Mornings, in most households across the world, start with a cup of freshly made coffee. It helps you to wake up fresh and take on the day ahead of you.
The caffeine found in the coffee is not only stimulating, it gives you energy, and also uplifts your mood. caffeine is a widely consumed substance that has a powerful impact on cognition, focus, and other mental processes (1). Therefore, it’s no surprise that caffeine is an extensively studied ingredient in the food supply.
However, nowadays you don’t have to drink caffeine beverages to get that caffeine kick. Caffeine pills that contain natural or synthetic caffeine are also getting very popular, especially as a weight loss aid.
Studies confirm that caffeine promotes weight loss through several mechanisms such as thermogenesis, increased metabolic rate, and it’s an ergogenic effect (performance-enhancing) (2),(3).
Read on to learn how caffeine actually works to aid your weight loss efforts and how you can best use caffeine pills as an effective weight loss supplement.
What is Caffeine?
Caffeine is a stimulant that affects your central nervous system (CNS). It occurs naturally in the leaves, nuts, and seeds of many plants especially the coffee beans. It is bitter in taste to deter pests.
Caffeine can be found in teas and cacao beans as well. It is also used as an additive in certain soda such as colas and energy drinks. Not to forget the caffeine pills which is our topic of reading.
Even though caffeine is primarily used for preventing fatigue and drowsiness, it has many more additional uses.
Caffeine can be used for the treatment of apnea (where breathing stops) in premature infants as well as broncho-pulmonary dysplasia (breathing disorder where the lungs do not develop normally), in treating headaches and migraines and enhancing athletic performance, especially endurance sports (4).
Caffeine has also shown positive benefits in the treatment of depression and has helped prevent cognitive declines, such as what is found in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Summary: Caffeine is a stimulant found in coffee beans, cacao beans, and several drinks such as colas that help prevent drowsiness and makes you alert. It has several FDA and non-FDA approved benefits and is used to treat breathing problems and cognitive declines. It is also used to optimize performance in sports.
How Does Caffeine Work?
The primary mechanism of action of caffeine is on the adenosine receptors which play an important role in our neural activity and thus have a strong influence on how tired or energetic we feel. When our neural activity slows down, we feel sleepy and when it speeds up we feel more alert and focused.
Adenosine is a neuromodulator in the central nervous system (CNS) which when bound to specific receptors, slows down your nerve activity making you feel sleepy.
Being fat-soluble as well as water-soluble, caffeine easily crosses the blood-brain barrier and binds to the same receptors. However, it doesn’t slow down the neural activity (5).
The neural activity speeds up as a result. It activates pituitary glands and produces hormones that trigger the adrenal gland to secrete more adrenaline. This gives you a burst of energy and increases your motivation and attention levels.
Summary: Adenosine binds to its receptors in the CNS and slows down neural activity that in turn calms you down and makes you sleepy. Caffeine is an adenosine antagonist that binds to these receptors itself because of its similar structure, causing neural excitability.
Caffeine Pills for Weight Loss?
Caffeine has shown to help reduce weight. The same mechanism is true for caffeine pills. Let’s have a look at how it works.
Caffeine Increases Metabolism
To lose weight, we need to burn more calories than we eat. One way is to reduce the calories we take in and the other way is to increase the calories being burned. Exercise and our day to day physical activities burn some of the calories.
But even if you do nothing, your body continues to burn calories to keep itself alive. All your body functions, such as breathing, the heart pumping blood which then circulates all through your body, as well as, the functioning of every other organ in your body, requires energy to perform.
Your metabolism, or to be more specific, your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) is the rate at which your body burns calories when you are at rest. The higher is your RMR the more you are capable of losing weight (6).
Studies observed that 100 mg of caffeine intake increased the RMR by 3-4% in both lean and postobese participants over a period of 2 and a half hours. Postobese people are the ones who were obese earlier but no longer are so presently (7).
In addition to that, repeated caffeine intake (100mg) at 2 h interval over 12 hours in a day increased RMR by 8-11% in both lean and postobese participants.
However, when repeated at night over 12 hours, it didn’t work in the same way. The net effect was an increase in RMR and energy expenditure (the amount of energy the body needs to carry out physical functions) of 150 kCal in the lean people and 70 kCal in the postobese ones.
