Caffeine and Fat Burning

Do you drink coffee? More importantly, do you use coffee to help with your training or performance?

I know there are some people that can’t touch the stuff before training or it results in a trip to the bathroom mid-workout. Personally, I love to sip on a cup of coffee for an early morning workout for a bit of a boost.

But does it help? Specifically with respect to fat burning, does caffeine help? And does it make a difference what time of day you have a cup of coffee in relation to your training?

A recent study looked to answer this question. They wanted to know if caffeine would boost fat burning.

What they did was have the experiment subjects have a drink 30 minutes before an aerobic exercise workout. The subjects included 15 males averaging 32 years old. The subjects did 4 sessions 7 days apart. This allowed them to experience all 4 test conditions of coffee, placebo, 8 AM training or 5 PM training.

The researchers controlled for fasting, exercise and other stimulants consumed. They wanted to make sure the subjects weren’t doing workouts before coming to the lab or slamming back a Red Bull either.

The researchers used indirect calorimetry to measure maximal fat oxidation (MFO).

So what did they find?

MFO and VO2max were greater in the PM than in the AM.

When the groups consumed caffeine there was 10.7% greater MFO in the morning (i.e. 8 AM) compared to the group that consumed a placebo. And with the 5 PM group MFO was 29% greater when caffeine was consumed instead of a placebo.

So the two big takeaways are that:

  1. Caffeine works and helps increase MFO
  2. Results were better with the afternoon versus the morning group

A few things to keep in mind include:

  • Would we see the same results for different ages rather than everyone of approximately 32 years?
  • Would we see the same results for women?
  • Would we see the same results for sedentary individuals? All the participants in this study were already active.
  • Would the results have differed if more caffeine was consumed? The subjects consumed 3 mg/kg bodyweight. So an 80 kg individual would ingest 240 milligrams of caffeine. (a cup of coffee has about 100 mg)

Lastly, don’t lose sight of the fact that the best time to exercise is when you can make time for it. Different chronotypes do better at different times of day. And although afternoon caffeine resulted in more MFO compared to the morning don’t forget of the fat burning powers of sleep. If an afternoon cup of coffee disrupts sleep it may not be worth it.

Ramírez-Maldonado, M., Jurado-Fasoli, L., Del Coso, J., Ruiz, J. R., & Amaro-Gahete, F. J. (2021). Caffeine increases maximal fat oxidation during a graded exercise test: is there a diurnal variation?. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition18(1), 1-9.

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Oh yeah, there was also a nutritional seminar going on as well.

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For a lot of people the answer would be something sweet. Maybe it’s ice cream, or chocolate or some type of candy. I like all of these.

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Usually this leaves the person involved with a band-aid solution to deal with the symptom but never addresses the cause.

It would be like taking aspirin because your head hurts from hitting yourself in the head with a hammer. Sure you can keep popping pills but you’re never going to get to the root cause of the problem.

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The other day we were finishing a Group Fitness Training workout and I passed out shakes to those who had joined us. Yeah, that’s right. From time to time you get rewarded for coming out for a training session on a long weekend.

Anyways as we were sitting back and drinking our shakes someone asked me why we would have a shake? Why was this important?

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Do you know the following people?

The ones who complain about nutrition and exercise not working for them. That they have tried everything under the sun when it comes to workout routines or dietary changes. But for whatever reason they don’t get results.

And they’ll state emphatically it has nothing to do with their approach or their dedication. They are just different.

You know the type of people I’m talking about?