The majority of us wake up in the morning anything but a “morning person” and we seek that nectar of the Gods that will spur us into motion and get our grey matter processing faster so we can start our day. The naturally cheerful morning people are usually a nuisance to those of us who require a cup of coffee to become any semblance of normal before we have a conversation. Diets that require us to cut out our morning jolt can be a real problem, because even if it weren’t for the slight caffeine addiction, it’s something we enjoy. The taste of freshly brewed coffee, the aroma, the tingle on our tongues as the first sip goes down, beckoning in the morning. If a diet expects too much from us, and is more than we’re willing to sacrifice, it’s not likely to stick.
There are a few things regarding coffee that should be mentioned with regard to any sort of diet in mind however, if you’re looking to tone up or trim the extra pounds off. The fancy coffees sold by baristas all over the world are usually enough calories for a full day’s worth of meals, so if you’re starting your morning off with a stop to your local espresso stand, you’re probably not doing yourself any favors. All those added calories don’t get processed into usable energy either. The high sugar content in the flavored coffee syrups, or added sugar, plus the milk and then the caffeine spike makes your blood pressure rise, and gives you false energy for a short burst, only to send you crashing down later.
Coffee in itself, the way it comes is hearty and black and not bad for you at all, excepting the caffeine within, and like anything else, should be enjoyed in moderation and at the right times. If you cannot cut out the dairy or sugar in your coffee, consider substitutes. Instead of imitation flavored creamer, use skim milk. Instead of cane sugar, choose stevia, or coconut sugar. Coconut sugar is actually sweeter than cane sugar, so you use less, and it’s far better for you. By limiting the extra calories you add to your coffee, it becomes less of a dent in your diet, and is able to be that treat that helps boost your mornings, and even sometimes after supper. Coffee is an appetite suppressant, (goes with appetite suppressant) which ties in nicely with a tradition to have a cup after supper in a lot of cultures. If you’re caffeine sensitive, you may not want to indulge at night, or you’ll have issues with insomnia. Excessive coffee indulgence also leads to increased stress levels which causes you to overeat.
Our bodies have a boost in cortisol levels 3x a day while awake, and if you time your coffee intake with your cortisol levels, you’re actually helping your natural body’s metabolism by giving it that extra push. Cortisol works in tandem with our Circadian Rhythm to monitor our times of wakefulness and sleepiness, and keeps it on track and regulated. According to Dr. Len Kravitz of the University of New Mexico, caffeine has been shown to increase the release of free fatty acids which enables you to work harder for longer. It’s also shown to help mental focus by making neurotransmitters release serotonin, dopamine and acetylcholine more effectively. It stimulates the release of adrenaline and increases blood flow to your muscles. Susan Roberts, Professor of nutrition at Tufts University also says that all of the above lead to a more focused and energized training session. Adrenaline and Dopamine released from caffeine consumption dulls joint and muscle pain as a side benefit. If you have the kind of work schedule that happens to coincide with your cortisol spikes and drinking coffee an hour before your workout regimen, you’ll be maximizing your ability to lose weight effectively and still enjoy your hot beverage.
The other thing that ties into your cortisol spikes and Circadian Rhythm is intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting allows you the time to adequately process the food you’ve eaten, and to go on to do other things it’s meant to do, like fine muscle repair, nerve damage and stress on joints, eyes and the mind, and leaves you feeling better than you ever have, because you’re not in a constant state of digestion. Intermittent fasting isn’t as bad as it sounds either. Granted, most people associate it with starving, but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Starvation happens only after 3 days of not eating, or 6 days without water, after dehydration kicks in. Intermittent fasting never lasts nearly that long. It’s usually from an hour after supper (around 7pm or so) until you wake up, have your cup of coffee, don’t eat again, workout and then enjoy a light breakfast. You can proceed with eating as normal during the day, and you can either skip fasting that night, or do it again. Proponents of this sort of diet, like Eat Stop Eat don’t recommend doing this for longer than 48 hours to prevent you from experiencing any ill effects.
Be sure if you’re a coffee lover, that it’s not the only thing you drink however. When dieting, the only things you should be drinking are (in order of importance):
- WATER (this cannot be stressed enough)
- decaffeinated tea (like herbal teas)
- skim milk (in moderation) or better, nut based milks like almond milk or cashew milk which you can enjoy more of and still get your vitamin D plentifully.
- smoothies (in moderation)
- coffee (in moderation)
The biggest reason to enjoy coffee in moderation is two-fold. It can cause a person to become tolerant to the effects of caffeine, leading to more consumption for a similar effect, and it can also cause problems with addiction by drinking too much of it. When you’re enjoying coffee through the day, or socially, it can be difficult to keep track of how much caffeine you have ingested. Coffee contains more caffeine than any tea, or even chocolate. A best practices method is to have no more than 3 normal sized mugs of coffee every day, to avoid becoming tolerant or developing an addicting need to have it in the first place. It should also be noted in this cautionary text, not to drink any sort of energy drink, including ones that claim to be “diet” energy drinks. It’s not just the high caffeine content that is a problem, there’s a whole host of things that aren’t good for you in one of those, but that’s another article.
Though the argument of whether you should be drinking coffee on a diet will consistently remain, rest easy knowing that plenty of academic leaders have done the legwork already and confirmed the positive effects of it so you don’t have to, and acclaimed leaders in muscle training like Bodybuilding.com also back those findings. Now you can enjoy your morning cup of joy without any guilt or worry!