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Does Coffee Make You Gain Weight?

woman holding a black and white ceramic cup

When you’re trying to lose weight, and the scale seems like it’s refusing to budge, it can feel like the universe is conspiring against you. You cut out sweets, you started exercising more, but you still aren’t seeing results. We understand how frustrating this can be, and we also know that sometimes certain foods or drinks can be secretly making it difficult to lose weight by adding more calories than you realize to your diet.

Luckily, coffee likely isn’t the culprit. Drinking coffee on its own can actually help people lose weight and come with an impressive array of health benefits. However, there is a catch. If you like sugary coffee with milk or cream, your coffee habit could be costing you precious pounds. In this article, we’re going to explain how coffee could be making you gain weight and what you can do to remedy the situation.

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Black Coffee

If you drink coffee black — that is, without milk and sugar — then you don’t have to worry about coffee making you gain weight. Black coffee has virtually no calories and, therefore, will not make you gain weight. In fact, some studies show that drinking coffee can help you lose weight, thanks to caffeine. The caffeine in coffee can suppress your appetite, helping you eat less. Caffeine can also boost your metabolism, helping you burn more calories even when you aren’t exercising.

A regular cup of black coffee has less than 5 calories, which is completely negligible in a standard 2,000 calorie diet.

black coffee in a white ceramic cup with saucer
Image Credit: Hasan Albari, Pexels

Milk and Sugar are Dangerous

If you take your coffee with milk and sugar—or worse, cream and sugar—you need to be careful about how much coffee you drink per day. If you drink two 8-ounce cups of coffee per day with 2 ounces of cream and 2 teaspoons of sugar, you’re consuming an extra 300 calories just from coffee! For comparison purposes, 300 calories are approximately how many you will find in a slice of pumpkin pie or piece of cake. You would never dream of eating a piece of cake with breakfast every morning, but if you add cream and sugar to your coffee, that’s essentially what you’re doing.

If you use milk, unfortunately, the situation isn’t much better. Even though whole milk has about half the calories of cream, it still puts you behind the eight ball each morning and means you’ll be fighting an uphill battle to lose weight.

Making Your Coffee Healthier

If you don’t like black coffee and are surprised at how many calories cream and sugar add to your diet, it might seem like you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place. Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer, and you’ll have to make some sacrifices if you want to get serious about losing weight.

A big mistake many people make is trying to go from creamy, sugary coffee straight to black. The change is so drastic that you’re unlikely to stick to it, and you’ll wind up back where you started in a few short days. Quitting cream and sugar cold turkey is the wrong approach.

A better option is to slowly dial back how much cream and sugar you use over time. If you usually use 2 ounces of cream in your coffee, cut back to using 1.5 ounces for a week. Then cut that down to 1 ounce the week after. By slowly reducing the amount you use by small amounts, you’re much more likely to adapt to your coffee’s new taste.

a cup of black coffee
Image Credit: Sixteen Miles Out, Unsplash

Another approach is to wean yourself off of using cream by switching to whole milk, then 2% milk, 1% milk, and, eventually, non-fat milk. Some people won’t need to cut all the way back to non-fat milk. Two percent milk has one quarter as many calories as cream and 1% has half of that.

You might be surprised to find that cutting back on cream and sugar doesn’t affect how much you enjoy your coffee. Once your taste buds adapt to the different tastes, you might discover new flavors in your coffee that were being swamped by cream and sugar. Over time you might even—gasp—switch to drinking your coffee black. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though.

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Conclusion

Coffee by itself has essentially zero calories and doesn’t contribute to weight gain. Coffee’s caffeine content can actually have the opposite effect and help people lose weight. However, if you like your coffee with cream and sugar, you could be adding the same number of calories to your diet as eating a piece of cake, depending on how much cream and sugar you take. Cutting back on cream and sugar can be daunting, but by taking baby steps and slowly dialing back how much you use, you can have your cake—or coffee—and lose weight too.


Featured Image Credit: Leah Kelley, Pexels

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Sean Brennan

Sean’s obsession with coffee started when he received his first French press as a gift almost ten years ago. Since then, his love of coffee – and the number of coffee gadgets he owns – has grown considerably. A scientist by training, there is no stone he has left unturned in the never-ending quest for the perfect cup of coffee. He has spent many hours tuning his pour-over technique, thinking about how to best compare grind quality, and worrying about whether the Nicaraguan or Kenyan beans will make the best cold brew. These days he favors the Hario V60, and starts each day by hand grinding his coffee before enjoying a cup prepared with care and attention to detail.

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