Summary: Caffeine intake increases your metabolism while at rest by 8-11% when taken repeatedly. This is the same in both lean and post obese people, however, energy expenditure in lean people is more than the postobese person.
Caffeine Increases your Workout Performance
Exercise is an important part of a weight loss regime. Improved workout performance translates to faster weight loss as you are able to burn more calories.
Caffeine pills are gaining popularity among athletes as has shown to be highly effective in enhancing exercise performance such as strength, power exercise, and muscular endurance (8).
When the effect was studied, it was concluded that caffeine at a dose of 3-9 mg/kg/body mass ingested in the form of a capsule, 30-90 minutes before exercise could produce these effects leading to better athletic performance.
Another mechanism by which caffeine increased athletic performance was by shifting glycogen burning to fat burning (lipolysis) (9).
Glucose is the primary source of energy and is stored in muscles in the form of glycogen. Muscles use them for energy production. When these stores are depleted, the energy production reduces, muscles get weaker, and exhaustion sets in.
Caffeine boosts lipolysis, where fats break down into fatty acids (10). Caffeine then helps increase fatty acid oxidation during exercise to produce the required energy. This process helps conserve the limited glycogen store resulting in a longer and less painful workout (11),(12).
Therefore, taking caffeine before or during workout reduces the perceived exertion of exercise and helps workout more, leading to fat and weight loss.
Summary: Caffeine boosts fat breakdown to gain energy and help conserve the glycogen store in the muscles. This not only helps reduce weight via lipolysis but also helps reduce exercise fatigue, giving you the energy to work out more and lose weight.
Reducing your calorie intake is vital for weight loss. But more often our hunger pangs overcome our will power and we end up eating more than planned. Appetite suppressants help us overcome our desire to eat and thus helps promote weight loss.
Caffeine suppresses appetite by increasing the satiety hormones ghrelin and peptide-YY.
In your body, leptin and ghrelin are appetite-regulating hormones secreted by the fat cells. They regulate food intake, insulin action, and so on. Ghrelin is the hunger hormone whilst leptin is the satiety hormone. Together they work on regulating your hunger mechanism (13).
When studied extensively, it was found that caffeine consumption lowered plasma ghrelin in healthy adult men though it didn’t show any significant effect on leptin (14).
Caffeine also increased the satiety hormone peptide YY (PYY) that lowered the hunger level. This is found to be dependent on weight (15).
People who are overweight have shown to have a greater effect than the ones who are lean.
Summary: Caffeine increases the appetite-suppressing hormone, ghrelin. It also increases the satiety hormone, peptide YY, thereby making you feel full. As you eat less, you lose weight.
Thermogenesis is the production of heat in the human body that keeps us warm. It is important with regard to weight loss as, to generate the heat a fuel needs to be burned. In this case, our body fat gets burned for fuel thus enabling us to shed unwanted pounds.
Caffeine is believed to have a thermogenic effect on the body. It increases thermogenesis by hindering the phosphodiesterase, an enzyme that suppresses fat-burning (16), (17).
Therefore, caffeine pills and several derivatives of caffeine are used in combination with many more phytochemicals for weight loss.
In a 1995 study conducted in Switzerland, the effects of caffeine on energy metabolism and thermogenesis were studied amongst 10 lean and 10 obese women. Once they consumed caffeinated coffee and another time they consumed decaffeinated coffee (18).
The results showed that the magnitude of thermogenesis in the caffeinated group was more in the lean subjects than the obese participants. The thermogenic effect prolonged during the night only in lean women. Lipid oxidation (fat breakdown) increased by 29% in lean women and 10% in obese women.
Summary: Caffeine enhances thermogenesis by suppressing enzymes that reduce fat burning. Even though the effect is both in lean and obese people, the former ones have a stronger effect than their obese counterparts.
The breaking down of fat into fatty acids is called lipolysis, or in other words, fat-burning. The more is the lipolysis, the more is the free fatty acids (FFA) in the blood. As has been mentioned already, caffeine has been known to stimulate fat burning and spare the stored glycogen.
In a 2001 study conducted in Seoul, South Korea, caffeine as a lipolytic food was studied in rats and athletes. They were made to run on a treadmill at a speed of 20m/min (19).
