How to Use Coffee to Build a Better Metabolism
By: Brent Totty @brenttotty
Coffee, the lifeblood of the productive -- the dark nectar of the high octane, to-do list crushers, the movers and shakers of the free world. Coffee makes the world go ‘round, I don’t think many people will put up an argument with that. People drink coffee for a variety of reasons, and it’s my understanding that metabolism optimization does not rank in the top 5-- but it should. Over the next thousand words or so, I am going to outline some coffee intake strategies and the science behind why they just might be the hero we need in a world full of empty promise weight loss strategies. Pull up a chair, pour yourself a cup of Caveman -- we are going to learn how to drink coffee, again.
Before we begin, let’s set some foundations around metabolism and how it affects your health. Metabolic syndrome is a vast affliction that many people suffer from in some way shape or form, and can be defined as any metabolic disorder including high fasting blood glucose, diabetes, abdominal obesity, or high blood pressure/cholesterol. All of these are bad news for your general wellbeing particularly because they are serious risk factors for heart disease.
Say it with me, we are going to do everything in our power to avoid developing or perpetuating any form of metabolic syndrome. Today, we shall arm ourselves with the strategies to take our cup o’ morning mud to the next level.
Wait an hour before drinking coffee
We wake up, and our morning routine begins -- what does that look like for you? Trudging to the coffee maker, eyes half open while watching the pot fill up inch by inch? Upon wake, our bodies naturally secrete a hormone called cortisol which serves to flood our nervous system with signals to be alert. This is called the cortisol awakening response (CAR), which states that we release about 50% of our overall cortisol for the day within the first hour of being awake. (1) Did you know that coffee functions along the same pathway? As we drink coffee, our bodies react by secreting cortisol, along with a slew of other hormones that serve to make us more alert and attentive. So if we are drinking coffee during our period of natural cortisol release, does it compound and make us DOUBLE ALERT? The answer is 1000x no, unfortunately not only does it make our morning cup of coffee less effective, but it also begins to affect the way that our bodies naturally secrete cortisol. Drinking coffee within that first hour is a potential contributing factor to an out of whack hormonal system, which is the first step towards metabolic dysfunction.
Drink Coffee Before Exercise
Lots of people consume coffee before exercise, and it’s usually used as a motivating factor to get to the gym during times of lowered motivation. Coffee gives you superpowers (loosely defined) -- but did you know that it also gives your metabolism superpowers? Coffee is an ergogenic (enhances physical performance, stamina or recovery) compound that has been shown to increase lipolysis (breakdown of fats to release fatty acids) in the human body. Translated even further, coffee helps you make fat more readily available to burn when your body is moving in ways that emphasize fat utilization. (2) So by drinking coffee before you exercise, especially in a fasted state for all you intermittent fasters out there, can help your body burn more fat as fuel while you exercise.
As an added bonus, coffee also helps with post workout soreness. It has been shown that two cups of coffee can cut post-workout muscle pain by up to 48%. (3) Not necessarily a metabolic benefit per say -- but it does mean that your training frequency can go up which means that the downregulation of delayed onset muscle soreness is an indirect superpower of coffee.
Drink Caffeine Post Workout -- A mixed bag of science
So there are a few arguments in both directions - caffeine post workout does induce stress and subsequent cortisol spikes, which it can be argued is detrimental to recovery. However, in the name of creating intentional periods of self induced stressors - I have been following some of the more recent research around caffeine’s role in post workout carbohydrate reuptake.
In the short term, coffee causes insulin resistance -- which translates to higher levels of blood glucose, BUT -- within 4 hours, that glucose is shuttled into your muscles as stored glycogen, at at 66% higher rate! So a short period of insulin resistance is followed by a drastically improved period of glycogen replenishing, which is imperative for those that are looking to train again at a high level the following day (or later on in that same day for you doubleday masochists). (4,5)
Consider Coffee As Part of Your Daily Fiber Intake
Neat factoid: a cup of brewed coffee contains 1.8 grams of fiber! That may sound backwards, but brewed coffee has soluble fiber, where as vegetables and grains that you may regularly consume contain insoluble fiber. Soluble fiber helps to lower blood cholesterol and glucose levels, whereas insoluble fiber is key to building a healthy digestive system.
Drink Lighter Roast Coffee
Coffee has a certain type of compound in it called chlorogenic acid which has been shown to have a positive effect on body composition via increased glucose utilization. (6) In another study, a two groups were put on a high fat diet, one of which was given coffee over a three month span. The group exposed to chlorogenic acid in the form of coffee intake had a drastic reduction in both liver and visceral fat. (7) The more a coffee is roasted, the lower its chlorogenic acid levels are, so light roasts are the way to go if you are looking to leverage it for metabolic performance. As an added bonus, lighter roast blends tend to have more caffeine, which increases metabolism. This isn’t to say that dark roasts won’t have similar effects, but in a game of piling up micro-upgrades to your daily choices, choosing a light roast will help you stack the odds in your favor.
So my friends, we have covered how to use coffee to upgrade your metabolism-
Wait an hour to drink coffee to leverage circadian rhythm to improve energy
Drink coffee pre-workout to increase fat utilization
Drink coffee post workout to increase glucose reuptake
Consider coffee as part of your daily fiber intake
Choose a lighter roast for an increased metabolic boost
Paint the town red with your optimized metabolisms! A few cups of Caveman a day, keeps them love handles away (and also makes you a hyper focused, task crushing, creative genius badass poised to take over the world.)