Have you heard the rumour that tea or coffee can help with weight loss? Is it true? If so, which is the better option? And how much should we be drinking for the best results?
The obvious one… Caffeine
If you are a regular tea or coffee drinker, you understand the stimulating (and possibly magical) effects of the caffeine they contain. Improved memory, concentration, reaction times, decision making, and energy are some of the effects given the right amount.
Too much however can cause the jitters, insomnia, tremors, nausea, anxiety and paranoia! How caffeine affects you will depend on your size, meals you have eaten, your sensitivity to caffeine, and whether you are a regular caffeine drinker or not.
When it comes to weight loss, caffeine acts to slightly increase your metabolism so that you burn off more calories, which is why it is a popular ingredient is weight loss pills and potions. It also can help you increase the effort you put into workouts, so that you burn off more calories in one session.
How do tea and coffee compare in terms of caffeine? Black tea has generally about a third to half of the caffeine in instant coffee, and brewed coffee has roughly double that of instant coffee. It seems that a good amount for weight loss without the side effects is about 1-2 cups of coffee, or 2-4 cups of tea a day.
Low in calories
Tea or coffee in itself has very few calories, unless you start adding heaped spoonfuls of sugar, flavoured syrups, making them on full cream milk or adding cream, whipped cream, or other extras. If you are drinking 1-3 cups a day, a teaspoon of sugar in each is generally just fine, and a dash of milk is too!
With relatively low calories, a cup of tea or coffee can help you feel fuller, especially with or after meals, which may help reduce the chances of you overeating.
A substitute for cravings
Sometimes when a craving hits it can be really powerful, and just cold turkey ignoring it is too difficult! Most food cravings will pass somewhere between 5-15 minutes later, and so a hot drink can help distract you while satisfying the desire to put something in your mouth, so that you may find after you’ve finished that you can manage the craving much better. Some flavoured teas can be especially helpful with cravings.
In saying this, there is some evidence that caffeine can destabilise blood sugar levels, meaning that cravings for sweet foods in particular can come on more often, so it’s especially important to choose moderate quantities of low GI carbohydrates to help keep blood sugar levels as stable as possible if you are a regular tea or coffee drinker.
Sleep quality and quantity has been shown to have a big effect on weight loss, with poorer sleep contributing to eating more sweet foods to try and beat fatigue, as well as triggering hormonal changes that increase weight gain.
When it is tea vs. coffee, coffee intake during the day has been found to result in poorer sleep at night as compared to tea. This may be due to the higher caffeine levels in coffee. A good rule of thumb is to cut out all caffeinated drinks after 3pm, and another trick to a great nights sleep is to do some form of exercise in the evening- like heading to the gym after work or going for a walk after dinner.
Depression is one risk factor for becoming or staying overweight (and vice versa). Did you know that drinking tea or coffee has been shown to improve stress responses and overall mood? Improved mood may result in less emotional or stress eating, thereby indirectly helping with weight management.