Does Coffee Make You Gain Weight?

Does your favorite drink make you gain weight? The answer is more complex than a simple "yes" or "no." Learn more about coffee and weight gain here.
Medical Reviewer: Florencia Halperin, MD
Published on: August 9, 2022
Updated on: March 12, 2024

Learn more about how FORM pairs patients with a doctor and dietitian to achieve their weight loss goals.

Coffee Cup


Whether it’s an occasional treat or a daily cup, coffee is one of the most highly consumed beverages across the country and the world. According to the National Coffee Association, Americans are drinking more coffee than ever, with about 62% of us drinking coffee every day and averaging a little more than 3 cups per day! So it’s no surprise that we want to know how it affects our health and more specifically, our weight. Do you need to steer clear of coffee to lose weight? And what about coffee and weight gain? Let’s talk about what the research says. 

How Coffee Affects Our Weight

When it comes to coffee and weight gain, the answer really depends on what goes into the coffee. Black coffee does not make you gain weight and there is even research to suggest that it could help you lose weight. On the other hand, if you add a significant amount of cream and sugar to your daily cup or regularly indulge in a specialty beverage from your favorite coffee shop, then it could contribute to weight gain. 

That’s not to say that you have to always drink your coffee black, but it’s a good idea to have a sense of the nutritional content of your favorite coffee preparation, especially if you’re drinking it daily. Consider the nutrition facts for 2 tablespoons of these common coffee additions: 

  • 2% milk: 15 calories, 0.6 grams of fat, 1.4 grams of sugar 
  • Whole ( 3.25% fat) milk: 189 calories, 1g of fat, 1.6g sugar
  • Unsweetened almond milk: 4 calories, 0.3 grams of fat, 0 grams of sugar
  • Half and half: 40 calories, 3.5 grams of fat, 1 gram of sugar 
  • Coffee mate® French Vanilla Creamer: 70 calories, 3 grams of fat, 10 grams of sugar

Now let’s take a look at some of the specialty coffee drinks from popular coffee chains. Note that 4g of sugar is the equivalent of 1 tsp, and the American Heart Association recommends no more than 24g per day for women and 36g per day for men.

  • Starbucks® Grande Caramel Macchiato: 250 calories, 7 grams of fat, 33 grams of sugar
  • Starbucks® Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte: 390 calories, 14 grams of fat, 50 grams of sugar
  • Starbucks® Grande Mocha Cookie Crumble Frappuccino®: 480 calories, 24 grams of fat, 55 grams of sugar
  • Dunkin’® Medium Iced Signature Latte: 440 calories, 14 grams of fat, 62 grams of sugar  
  • Dunkin’® Medium Frozen Matcha Latte: 360 calories, 0 grams of fat, 82 grams of sugar

To put this into perspective, an individual cheese pizza from Domino’s® has 250 calories, 9 grams of fat, and less than 1 gram of sugar. So you can easily consume a meal’s worth of calories, fat, and many days worth of sugar in just one of these specialty coffee beverages. The good news is you can easily get the nutrition information for most beverages at your favorite coffee chain online or through their app, so you can make an informed decision. 

You can also look at ways to alter your drink for a lower calorie, lower sugar option. Choose the “skinny” version of your drink or ask for your beverage to be made with skim milk and sugar-free sweetener. At Form Health, some of our patients enjoy using a low-sugar caramel or vanilla-flavored protein shake in their coffee as a creamer alternative that is low-sugar, but still provides sweetness, and helps them feel full from the protein as an added benefit. Brands such as Davinci Gourmet™ and Torani® also make sugar-free flavored syrups that have a similar benefit by adding sweetness without all the calories and sugar. 

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Does Caffeine Cause Weight Gain?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring stimulant that is found in coffee and tea. It can also be added to beverages like soda and energy drinks as well as medications like those used for cold symptoms. 

