The Macchiato Makeover

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The Macchiato Makeover

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The scientists have demonstrated that consuming caffeine (about 3 mg/kg or the equivalent of a strong coffee) half an hour before aerobic exercise significantly increases fat-burning

Drinking a hot, strong cup of coffee about a half hour before you exercise will help burn fat, says sports scientists.

Millions around the world start their day with a strong shot of coffee but a group of sports scientists now say that having a shot of joe a half hour before exercising will help your body burn fat.

More than that, if you take your coffee and your exercise in the afternoon rather than the morning then you can significantly increase the fat burning effect.

A new study, published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, says that ingesting caffeine – about the same amount as a strong single shot of coffee – 30 minutes before aerobic exercise will help you shed excess weight.

A team of physiologists from the University of Granada set out to investigate whether caffeine – often portrayed as one of the most ergogenic (performance enhancing) substances on the planet – really has such effects on the human body.

Lots of people say it does, but extraordinarily little scientific evidence for this exists – until now. To their surprise, the scientists found that caffeine actually does improve work output and hence, the body’s ability to metabolise fat or, in scientific terms “increase oxidation” of fat during exercise.

They started with the idea that exercising on an empty stomach helped people lose weight during exercise.

“The recommendation to exercise on an empty stomach in the morning to increase fat oxidation is commonplace,” says the lead author of this research, Francisco José Amaro-Gahete of the UGR’s Department of Physiology.

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“However, this recommendation may be lacking a scientific basis, as it is unknown whether this increase is due to exercising in the morning or due to going without food for a longer period of time.”

To test the theory, the scientists gathered 15 men with an average age of 32 years. They completed an exercise test four times at seven-day intervals.

Subjects ingested 3 mg/kg (equivalent to a strong coffee) of caffeine or a placebo at 8am and 5pm. Each subject completed the tests in all four conditions in a random order. Conditions (i.e. hours elapsed since last meal, physical exercise, or consumption of stimulant substances) were consistent for each test as was the recording of fat oxidation.

“The results of our study showed that acute caffeine ingestion 30 minutes before performing an aerobic exercise test increased maximum fat oxidation during exercise regardless of the time of day,” says study co-author Francisco J. Amaro.

However, they also found something they didn’t expect – that this effect was even greater if the exercise and caffeine consumption occurred in the afternoon.

This is called a “diurnal variation”, meaning that a different effect happens for using the same stimulus at contrasting times during the day. This also suggests that the differences may be connected to the body’s circadian rhythms, the internal body clock that regulates sleep, wakefulness, energy, and recovery not just in a physical sense but also for our emotional and psychological wellbeing.

In short, the findings suggest that combining caffeine intake and aerobic exercise at moderate intensity in the afternoon supplies the most effective scenario for people looking to burn fat during physical exercise. Coffee all round, please.

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