HEALTH
Inspiration from Meghan

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Is Coffee Making You Fat?

 

As much as I want to be immune to the fascination with the before-and-after transformations that are way too prevalent on Instagram, I'm not. I see them. And to be completely honest, I find some of them amazingly inspiring. Mostly, however, I find them terrifying, misleading and harmful.

There's one part of me that wonders how someone can create so many before-and-after photos. I've often wondered if I could do that myself, like over the span of a five-minute transformation that involved lighting and posture changes only. (Thankfully, someone else has already made that point!) What I find terrifying about it is not the dramatic transformations people put themselves through, but the way in which it is done. Often it is done through a mix of good lighting and then intensive training, low-carb, high-protein meals, moderate fat intake and then loads and loads of caffeine to keep the energy going when every other aspect of their lives is being pushed to its total limit.

See, a little stress on the body and on us as a whole is what triggers changes, and can be a good thing. A little stress on the body motivates us and lets us see progress and achieve goals. Small amounts of ongoing stress, when processed effectively, can be a tool to help us achieve physical, emotional and spiritual health that is sustainable and maintainable.

What happens when the stress gets to be too much?

Too much stress, however, is not a good thing. Whether it's from training so much our bodies don't have time to repair, getting less sleep than is optimal, emotional stress or the dietary stress of loading up on blood sugar fluctuating snacks, meals and high dosing caffeine -- we are working against our goals for long term, sustainable, disease-preventing health.

Sometimes the most dramatic changes in your physical appearance can come from the simplest, easiest, calmest, most soothing practices. It all comes down to a few mighty and powerful hormones, many of which are triggered by a lack of nutrients, lack of sleep, and excess of alcohol and caffeine.


"The Caffeine Ditch is something we can fall into, and have a tough time climbing out of. Don’t worry; I’ve got my rope ladder at the ready for you."
-UnDiet


Is coffee really that bad for me? The answer may surprise you. No. It’s not that bad for you. There is, of course, a catch. The catch is that coffee is great, delicious and a treat when consumed once in a while, as an occasional indulgence. If, however, you are more closely related to zombie than human before you slurp back your morning brew, than my answer is yes, coffee really is that bad for you. 

Caffeine causes a cascade of processes in our body to run amuck. Let’s look at some of them.

Caffeine and Hormones

Caffeine has a half life of 4-6 hours, which means it is kicking around in our body, predominantly our nervous system, for a long time. It affects the functioning of a whole cocktail of hormones including:

  • Adenosine- This hormone helps calm the body. Caffeine inhibits its absorption. This is in part why we feel alert in the short term, but have sleep problems later on.
  • Adrenaline- The hormone that fuels our workforce! Caffeine injects adrenaline into our system, offering a temporary boost, but what goes up, must come down, leaving us feeling fatigued and depressed. What do we do then? Grab a second cup. Sipping up more caffeine to counteract these effects leaves us feeling agitated and edgy.
  • Cortisol- The “stress hormone” that is supposed to help us cope with long term chronic stress gets played out with caffeine consumption. Elevated cortisol is associated with weight gain, moodiness and over the long run it has been associated with heart disease, diabetes and cancer. Boooo.
  • Dopamine- Caffeine increases this feel good hormone’s levels in the body (as does sugar), acting in a way similar to amphetamines. Yikers. Unfortunately, once it wears off, we are left feeling rather low, part of what leads to that physical dependence.

Caffeine and Sleep

We know caffeine keeps us awake. But that wakefulness doesn’t always fade away by the time we hit the hay. Once our stress hormones are activated, they tend to have their way with us. The affects of caffeine on our stress hormones can impair the mighty all-important restorative deep sleep cycles. This in turn affects our energy levels the next day and weakens our will to resist temptation, making us even more susceptible to more treats, and more caffeine and so the cycle continues.

Caffeine and Stress

Caffeine increases our stress levels, from perceived stress in our external world, to the stress response we have on the inside. Stress and caffeine can elevate cortisol levels, which in turn can lead to other negative health effects including accelerated aging, anxiety, and the carrying of extra weight. Increased levels of cortisol leads to crazy cravings for caffeine, fat and carbohydrates, and here we are in another depleting cycle.

