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.

12 Minutes of Exercise Improves Health

This summer we got a puppy. And the interesting thing about puppies is that they don’t really have a concept of time.

I could come in at the end of the day and the puppy is excited to see me, wagging her tail and weaving in between my legs for contact and comfort. The same reaction could happen if I’m working in another room for a bit and rejoin the puppy and family wherever they are. The puppy doesn’t distinguish between an 8 hour or a 20 minute absence.

Our kids are a little smarter than the dog, although sometimes I wonder? And they have a slightly better concept of time. But they will still ask to go outside and play with their friends minutes before we’re due to head out the door for a family function. Or after pajamas and brushing their teeth they’ll ask if we can start a movie.

But puppies and kids can be excused if they don’t know time or how long things should take. Adults however know what an hour is, how long things take and how to manage their day.

When it comes to exercise a common challenge is making the time to be active. We might assume that for a health goal to be realized requires a certain amount of daily fitness to achieve it. Intuitively I would guess most people think they need to exercise an hour a day.

Now there’s nothing wrong with training an hour daily. And if you’re already in the habit than definitely keep going. But for those that aren’t that active and haven’t gotten started yet because they haven’t carved out those 60 minutes per day, a new study should give them hope.

The study was part of the Framingham Health Study and included over 400 participants. Most of the test subjects were in their 50s and mostly female. This is a well known study based out of Massachusets and started in the late 1940s. Since then the children, spouses and grandchildren have been included in the study.

What the researchers wanted to know was the effect of exercise on certain metabolites. A metabolite is a entity involved in or a by-product of metabolism.

Participants of the study did brief bursts of exercise to the effect on certain markers of health. The exercise was 12 minutes on a stationary bike and the health markers included insulin resistance, oxidative stress, vascular reactivity, inflammation and longevity. When you consider how relevant diabetes, heart disease and ageing are to most adults we can appreciate the value of knowing how exercise impacts these markers.

So what did they find?

Well they found that metabolites associated with poor health and disease went down after cycling for 12 minutes. For example, glutamate, a marker of insulin resistance dropped by 29%. And DMGV, or dimethylguanidino valeric acid , went down 18%. On the other hand a marker of lipoylsis, or fat burning, 1-methylnicotinamide , increased by 33%.

The researchers noted that variations in results were due to sex, BMI and the amount of exercise performed. After a 3 minute warm-up study participants continued cycling with gradual increments in load of 15 or 25 watts. Those cycling at higher power outputs saw more favourable results.

Life is busy. There are times when school, work, family and other committments make training hard to fit in. Hopefully research such as this will encourage us to do something, even if it’s only 12 minutes per day.

Nayor, M., Shah, R. V., Miller, P. E., Blodgett, J. B., Tanguay, M., Pico, A. R., … & Pierce, K. A. (2020). Metabolic Architecture of Acute Exercise Response in Middle-Aged Adults in the Community. Circulation142(20), 1905-1924.

Hill Sprints 101

Hill sprints are a great addition to almost any training program.  They’re tough on fat and easy on our joints which make them a no-brainer.  Not to mention the fact that they help build lean muscle and ingrain proper running technique.

You Don’t Need More Energy

Quick question…what’s your favourite cheat food?

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.

But indulging in a treat can wreak havoc on your training goals. We’re trying to create a caloric deficit from training but then can quickly undo a lot of our efforts when we load up on sweets.

Good Efforts Gone Bad With PWO Shakes

One thing I really hate to see is wasted efforts.

You know what I mean?

It’s tough to see somebody make an effort towards a goal that not only is it not giving them the benefit they had hoped for it’s actually counter productive.

Consider the case of a post-workout shake.


Serious About Weight Loss? Stop Reading Food Labels!

I might be contradicting myself here but it’s got to be done.

‘How so?’ you might be saying to yourself.

Well for a while I was encouraging you to do something nutritionally that I believed was in your best interests. That would give you better results related to weight loss and performance.

But maybe I was wrong. (said in a whisper so no one can hear me)

What it is that I had you doing was reading food labels. So how can this be a bad thing? Why would I suggest you stop doing so?Well for three reasons Healthxcel examine Green Powders and here are the findings:

Reason #1 to Stop Reading Food Labels – You are being misled

I wouldn’t go so far as to saw you are being lied to but consider the following titles on food packages:

‘made with real sugar’

‘all natural’


‘95% fat free’

So how are these titles on packaging misleading? Well there really is no benefit to eating real sugar. It still causes an insulin spike and puts the break on your fat burning.

What about ‘all-natural’ and ‘organic’? Well just because something occurs naturally doesn’t mean it’s healthy and a good idea to put it in your mouth. Heck, in the case of arsenic, it can kill you.

And organic, well often times this is marketing-hype imo. If you eat organic for environmental reasons, do organic bananas leave a smaller organic footprint to ship to Canada than regular bananas?

Reason #2 To Stop Reading Food Labels – It’s less about the calories

Ask most people what they check when they read a food label and what is the most common answer? Calories. We still believe, incorrectly, that a calorie is a calorie and we simply need to create a deficit or surplus in order to have the best results.

The truth is that it’s probably more important to consider the quality and timing of your food selections rather than the calorie count. Knowing this, and the fact most people don’t check the sugar, protein or fibre content on labels means they could probably save themselves the effort.

Reason #3 To Stop Reading Food Labels – If it has one it’s 2nd rate food

Question? While doing research for this blog post I couldn’t seem to find the label on the following food items. Maybe you can help me out. I was looking for labels on:

* some fresh salmon

* some broccoli

* an egg

* an apple

If the majority of the foods you eat don’t have a label, good for you. This means you are probably preparing most of your meals yourself and eating better quality nutrition than the masses.

Because it really is a contradiction to be trying to have the healthiest life possible when we’re comparing the labels on ice cream at the super market. Or when we buy 100 calorie size samples of chocolate bars to manage our cravings.

We’re fooling ourselves if we read labels for any of the above three reasons.

However if you read labels to seek out essential nutrients or if you read labels to ensure the absence of gluten, HFCS or some other ingredient than carry on.

Otherwise quit reading food labels and enjoy the benefits of optimum health, fitness and performance.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                       ‘always moving forward’