In both cases, it was found that caffeine ingested subjects had more FFA, which showed the occurrence of lipolysis, more than the ones taking placebo.
Another study conducted in 2004 in Switzerland studied the same effect on 8 healthy young men. They were checked 90 minutes before the exercise started and 240 minutes after the ingestion of caffeine given at a dose of 10mg/kg body weight. Some of them were given a placebo instead of caffeine (20).
The results showed that subjects who had taken caffeine had a two-fold increase in thermogenesis as compared to the other group and a 44% increase in FFA (free fatty acid) disposal which marked fat breakdown. Caffeine ingestion also increased energy expenditure by 13%.
These led to the confirmation that caffeine indeed could increase lipolysis either by increasing thermogenesis or metabolism, which have been mentioned in detail earlier.
Summary: Caffeine increases lipolysis. The more is the fat breakdown and free fatty acid oxidation, the better you are in losing weight. Several studies have been able to confirm this.
Caffeine Helps Sustain Weight Loss
By reducing your calorie intake, you may succeed in reducing weight, but the effect is for a short period. In the long term, it is very difficult to limit your food intake to that extent. This may result in a relapse of weight, especially in obese people.
Caffeine has been known to be an effective bodyweight regulator. It improves weight maintenance through thermogenesis, fat oxidation, and increased metabolism creating a negative energy balance in the body (21).
The sympathetic nervous system is involved in the regulation of energy balance and caffeine has shown to increase this nerve activity (22),(23).
Summary: Caffeine can help maintain weight loss by preventing relapse. Several processes such as fat oxidation, thermogenesis, and many more can help maintain an energy deficit condition in the body.
Why Caffeine Pills and not Cups of Coffee for Weight Loss?
Caffeine pills can be natural or synthetic. Usually, a caffeine pill contains 100-200mg of caffeine per tablet. That is less than a 20-ounce cup which has about 340 milligrams. The few significant reasons for taking caffeine pills over coffee are:
- Caffeine pills can strictly follow the recommended intake of caffeine than just having coffee.
- The pills are more accessible or portable in comparison to coffee. Caffeine pills are best suitable for travelers.
- Often to avoid the bitterness of coffee, people add creamer and sweetener that add unwanted calories in your diet. Pills are calorie-free and best for weight loss.
- Coffee is acidic. They can disturb the gastrointestinal tract and can cause heartburn. Caffeine pills eliminate these acids and hence less chance of acidity.
- Caffeine pills work faster in comparison to coffee as you are taking the caffeine supplement all at once. Pills contain a more concentrated dose than other drinks.
- Coffee has many other components in addition to caffeine. These include the two coffee oils, also known as cafestol and kahweol (24). They may raise cholesterol levels in some people. Since pills do not contain these coffee oils, they do not appear to have the same effect.
However, please keep in mind whether you chose coffee or caffeine pill, it’s a drug and is better when used in moderation.
Summary: It is highly recommendable to take caffeine pills as an alternative to coffee. It has the same effect as caffeine from any other drink. However, pills are modified to combat certain side effects that are related to the other ingredients in coffee.
Caffeine Tolerance and Weight Loss
Though caffeine boosts metabolism in the short term, caffeine users have been seen to develop a tolerance to it, over time. This means prolonged use can deplete its effect upon fat burning and increase in metabolism.
Caffeine mainly works by blocking your brain’s adenosine receptors. Usually, adenosine binds to these receptors and prevents the release of brain chemicals like dopamine that promote alertness and wakefulness (25).
However, a study stated that with regular consumption of caffeine, the body gets used to it. Therefore, it can eventually increase the production of adenosine receptors in the body. Consequently, this decreases caffeine’s effects making you tolerant over time (26).
Thus, it is always advisable to take a biweekly break in between and then start with a new dose which may help reverse this effect.
Summary: Caffeine blocks the brain’s adenosine receptors thereby creates alertness and wakefulness. But continued intake can take you to a tolerance level, where the body starts making more receptors. Therefore, it is advised to take a break and restart.
Dosage: How Much Caffeine for Weight Loss
The recommended dosage of caffeine is 400mg/day, which comes to 4-5 cups of coffee. This amount is considered safe without showing any negative effects (27).