How Coffee Can Actually Be Making Us Fat
(a.k.a. Long Term Effects Of Abusing Our Stress Hormones)

  • Belly Fat / Muffin Top / Spare Tire: Belly fat, or what we call the spare tire, is associated with hormonal imbalances resulting from elevated insulin, cortisol and adrenalin levels. This is when no amount of time on the elliptical or no number of sets of crunches seem to make a dent.
  • Fatigued adrenal gland function: The adrenal glands help us cope with stress. When we abuse them and run them out of juice, we experience anxiety, depression, PMS, headaches, chronic fatigue, emotional swings and other cranky-making-fun.
  • Impaired mental health: Long-term abuse of stress hormones will impair thought, perception, memory and concentration. Essentially, you stop seeing and processing life as it is, and stop seeing yourself as you truly, beautifully are!
  • Suppressed thyroid function: This can result in muscle stiffness, chronic exhaustion, morning nausea, hair loss, insomnia, weight gain, diminished sex drive, recurrent infections, depression, multiple food allergies/sensitivities, cystic breasts, and menstrual irregularities.
  • Insulin resistance / Type II diabetes: When we abuse our cells by throwing heaps of insulin at them every time we eat, there will come a point where they say no (often referred to as insulin resistance), or need more than we can produce (what we’d call insulin dependence). The overall result is an inability to regulate blood sugar levels, a potentially deadly state without medical intervention or overhaul in diet and lifestyle.
  • High blood pressure: Stress is not good for the heart, physically or emotionally. With a reduced ability to process it, we feel stress on a physical level more acutely, leading to high blood pressure, which in turn, is commonly associated with blood clots, heart attack and stroke.
  • Lowered immune response: There is nothing worse for our overall health than stress. Again, the abuse of stress hormones impairs the function and efficiency of the immune system. This means that anything, from recovery from the common cold, post surgery recuperation, to dealing with auto-immune conditions is more severe, takes longer, and is tougher on our bodies.

What Do We Do? 

Hopefully by this point, you've realized that this isn't just about fat. Fat is rather irrelevant except as an indicator that if we are carrying more than feels right to us, then we're not living optimally healthy. Each of us has our own sweet bod, and each of us is meant to look a way that is unique to only us. The goal is to work towards each of us feeling our very best.

It's not just the coffee that's the issue that we need to address. There is a whole collection of habits that can help. The first and most obvious is to try and cultivate a lifestyle that is not dependant on caffeine as your primary energy source. This means finding ways to fuel up on a cellular level with real fuel and nutrients, getting enough rest, doing work and cultivating relationships that nourish you, organize yourself for healthy eating throughout the week, exercise in a way that us sustainable, and ultimately kick the habits that have you knocking on caffeine's door.

You might just find yourself achieving your health, weight, sleep, and life goals in a way that is pain- and deprivation-free. Sure, you may not get those dramatic before-and-after photos, but if you wait long enough, what you will get is shockingly sustainable lifestyle practices that will transform not just your body, but your life.

Resources to help you make it happen!

