Low Caffeine Weight Gain

Beginning in late September I scaled down my caffeine intake. Then in October, I went the entire month without coffee and 21 days without any caffeine. This month I have been on a very low caffeine intake, averaging just 1 cup of coffee a day. I covered that experiment in the article A Month Without Coffee. Well, today I confirmed a side effect that I suspected was occurring: weight gain.

I am now 7 pounds heavier than when I started my caffeine reduction experiment (was 187, now 194). And it isn’t muscle. Although I am still lean, ab definition is now gone. I’m not concerned though, because reducing caffeine has resulted in fewer headaches. I’ll take that trade any day. Plus I know how to lean out with minimal effort, so I can always get back to my normal weight – if I can do it without increasing headache frequency.

Why did I gain weight during this period? Some thoughts:

  1. Caffeine is an appetite suppressant.
  2. Seattle weather was terrible during this period. My non-exercise movement (walking) was minimal. This means I was home near my food supplies for a high percentage of the month.
  3. I had strong sugar cravings when I came off caffeine.
  4. When I did go to the gym to do my High Intensity Training, my focus was off. Either I went to failure faster than normal or I didn’t have the grit to push myself as hard. Although I strongly believe exercise plays almost no role in fat loss, I do think HIT has some fat loss applications, provided it really is high intensity and you aren’t just going through the motions like I was doing.
  5. Less morning fasting. I had less discipline on delaying my first meal without caffeine.

Photo by Länsmuseet Gävleborg

I’m even more convinced than before that my next caffeine detox will be in the summer. Then I will be able to distract myself with hours of low intensity movement away from my kitchen. But for now, I’m gradually adding back more Intermittent Fasting. My gym intensity is still below normal, but that just might take more practice of learning how to generate high intensity without getting jacked on espresso. If those strategies don’t work, I might increase my average daily coffee intake to 2, which is still half of what it was before I started reducing my caffeine levels. Of course I’ll only do that if it doesn’t result in more headaches.


Add yours

  1. I absolutely believe this is true. I’ve recently started intermittent fasting again, and so far the only way I’m able to successfully skip a meal is to replace it with a big ole cup of coffee.

  2. I wonder if you see the reality behind this humorous comment:

    “…very low caffeine intake, averaging just 1 cup of coffee a day.”

  3. @Txomin – I’m actually considering selling my beloved espresso machine. The drug equivalent would be putting away the crack pipe and pulling out the mirror. 🙂

  4. Kiefer and Robb Wolf discuss some interesting topics on the Paleo Solution Podcast (160); might be of help to you.

  5. @Frank – Just listened to 160. I tend to follow a similar approach. My mornings are ketogenic or low-carb.

  6. The without coffee posts were interesting. Thanks for sharing your experiment.

    If you wanted to “lean out with minimal effort,” what strategy would you follow?

  7. Thanks, Michael.

    The fermented vegetables are an interesting addition. I ferment lots of salsa (grew up in TX), but always avoided when trying to stay in ketosis. Seems like unfermented raw vegetables would work too.

  8. Hi Michael,

    Jazz here. Just wanted to add a point which I can remember from Paul Chek re the effect of coffee on thinking is that he says tea can help your Brain to think in different directions/idea generation whereas coffee helps in more linear thinking or focussed thinking. I can feel it as in my PT sessions before training a Client my mind has lot of different ideas to play with which can cause problems sometimes as for a 30 mins session, i need to be fast on my feet so with a coffee before the start of my back to back sessions I am more quick and focussed in my planning and implementing the plan.


  9. @Jazz – I have experienced that effect, but never thought about it too much. Right now I am dialing down my coffee intake, so I will be increasing my tea a bit. Thanks.

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