New research has shown that drinking coffee can help us burn body fat. A recent study by researchers at the University of Nottingham showed that coffee helps increase metabolism by activating brown fat, aka brown adipose tissue or “BAT”.
When babies are born, they don’t have much muscle mass, and they can’t shiver to generate heat, so in order to stay warm, they’re born with thick layers of brown fat instead.
“Normal” fat (like belly fat) is yellow-white, but brown fat has a beige or muddy tint to it due to the presence of mitochondria, the little power houses in our cells that make ATP, our basic unit of cellular energy. As a result, brown fat is metabolically active, whereas white fat is not. In other words, brown fat burns calories!
What Is Brown Fat?
As babies grow, the amount of brown fat steadily decreases until adulthood, where you find some mostly around the upper back and neck.
Scientists thought BAT didn’t play much role in adult health and metabolism until recently, where newer research has shown that exposure to cold, like Wim Hof method, can help increase the activity of brown fat, or even help to “beige” white fat as does a low carb, ketogenic diet.
Wim Hof demonstrates his technique for becoming super human, which has been shown to moderately increase the activity of brown fat.
The researchers are now going to look into whether or not caffeine supplements can get the same results, but I suspect they will find that caffeine by itself is less effective, or not effective at all without the other compounds, like polyphenols, found in coffee as a whole package.
Coffee: A Silver Bullet?
If coffee can help us burn more fat, does this mean you can get the body of your dreams by drinking more coffee?
Although drinking coffee has been shown to reduce risk of diabetes, probably due at least in part to this increase in metabolic activity of BAT, it’s a “1% strategy” in terms of body composition.
You’re not going to significantly shift your body composition just by drinking coffee without making more basic adjustments in your diet like cutting calories, and eating more protein and whole foods, especially when that “coffee” is double caramel macchiato with an extra shot of chocolate syrup and whip cream. For instance, according to Starbucks website, their Chocolate Cookie Crumble Crème Frappuccino® weighs in at a heft 425 calories! That’s almost 25% of the calorie needs of your average woman for the day. No matter what some people will tell you, you can’t eat more calories than you’re burning and be able to lose weight. You can’t escape the first law of thermodynamics. Although not all calories are equal, at some point, it’s all going to come back to energy balance. You must consistently eat less than you’re burning over weeks and months to lose fat.
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