In this day and age, obesity has become one of the biggest problems of our modern world. It leads to many physical and mental complications that people are ready to do anything to cut that fat without thinking about its consequences. Diet pill companies in their quest to make a quick buck take people for a ride by claiming that their products can give instant weight loss and keep them slim forever. People are always looking for quick fixes instead of real effort to lose that stubborn fat either by starving themselves or popping weight loss pills, carb blockers, bariatric surgery etc. which don’t really do any good to our body but make a huge hole in our health and pockets.
One such supplement, which has made its way into the world of fitness is Caffeine and for a good reason. It is used in a myriad of ways such as a body builder’s pre-workout, an athlete’s pre-match energy booster, a student’s study aid, at social gatherings etc. It has become part of most workout supplements, sports drinks, energy drinks claiming to aid in weight loss and boost energy levels. Caffeine beverage makers claim that Caffeine has amazing fat burning properties which aids in weight loss. It has been hailed as a miraculous drug which can help people maintain their lean body mass and burn fat. Thousands of people consume obscene amounts of Caffeine in the belief that it would help them lose weight and achieve their fitness goals faster. But the question is “Is it really true? Does caffeine really help in weight loss?”
To understand this, let us dig deeper into how caffeine affects our body.
The fat stored in our body in the form of triglycerides cannot be directly used for energy production by the cells. They need to be unlocked from their stored form and released into the blood in the form of Free Fatty Acids (FFA’s) to be utilized for energy by the cells of our body. Caffeine is said to induce the release of flight or fight hormones adrenaline and nor-adrenaline in our body. They prime the body for action expecting fight or flight situations such as increasing blood flow to the skeletal muscle, widening of air passage, blood vessel constriction, dilation, raising blood pressure etc. When the levels of these hormones increase in our blood, fat stored in our body is released in the form of FFA’s for cellular uptake.
Now the question arises whether all these Free Fatty Acids that were released as a result of Caffeine ingestion from their triglyceride form actually resulted in fat oxidation or fat loss as just the FFA’s floating in our blood stream doesn’t serve any purpose. Studies done in this regard, have not seen major fat oxidation due to the conversion of triglycerides to FFA’s rather it was seen that lipid mobilization alone was insufficient to drive lipid oxidation, or large increments in lipid turnover resulted in small increments in lipid oxidation. This essentially means that just because FFA’s were released from their stored form, it doesn’t really mean they were utilized by the cells for energy. Some of them did get converted back into their triglyceride form and stored in the body which essentially nullified the good effects.
Caffeine has other metabolic effects as well which are said to help in burning excess calories even while at rest such as increased thermogenesis, increased resting metabolic rate, appetite suppressant etc. Caffeine can have a significant influence on energy balance and may promote thermogenesis in the treatment of obesity.
As much as we would love to overdose on caffeine, we should not forget that Caffeine has its downside as well. Excess caffeine consumption can lead to insomnia, anxiety, nervousness, restlessness, irritability, acidity, acid reflux, heartburn, increased heart rate, blood pressure etc. Moderate and high consumer groups reported significantly higher anxiety and depression scores when compared with abstainers.
Caffeine has also been known to increase heart rate and blood pressure in individuals. Coffee is highly acidic and can stimulate hyper secretion of gastric acids.
Caffeine also has the problem of developing tolerance to it when consumed continuously over a period of time and in order to continue getting the same benefits, dosage needs to be increased periodically which is counter productive. Also caffeine is known to cause withdrawal symptoms such as nausea, headache, dizziness, irritability etc when one tries to quit it.
In conclusion, it can be said that while Caffeine does induce lipolysis, it does not directly translate to lipid oxidation i.e. fat burn. Both are very different things and just because we have FFA’s floating around in our body does not mean they were oxidized for energy. Though increased caffeine intake does result in increased lipid turnover which might lead to some fat oxidation, this is not significant and most of the FFA’s would again get stored as triglycerides in our body. We still need to put the effort and exercise and workout and give a reason for our body to use them for energy and not let them be stored. Caffeine can only help us in unlocking the FFA’s but we should give work to our muscles so that they oxidize the released FFA’s for energy and not store them back again which will lead to actual fat loss. The best thing we can do to maximize our fat loss is to use Caffeine as a pre-workout which would unlock the Free Fatty Acids and make them readily available for the muscle cells to oxidize them for energy. This would ensure that majority of them get oxidized instead of getting stored back as triglycerides. Other effects of Caffeine such as increased thermogenesis, resting metabolic rate etc. though might lead to some fat oxidation, this is not very significant and might easily be negated if we consume excess calories.
Also since caffeine is known to have some negative effects, we should take care that we do not go overboard with its consumption thinking that we can have all the benefits combined such as lipolysis, increased thermogenesis, increased RMR and quickly lose weight as rather than losing weight, we would instead suffer from stress, anxiety, insomnia, irritability, heart burn, acidity, high blood pressure etc. which is more detrimental to our health. We should not consume more than 400mg of caffeine which roughly equates to 3-4 cups of coffee per day while still derive maximum benefits from its usage. Also, in order to avoid developing tolerance to Caffeine, it would be a good idea to cycle caffeine on a regular basis by abstaining from it for a few weeks to few months depending on one’s tolerance and sensitivity levels and again consume it.
Article Credits – Shilpa Reddy