As the second most valuable commodity in the world after oil, it’s no surprise here that there’s some brew-ha-ha surrounding coffee (even though it probably is amazing for you)Caffeine-Not just a stimulant. Glade, M.J. The Nutrition Doctor, Skokie, Illinois, USA. Nutrition, 2010 Oct;26(10):932-8.. Carrying nicknames like jet fuel, black gold, and battery acid, coffee has been causing buzz in minds and bodies for centuriesNotes on the history of caffeine use. Fredholm, B.B. Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institute, Stockholm, Sweden. Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology, 2011;(200):1-9.. But just what does it have to do with metabolism?

Don’t Mess With My Mo-Joe — Why It Matters

Photo by Kristine Lockwood

Beyond just causing the jitters, coffee can also speed up metabolism (how fast the body uses calories for energy)— some say up to 10 percent! It’s the caffeine that gives metabolism a boost by revving bodily functions. One cup of basic black, which has between 108 and 135 mg of caffeine, can speed heart rate, enhance alertness, and relax the air passages (speeding oxygen consumption)The immediate and short-term chemosensory impacts of coffee and caffeine on cardiovascular activity. McMullen, M.K., Whitehouse, J.M., Shine, G., et al. School of Life Sciences, University of Westminster, London, UK. Food and Function, 2011 Sep 16;2(9):547-54. Epub 2011 Aug 30.Arousal effect of caffeine depends on adenosine A2A receptors in the shell of the nucleus accumbens. Lazarus, M., Shen, H.Y., Cherasse, Y., et al. Department of Molecular Behavioral Biology, Osaka Bioscience Institute, Suita, Osaka, Japan. Journal of Neuroscience, 2011 Jul 6;31(27):10067-75.Effects of caffeine on striatal neurotransmission: focus on cannabinoid CB1 receptors Rossi, S., De Chiara, V., Musella, A., et al. Clinica Neurologica, Dipartimento di Neuroscienze, Universitá Tor Vergata, Rome, Italy. Molecular Nutrition and Food Research, 2010 Apr;54(4):525-31.. But don’t rush off to the nearest coffee shop for an Orange-Mocha Frappachino just yet. A sugar-filled, flavored coffee can up calorie count and might actually slow down metabolism (thanks to the sugar)— seems a bit counterproductive. To keep the caffeine boost without the calories, try flavoring black coffee with cinnamon (it’s the cool thing to do, we promise).

A Boost from the Brew — The Answer/Debate

So just how does it work? As caffeine raises blood pressure and puts the central nervous system on high alert, the body burns calories to meet its energy needs, boosting metabolism. As caffeine enters the body, it’s absorbed into the bloodstream very quickly through the stomach and small intestine, allowing drinkers to feel the effects within 15 minutes of the first sip, and up to five hoursActions of caffeine in the brain with special reference to factors that contribute to its widespread use Fredholm, B.B., Bättig, K., Holmén, J., et al. Section of Molecular Neuropharmacology, Department of Physiology and Pharmacology, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden. Pharmacological Reviews, 1999 Mar;51(1):83-133.. But just as caffeine’s effects on alertness fades, so do those on metabolism, peaking at around three hours after consumption. Coffee does have a dark side, though— and not just in terms of roast. Drinking too much (more than three 8-ounce cups per day) can cause symptoms like insomnia, nervousness, irritability, upset stomach upset, and muscle tremors. How do you take yours? An average Joe just doesn’t cut it anymore, so tell us what it takes to make a healthy, delicious cup of brew.

The Takeaway

Yes, coffee can increase metabolism— just stick to plain black to reap the largest increase with fewer calories and sugar!