Quit Coffee

Process Stress

Lifestyle

12 Responses to “Is Coffee Making You Fat?”

  1. Misty said…
    Sometimes I try to make a million changes to my health/diet (most of which are unsuccessful), and the only one I avoid is my daily coffee and tea. I drink one cup of half-caf coffee each morning, and about 2 black teas throughout the day. I've always thought "hey, there's no problem here, I'm not drinking a lot!" But to be truthful, that morning coffee (even half-caf), gives me a jittery feeling that isn't really pleasant. (And TMI, but it also makes my urine smell funny?) I'm starting to realize that maybe my road to optimum health will start with eliminating caffeine and decreasing the stress that always seems to derail my good intentions. Thanks for all these tips....I think it might be time to take the plunge and say goodbye to caffeine!
    • Alexandra said…
      Good news misty! Once you cut the caffeine you will have way higher energy levels! I still do coffee & tea but I do "resets" every once in a while where I go a few weeks without. It's pretty amazing and then when I go back my tolerance is lowered.
  2. Autumn said…
    I'm going on 11 months without coffee. I was obsessed with coffee, but I suspected it was causing several issues, including many mentioned in this post, and decided to try forgoing my daily 2-3 cups "cold turkey." I supplemented a little at first with high quality white tea, but didn't feel the need to continue after the first week without coffee. I quickly noticed how much less "crazy" I felt, as well as how much more time I actually had for important things because I wasn't pressing a cup of coffee or searching for another latte. I'm so thankful for this post - I can finally refer to it every time someone gives me the "Are you CRAZY?!" look after learning that I've willingly gone so long without coffee. (The answer is "Not anymore!")
  3. Gemma said…
    As someone who is struggling with this one big time I have noticed that my coffee habit comes from influences other then just the caffeine addiction. I use it as a reason to get away from my desk during the day My colleges all drink it so there is a social aspect I enjoy the ritual of making a coffee from scratch If I am hungry but don't have enough food available then I will use it to suppress my appetite until I can get some food (Terrible! I know!) I have not given it up yet, but gradually I have reduced the number (from 4 a day to 1) but finding alternatives to these things.
  4. Iga said…
    I've been madly addicted to coffee for 15 years, I haven't had one day without it, I thought I couldn't function without it. Then about 4 months ago my body just refused to drink it anymore, so I went totally cold turkey. The first two days were hard (headache, feeling tired and moody), but after that I've been feeling better and better. I even tried coffee a few times since then, and it was absolutely gross, and made me all jittery. I couldn't be more happy to be coffee-free.
  5. Matt said…
    Hello- I was wondering if you would not mind disclosing the sources from which you got this information? Coffee definitely contains a lot of compounds that act in our bodies, but a lot of the literature that I have read is rather inconclusive or suggestive at best. The advice you are giving here seems pretty definitive, so I am just curious as to where you got your information!
  6. […] Re-Blog from here […]
  7. Hi Meghan, My name is Heather (Pepper) Culpepper and I want to ask you if I may share this post with my readers over at Primal Zen. I can't tell you how much research I did over the last 16 months trying to figure out what has caused me to balloon in weight when I've always been rather lean. It all started after Post Partum Depression took over my life. I saw a psychiatrist and he put me on Wellbutrin and Seroquel. The Wellbutrin kept me up at night and the Seroquel made me so groggy that I began drinking coffee when I was 35. That's when the weight started piling on. Normally a size 4-6, I doubled in size over the next ten years. I tried it all, LCHF, Vegan, Paleo, Clean Eating. I biked 5-10 miles a day. But I still always looked pregnant. After realizing that all these hormones were coursing through my veins, day in and day out, I thought, if I cut out my morning coffee ritual, I might start losing. It's been over a week and I've lost 5 pounds and I can actually see my belly shrinking. I'm starting to gain more energy and sleep a little better (although not much better because I have nocturia caused by Interstitial Cystitis.) But there is an IC diet I follow. Anyway, this information you shared here on your blog is very valuable and I would ike permission to share with my readers as well. Will provide link, credit. thank you so much! Pepper
    • Meghan Telpner said…
      Hi Pepper- would you mind sending your request directly to us? Contact info can be found at http://meghantelpner.com/contact
  8. Ross Galán said… March 1, 2018
    I personally think coffee itself does NOT make you fat. What makes YOU fat is what you put into your coffee such as sugar (any sweetener - natural or synthetic/artificial), milk, cream and especially what you take WITH your coffee is really what makes you fat. Simple, brewed coffee without anything in it does NOT make anyone fat.
  9. Veronica said… June 6, 2018
    Just wanted to say that after several years of off and on experimenting with how coffee consumption affects me, I can say, without even a shadow of doubt, that when I am regularly drinking coffee, I also hold and add weight. One of the fastest and easiest ways for me to lose weight, bloating, edema, and overall puffiness is to stop drinking coffee. But, hey, that's me.

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