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Weight Loss

Does the Coffee Loophole Really Help with Weight Loss? Top Nutrition Experts Weigh in

The internet is buzzing about the coffee hack that can put your body into fat-burning mode in an instant, but experts aren’t so sure.

Too often, new weight-loss fads take over our social media feeds, claiming that just one simple step can power off dozens of pounds in weeks — or even days. The latest trend we can’t seem to escape: the coffee loophole. The strategy claims that adding a few supplements to your coffee or taking them alongside a cup of joe can turn your body into a fat-burning machine. But experts aren’t sold on the claims. Keep reading to learn why the coffee loophole may not be all its chalked up to be, plus the coffee-boosting strategies that are study-proven to help you slim.

What is the coffee loophole?

woman sipping coffee as part of the coffee loophole
Tom Werner/Getty images

The coffee loophole asserts that adding a handful of supplements to your coffee enhances fat burning. Why coffee? “Coffee itself may help with weight loss because it does slightly increase your metabolism and act as an appetite suppressant,” explains Amy Shapiro MS, RD, CDN, founder and director of Real Nutrition.

Must-Read: Dr. Bob Arnot: Drinking This Dunkin’ or McDonald’s Coffee Helps Boost Weight Loss

“But if these supplements were super fat burners, everyone would be using them.” However, some small-scale studies back up the slimming benefits of these supplements. Keep reading to discover why folks are opting for these add-ins and how they may enhance weight loss efforts.

Related: “I’m a Doctor and These Are the Daily Vitamins I Recommend for Women”

What supplements are in the coffee loophole?

The supplements included in the coffee loophole are chromium, green tea extract, chlorogenic acid and L-carnitine. Though the claims surrounding these supplements’ immediate effects on fat burning may not be true, some evidence says they may help with slimming. Here’s why…

Coffee loophole supplement: Chromium

Chromium is an essential trace mineral, and it is commonly added to multivitamins. It plays a role in improving the action of insulin, making energy-draining and fat-storing blood sugar swings less likely. With that in mind, having adequate levels of the mineral may help reduce the amount of glucose stored as fat in the body, per the National Institutes of Health. However, evidence is limited, and experts say upping your chromium intake won’t aid in notable weight loss. Says Taz Bhatia MD, author of The Hormone Shift, “In fact, research showed weight loss of under one pound.”

MUST-READ Women Are Losing Up To a Pound a Day Just By Adding Chromium Into Their Daily Routine

Coffee loophole supplement: Green tea extract

closeup of woman holding green tea leaves; coffee loophole
Jeffrey Coolidge/Getty images

Green tea extract is often lauded as a fat burner thanks to its ability to ramp up metabolism. These supplements, made from green tea leaves, are packed with potent antioxidants. More specifically, green tea contains the antioxidant epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), a compound that may enhance fat breakdown and ease inflammation that can make weight loss difficult. (The inflammation we experience during menopause, also called inflammaging, may also stifle weight loss efforts.) Indeed, one small study found that combining caffeine with green tea extract supplements increased fat burning as much as 35%. Plus, the extract had a prolonged impact on metabolism, allowing subjects to burn an additional 60 to 80 calories per day. On top of reducing inflammation, “EGCG also helps to lower blood sugar and insulin, indirectly impacting weight loss,” says Dr. Taz.

But the effect seems to depend on the individual. Subjects taking green tea extract in a European Journal of Clinical Nutrition study saw little to no effect on metabolism. However, when they had caffeine alone, it was effective for faster fat burn. That means even if you sip your cup of joe as is, you’ll still get a little metabolic kick.

MUST-READ: Does Green Tea Help With Bloating? Yes! Plus, It Speeds Weight Loss + Helps Blood Sugar

Coffee loophole supplement: Chlorogenic acid

Fresh green coffee beans brim with the polyphenol chlorogenic acid. But heat used during processing of beans often depletes levels in the coffee we drink. As part of the coffee loophole, people are adding the plant compound back into their coffee via supplements. One reason people are adding it to their brews: One study shows that chlorogenic acid may help reduce the absorption of carbohydrates that we eat, resulting in better blood sugar control. Why does blood sugar matter for weight loss? “Blood sugar management is key to preventing insulin resistance, which then triggers the body to store fat,” says Dr. Taz.

