeine due to side effects like anxiety and disrupted sleep patterns (2). For these people, decaffeinated coffee may provide a solution. Decaffeinated coffee has at least 97% of its caffeine removed, but still contains many other bioactive compounds found in regular coffee (3). This article reviews the evidence on whether decaffeinated coffee can aid weight loss and help you achieve an ideal body weight.

What is decaffeinated coffee?

Decaffeinated coffee is regular coffee that has gone through a process to remove caffeine while retaining flavor and other compounds. There are four main methods of decaffeination (4):

– Solvent-based: Caffeine is extracted using solvents like methylene chloride or ethyl acetate.

– Water-based: Coffee beans are soaked in hot water, dissolving and extracting caffeine.

– Carbon dioxide: Pressurized carbon dioxide acts as the solvent to remove caffeine.

– Swiss water process: Green coffee beans are soaked in hot water, extracting the caffeine. The water is then passed through charcoal filters to remove the caffeine before being reused on a new batch of beans.

Most commercially available decaffeinated coffee has been treated via the solvent or carbon dioxide methods. Both are effective at removing 97–99% of caffeine from regular coffee beans (5). Interestingly, one study found no difference in taste between decaffeinated coffee made with the Swiss water method versus caffeinated coffee (6). This suggests the flavor compounds remain intact even after removing the caffeine.

How does caffeine affect weight loss?

Caffeine is a fast-acting stimulant. When you drink coffee, the caffeine is absorbed into your bloodstream. From there, it travels to the brain where it blocks adenosine receptors. Adenosine is a neurotransmitter that promotes sleep. By blocking adenosine, caffeine increases alertness and energy expenditure (7).

Caffeine may support weight loss in several ways:

– Increases metabolic rate: Studies show caffeine can temporarily boost metabolism by up to 11% and increase fat burning by up to 10–29% (8, 9).

– Enhances exercise performance: Caffeine raises adrenaline levels and the release of free fatty acids, improving physical endurance (10). This allows you to exercise longer and with greater intensity.

– Suppresses appetite: Caffeine may lower appetite and hunger levels compared to placebo, reducing calorie intake (11).

– Increases lipolysis: Caffeine stimulates lipolysis, the breakdown of fat, by up to 83% in obese and lean individuals (12).

Thanks to these mechanisms, caffeine intake before cardio exercise can increase fat burning and calories burned compared to exercise alone (13).

That said, overdoing caffeine can interfere with getting adequate sleep. Poor sleep is tied to increased hunger and weight gain over time (14).

Does decaffeinated coffee help with weight loss?

Decaffeinated coffee retains many bioactive compounds found in regular coffee — just without the caffeine (15). The main active ingredients include:

– Chlorogenic acids: A family of antioxidant polyphenols that may lower blood sugar levels (16).

– Diterpenes: Anti-inflammatory antioxidants that stimulate glucose uptake (17).

– Trigonelline: A phytochemical that counteracts diabetes and neurodegenerative disease in animal studies (18).

Some research has investigated whether decaf coffee may aid weight loss like regular caffeinated coffee does:

– In a 12-week study in 126 overweight and obese people, those who drank 4 cups of decaffeinated coffee per day lost an average of 4.1% body weight while on a low-calorie diet. The placebo group only lost 2.5% (19).

– Another study in 2,914 Korean adults associated drinking 2–3 cups of decaf coffee per day with significantly lower odds of obesity (20).

– One reason may be chlorogenic acids. Mice fed a high fat diet supplemented with chlorogenic acids gained less weight and had less body fat than mice not receiving supplementation (21).

– Decaf coffee intake has also been linked to reduced food intake compared to caffeine or water. One trial in 50 people found that those who drank a decaf coffee meal replacement consumed 20% fewer calories from snacking (22).

So while decaffeinated coffee may not provide an instant metabolic boost like caffeinated coffee, it may still aid fat burning and weight loss over time. The antioxidant content and appetite suppressing qualities still make decaf coffee an excellent choice.

Is decaf or regular coffee better for weight loss?

Very few studies directly compare the effects of caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee on weight.

One crossover study tested healthy adults who consumed a meal followed by a cup of regular or decaf coffee (23):

– Caffeinated coffee led to significantly higher metabolic rate for 3 hours versus decaffeinated coffee or water.

