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. 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
- 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:
- 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.
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.
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 Health 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 Health 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, Form Health’s Medical Weight Loss may be right for you.
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.
About the Author: Brooke Marsico, PA-C, completed her physician assistant training at Midwestern University in 2011. She began her practice in the field of Obesity Medicine at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago where she practiced from 2016 to 2021. She went on to treat patients living withobesity at Cleveland Clinic from 2021 to 2022 prior to joining the team at Form Health. Brooke is passionate about helping patients living with obesity achieve meaningful weight loss and improve their health. Her practice focuses on individualized behavioral and pharmacological intervention to help patients reach their goals. She is also experienced in managing patients who have a history of bariatric surgery.