A pill contains 100-200mg of caffeine. Therefore, caffeine pills twice a day should be the dosage. The best time to take a pill is either morning or early noon. Try not to take them in the evening or night as it may impact your sleep cycle.
While taking caffeine pills, special attention has to be taken on the amount of caffeine ingested as chocolate, black tea, green tea, energy bars, etc.
In case, you experience any adverse reactions, stop immediately. Excess caffeine may cause serious health issues.
Summary: A caffeine pill usually contains 100-200 mg of caffeine. Special attention has to be given on deciding the dosage of the pill as excess caffeine can cause serious health issues.
Risk and Side Effects of Caffeine Intake
Caffeine, when taken in moderation has many health benefits (28). But a dose of 5gm or more is considered to be toxic and sometimes can be fatal. Some of the symptoms of caffeine overdose are:
- Arrhythmia (problem with the rhythm and rate of the heartbeat)
- Tachycardia (increased heartbeat)
Caffeine can overstimulate or irritate a person depending on its dosage. Some of the side effects are:
- Gastric problems
- Reduced calcium absorption thereby causing osteoporosis
- High blood pressure
- Risk of abortion
- Infertility in men and women
Summary: Caffeine in moderate amounts shows several health benefits. But some people may experience side effects. Studies have confirmed that a dose of or above 5mg can be fatal.
Frequently Asked Question (FAQs)
Does Caffeine Pill Help you Lose Weight?
Caffeine pills do help you lose weight, however alone, it won’t help you to reduce weight. But indirectly, it helps you to reduce weight by suppressing the appetite, boost calorie-burning, increasing the metabolic rate, aid in lipolysis, etc.
Is Caffeine a Fat Burner?
Caffeine is a fat burner in a sense, it boosts lipolysis and fatty-acid oxidation. It promotes fat to be used for energy and helps conserve glycogen stores.
Therefore, most of the fat burners contain caffeine or other caffeine-related substances as a stimulant. So be careful while taking fat burner supplements with several cups of coffee. It may have other repercussions.
How Much Caffeine is Needed Per Day for Weight Loss?
Studies show that an intake of 50-200 mg of caffeine is enough to achieve good results. If the intake increases to 400 mg/day, it won’t have any adverse effects (29).
However, more than that amount, people may experience nausea, anxiety, headache, sleep difficulties, etc. With over 1000mg of caffeine intake, people may experience palpitation and at 5gm or more, it is fatal.
How Much Caffeine is There in Green Tea and How is it Better?
Green tea is an ideal way to consume caffeine because of the additional health benefits it brings. Packed with antioxidant polyphenols such as flavonoids and catechins, it protects cells from damage. A cup of green tea has 40 mg of caffeine but does not cause the jitteriness of a cup of coffee.
The L-theanine present in green tea increases the GABA neurotransmitter activity, which is crucial in effectively reducing anxiety and works synergistically with caffeine. Together they help improve both alertness and focus in a much healthier manner.
Is Caffeine Pill Recommended in all Age Groups for Weight Loss?
Caffeine pills are not recommended for children under 14 years of age. Between the age of 14-17, the recommended dose is 100 mg caffeine. For the elderly, the recommended dose is 200mg/day.
Caffeine pills were shown to affect calcium metabolism, thereby weakening bones in the elderly. The maximum benefit of caffeine is gained by trained athletes who consume caffeine pills regularly.
What is the Best Caffeine Pill in the Market?
The best caffeine pills in the market are the ones that ensure maximum effectiveness with minimum side effects such as irritability, jitteriness, insomnia, and so on. A few of the top caffeine pills in the market include the ones from Performance Lab, Bulk Supplements, Genius Caffeine, Prolab Caffeine Tablets, Natrol High Caffeine Tablets, and Muscletech Platinum Caffeine pills.
The Final Note
Caffeine pills bring forth the goodness of caffeine without being dependent on coffee or caffeinated drinks.
It helps reduce weight by increasing metabolism, suppressing appetite, reducing fatigue, energizing you during exercise, and promoting fat-burning in the body.
However, precautions should be taken while taking caffeine pills. Make sure you abide by the dosage instructions so that you can prevent the side effects.
Though caffeine pills are safe and indeed have shown many benefits, remember that it is a drug and is best when taken in moderation.