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One Small Change

Life Without Caffeine is Making Me Fat

Yikes! I've gained 5 pounds. Despite maintaining my normal workout schedule I've somehow managed to inflate my inner tube. It's a result that was totally unanticipated, and it's curbing my newfound enthusiasm for the decaffeinated life. Here's what may be at work:

  • I'm eating more: Knocking back 2 or 3 double cappuccinos each morning, usually with some syrupy flavoring, suppressed my appetite and made me feel full enough that I didn't eat breakfast. But now the absence of liquid calories is making me reach for eggs, toast, pancakes, oatmeal, last night's leftovers…so I've essentially added another meal to my daily diet.
  • I'm retaining more fluid: Maybe some of my weight gain is really water-weight gain. Since I stopped drinking caffeine, perhaps I'm just better hydrated.
  • I'm burning fewer calories: Since caffeine is a nervous-system stimulant, it raises your metabolism and helps you combust calories even when you're at rest. I've lost that effect.

Jose Antonio, Ph.D., says that in order to diagnose what's happening to me I first need to let go of a few myths. He says there's very little, if any, data to support my supposition that caffeine is either an appetite suppressant or a diuretic. Although it may enhance weight loss through some other, as-yet-to-be-determined mechanism, appetite suppression isn't one of them. And unless you're drinking more than 250 milligrams of caffeine in a single dose (8 oz of coffee typically has 110 mg; 1 oz of espresso, 90), it also won't dehydrate you.

The most probable cause for my weight gain, he says, is the combination of my eating more in the morning and losing the "thermogenic effect" that caffeine provides. Thermogenesis is the process by which the body generates heat or energy by raising its metabolic rate. Exercise, eating, shivering and supplements such as caffeine all trigger it. Depending on how much caffeine you're ingesting this can add up to a few hundred "bonus" calories burned each day.

Fortunately, because I weigh myself regularly, I caught this side effect before my pants-seams did. Now I just have to concentrate on eating more sensibly in the morning and perhaps increasing my workouts slightly to make up for those lost bonus calories.

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About The Author

Joe Kita – Joe Kita is a noted writer, editor, motivational speaker and teacher. He authors the blog "One Small Change" for CorePerformance.com.

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Tags: Weight Loss, Beverages, Metabolism, Caffeine