Caffeine is a stimulant that increases levels of energy and endurance, so it’s an easy assumption – which also happens to be proven by research – that drinking coffee or another caffeinated beverage can improve physical performance during workouts. However, not much data exists about a relationship between caffeine and the body’s ability to burn fat as a result of exercise.
In a recent study, Spanish scientists conducted exercise tests in a small group of men to address that question. They say the results suggest that consuming caffeine shortly before aerobic exercise can indeed help the body to burn more fat.
The researchers recruited 15 active men whose average age was 32; all were taking no other medications and reported only minimal regular caffeine intake. They underwent a series of exercise tests, half in the morning and half in the afternoon, receiving either 100 mg of caffeine or a placebo about 30 minutes before the tests.
During each session, researchers measured the mens’ maximum fat oxidation (MFO) and maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max) levels, and calculated the intensity of exercise required to reach optimal MFO. They found that after consuming caffeine, the participants had both increased MFO and VO2max measurements, but those increases were largest during the afternoon sessions.
While they stressed that caffeine is not safe for all adults, such as those with irregular heart rhythms and other underlying conditions, they suggested that having the equivalent of a strong cup of coffee before an afternoon workout may be a good method for boosting fat loss. They also acknowledged the need for more research including a larger, more diverse group of participants to verify and expand on their findings.
The study was published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.