How Caffeine Could Prevent You From Losing Belly Fat

Caffeine, cortisol and the belly flab connection

Do you have some fat around your mid-section that seems to be stuck? Have you tried working out and dieting, but nothing seems to work? Believe it or not, your morning cup of coffee may be to blame.

I was once a coffee addict too. It started in college when I pulled a few all-nighters, and the habit stuck ever since. It wasn’t until recently that I was diagnosed with having a food allergy to coffee that I quit for good, and now I understand the caffeine and belly fat connection.

This is how it works: when the body experiences stress, either in the form of taking in caffeine from coffee, tea or energy drinks (or from that boss that drives you crazy) cortisol is released in the body, as well as norepinephrine and epinephrine. The body goes into the “fight or flight” response, which means blood rushes away from your stomach and to your arms, legs and even your brain so you can be alert and "run away from the predator.”

Digestion slows down, the reproductive system slows down and the elimination system slows down because you don’t need to digest, reproduce or go to the bathroom when running for your life. If a person drinks a lot of coffee or is under a lot of stress, then there is this constant level of cortisol floating around in the body.  

Cortisol causes weight gain, specifically in the belly area, for several reasons. First, digestion is slowed down. Second, the body increases insulin levels in case we need that extra energy to run from a “predator.” Over time, the body becomes resistant to this constant increase in insulin, which could lead to weight gain and Type 2 Diabetes.

Eventually the adrenal glands get tired, which are the glands that release hormones like cortisol in response to stress (they are only about the size of a walnut). Over time, the body can’t bring the cortisol levels back down to normal, which can lead to an increase in belly fat. This is why, if you have an excess layer around your middle, you may need to check your caffeine habit.

Since I’ve quit caffeine, not only have I lost belly fat, I’ve lost weight, I wake up with energy—not groggy, and I’m not carrying excess water weight. It’s really been a fascinating journey. If you’ve had a coffee habit for a while and drink several cups a day, you may want to wean yourself off slowly. Try to cut out one or two cups, or switch to a half caffeinated/half decaf. You may still experience slight headaches, but just know that is the body detoxing itself and the headaches will pass.

I once had a client go from drinking 16 cups of coffee a day to one or two by weaning himself off slowly. Now that’s progress!

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