But pricey chlorogenic acid supplements aren’t the only way to get the beneficial effects. Research in the journal Nutrients says that higher-polyphenol coffee may result in increased weight loss compared to low-polyphenol mugs. “I was shocked when Dunkin’ Donuts coffee got a remarkably high polyphenol score,” says former NBC Nightly News and Dateline medical correspondent Bob Arnot, MD, who studied the polyphenol contents of hundreds of brews. “But it turns out that for decades the company staked out coffee farms with the most nutrient-rich soil.” So pick up a cup at the drive-through or grab a light roast coffee, suggests Dr. Arnot, and you’ll get the perks without a pill.

Coffee loophole supplement: L-carnitine

The amino acid L-carnitine is popular among fitness enthusiasts because of its energy-enhancing abilities. When taken as a supplement, “if you’re storing fat or you have fat in your liver, then you can actually utilize fat for energy as opposed to our first main source, glucose,” explains Shapiro. That’s because the amino acid supports our mitochondria, which control our overall metabolism and energy levels, explains Dr. Taz.

L-carnitine is particularly effective when combined with exercise. The boost in energy can make exercise feel easier, and the amino acid tames levels of inflammatory proteins that make weight loss more difficult. It may improve metabolic flexibility, or our ability to effectively burn both carbs and fat for energy. (Learn more about why diet is key for metabolic flexibility.) That way, our body can better utilize whatever fuel we give it.

But Shapiro cautions that doesn’t give people a freebie to eat however many carbs they want. “If you’re just eating a ton of carbs and taking L-carnitine, it’s not going to do much, and those carbs will still be stored as fat.”  Plus, there are mixed results on L-carnitine’s weight loss effects. According to a study in Clinical Therapeutics, subjects reported no change in weight after 6 months of L-carnitine supplementation. Plus, you can get a natural dose of the amino acid from red meat and some chicken, dairy and beans.

Why the coffee loophole may not boost weight loss

While there is some evidence supporting the weight-loss effects of these coffee loophole supplements, experts don’t think they’re the weight loss answer we’ve been waiting for. “There’s no magic bullet,” says Shapiro. “But combined with a healthy lifestyle and diet, they could be helpful.”

One issue Shapiro points out is lack of consistency. While people touting the benefits of the coffee loophole claim that taking these supplements will turn your body into a fat-burning machine in just seconds, there’s no evidence to support their instantaneous effect. “A lot of people get excited about supplements when they read articles or hear their friends talking,” she explains. “But if you’re taking a supplement for a week and then forgetting about it, you’re not going to see any difference.” L-carnitine, for example, may take over three months to have any effect. Shapiro’s advice? When starting any new supplement, take it consistently for at least three months to see if it has any impact on your health.

Related: How To Order Flavored Coffee Drinks At Starbucks & Dunkin’ Without Ending Up With a Fat and Calorie Bomb

How to prime your coffee for weight loss

black coffee with cinnamon sticks on saucer; coffee loophole
Victoria Popova/Getty Images

If you’re aiming to lose weight, there are coffee add-ins that can help you reach your goals. Shapiro suggests looking at what you already put in your coffee. Are you adding in sugary coffee creamers or artificial sweeteners? “I ask my clients to remove all the junk from their coffee and commit to drinking it black,” she explains.

For flavor, Shapiro recommends adding Ceylon cinnamon. “It’s been shown to help with weight management and balance blood sugar levels.” Indeed, research in Nutrition and Metabolic Insights found ½ tsp. daily blunted sugar spikes by up to 29% – a result comparable to the drug metformin.

Related: The Astonishing Health Benefits of Saigon Cinnamon

If you’re not big on breakfast, consider protein coffee. “If you’re going to Starbucks for a coffee and calling that breakfast, I’d recommend instead throwing a good, clean protein powder into your coffee and blending that up,” says Shapiro. (Find out why nutrition experts are fans of protein coffee, or proffee.) Just be sure you’re accounting for the additional calories in this drink and not overeating if your goal is weight loss.

This content is not a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always consult your physician before pursuing any treatment plan.

For more on coffee and weight loss, check out these stories:

Homemade Coffee Creamer Is Healthier, Tastier + So Easy to Make With 3 Ingredients

Dr. Bob Arnot: Swap Your Dark Roast Coffee for a Lighter Roast for Automatic Weight Loss

Women Over 50 Are Going Crazy for Protein Coffee — And Weight Loss Is Only One Reason

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