When we consider more specifically how caffeine affects weight, research tells us that caffeine may have a positive effect on our weight; helping with weight loss and weight loss maintenance rather than causing weight gain. This is most likely related to caffeine’s effect on metabolism or energy expenditure. Studies suggest that caffeine increases our energy expenditure, or the number of calories we’re burning in a day. There are also studies suggesting that caffeine may curb our appetite, so we eat less. But keep in mind, this should be balanced with having adequate nutrition. Drinking caffeinated beverages instead of eating food would not be a healthy weight loss strategy.

Caffeine can have adverse effects on our health too, so more is not necessarily better. Because caffeine is a stimulant, it can cause increased heart rate, palpitations, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. And there is research that has shown us how poor sleep can adversely affect weight, so you want to be sure to decrease your caffeine intake if you notice that it is keeping you up at night or causing other adverse effects. Additionally, caffeine supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so these could be dangerous to your health and are not recommended. 

Coffee and Overall Health

Given how frequently coffee and caffeine are consumed, there have been many studies to further evaluate their effects on overall health. Based on the research, caffeinated coffee does not increase the risk for cardiovascular disease or cancer. While caffeine can increase your blood pressure in the short-term if you don’t consume it regularly, this effect is not seen with regular coffee consumption. And we have to be cautious about consuming unfiltered coffee and espresso regularly as both have been found to increase cholesterol levels, but drip-filter and instant coffee do not appear to have this effect. 

Studies have investigated the effect of coffee on diabetes risk and insulin resistance.  Epidemiologic studies have shown that drinking 1 cup of coffee daily (decaf or regular) is linked to a 6-7% lower risk of diabetesCoffee has not been consistently shown to improve insulin resistance (i.e. the body’s response to the hormone insulin that lowers blood sugar levels); however, other studies indicate caffeine can increase insulin sensitivity.  This difference is likely related to how what is added to coffee (like added sugars) may offset the positive effects caffeine has on metabolic health.

Non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) is a condition in which fatty deposits in the liver can lead to fibrosis (scarring) and damage to the liver.  In fact, it is a leading cause of liver failure and cirrhosis and is closely linked to obesity.  Studies are mixed on whether coffee intake can prevent NAFLD; however, there is evidence to recommend that people with NAFLD should drink 2-3 cups of coffee daily to help prevent further fatty deposits and fibrosis within the liver as well as reduce the risk for disease progression so long as the added coffee does not cause any problems (e.g. disrupting sleep).

Cortisol, a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, is known as the “stress” hormone.  It is released when our body is under stress and can cause an increase in blood sugar levels and, over time, promote weight gain.  One study found that in the short-term caffeine can increase cortisol levels in people who do not habitually drink coffee.  However, this effect is reduced with regular caffeine intake.

According to the FDA, the recommended amount of caffeine per day is no more than 400 mg, which is the equivalent of 4-5 cups of coffee (typically 8 oz of coffee contains 80-100 mg of caffeine)  Keep in mind, however, caffeine content can vary widely  based on the type of bean that is used and the brewing method.

But again, the good news is that the overall conclusion of studies on coffee and overall health has been that consuming coffee on a daily basis is associated with lower risk for developing several chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes, so your daily cup(s) can be part of a healthy balanced diet. But if you are trying to manage your weight, remember to be mindful about what else is going into your cup besides the coffee itself. 

How FORM Can Help You Reach Your Weight Loss Goals

If you are watching your coffee intake, regulating how much sugar and cream you use, or doing your best to follow a healthy diet and still not seeing the results you want, FORM can help. Our Board Certified Doctors and Registered Dietitians will carefully evaluate all factors that may be contributing to excess weight. Once your clinical team has reviewed your lifestyle, medical history, and needs, they will develop a personalized plan to help you reach your weight loss goals. If you’re looking for individualized guidance towards a healthy weight, FORMs Medical Weight Loss may be right for you. 

Take our quiz to find out if you’re a candidate today, or schedule a call/send a message to get in touch with us directly.

Starbucks® is a registered trademark of Starbucks Coffee Company

Dunkin’® is a registered trademark of Inspire Brands

Domino’s® is a registered trademark of Domino’s Pizza, Inc.

Davinci Gourmet® is a registered trademark of Kerry Group plc

Torani® is a registered trademark of R. Torre and Co.

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