– Fat oxidation was higher after regular coffee versus decaf, by an average of 8%, demonstrating greater fat burning.

– Feelings of hunger and desire to eat were lower after caffeinated coffee compared to the other two drinks.

Based on the immediate effects, caffeinated coffee seems to be more advantageous for boosting metabolism and fat loss than decaf.

However, for those sensitive to stimulants or who drink coffee later in the day, decaf coffee still offers benefits:

– Decaf drinkers lost a similar amount of weight as caffeinated coffee drinkers in one study when following a low-calorie diet (19).

– Any variety of coffee may promote weight loss by replacing high-calorie beverages like juices.

– Decaf coffee provides many of the same polyphenols and antioxidants as regular coffee, which may reduce risk of diabetes and metabolic syndrome (24).

So ultimately, either caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee can be effective for weight loss. Stick to 1–2 cups per day and choose the variety best suited to your caffeine tolerance.

Tips for using decaf coffee to lose weight

Here are some tips to make decaffeinated coffee an optimal drink choice for losing weight:

– Drink decaf 30–60 minutes before cardio exercise. The antioxidants and small amount of caffeine can boost performance to maximize fat burning during your workout (25).

– Add cinnamon to your decaf coffee. Cinnamon contains antioxidants that regulate blood sugar levels and may assist with fat burning (26).

– Use decaf coffee as an appetite suppressant. The compounds it contains may blunt hunger and cravings when consumed before meals (27).

– Avoid adding excess sugar, flavored creamers, and calorie-laden coffee drinks. Black decaf coffee or coffee with a small amount of milk and stevia sweetener are best.

– If you experience anxiety, insomnia, or restlessness from any coffee, decaf is better since it’s 99% caffeine-free. The benefits for weight loss may be smaller than regular coffee, but still present.

– Drink decaf coffee in moderation, sticking to 1–2 cups per day maximum to avoid excess caffeine consumption.

Potential benefits of decaf coffee for weight loss

Here is a summary of the research-backed ways decaffeinated coffee may support weight loss and fat burning:

– Contains antioxidants like chlorogenic acid that regulate blood sugar and fat metabolism (16, 21).

– May mildly suppress appetite and reduce calorie intake when consumed before meals (22).

– Linked to lower risk of obesity and slightly more weight loss on a low-calorie diet (19, 20).

– Boosts metabolic rate and fat burning compared to plain water, although less than caffeinated coffee (23).

– Provides a zero-calorie beverage option to substitute for high-calorie drinks.

– Improves exercise performance and endurance versus no coffee (28).

The evidence suggests decaf coffee can be an effective component of a weight loss diet and lifestyle. While it may not create the same immediate boost in metabolism and fat oxidation as regular coffee, decaf coffee still has redeeming qualities that make it a smart beverage choice for those trying to lose weight.

Potential downsides of decaf coffee for weight loss

There are a few potential concerns to keep in mind with decaffeinated coffee:

– Missing the metabolic boost of caffeine. Caffeine is clinically proven to increase metabolism and fat burning over the short-term (8, 9).

– Less effective appetite suppression. The combination of caffeine and coffee compounds most powerfully reduce appetite and cravings (11).

– Requires more careful monitoring of intake. Sticking to 1–2 cups is important since it’s easy to overdo decaf without feeling overstimulated.

– Potential for weight gain if consumed before bed. While decaf contains very little caffeine, any stimulant close to bedtime could impair sleep quality and promote weight gain over time (29).

– Decreased workout performance. Unlike caffeinated coffee, decaf taken pre-exercise may not enhance energy levels and endurance to the same extent (10).

The bottom line

Decaffeinated coffee can absolutely promote weight loss and complement a healthy diet and active lifestyle. It just might not provide the same instant boost in resting metabolism and fat burning that regular caffeinated coffee does. However, decaf coffee contains many active compounds and antioxidants that offer anti-obesity effects. When choosing decaf, opt for decaffeination methods like Swiss water processing that best preserve antioxidant content. Stick to 1–2 cups of decaf coffee per day to reap the weight loss benefits without going overboard on caffeine. And avoid drinking it too late in the day to prevent disrupting your sleep.

Overall, decaffeinated coffee is an excellent option if you need to avoid or limit caffeine but still want to enjoy a cup of joe. Both decaf and regular coffee can aid your weight loss journey.

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