A group of Spanish University experts have found that drinking caffeine 30 minutes before a workout can help people burn fat faster, especially in the evenings.
The research was carried out by Investigation Group PROFITH (Promoting Fitness & Health Through Physical Activity) from the University of Granada based in the southern Spanish resort city of Granada in the autonomous community of Andalusia.
University of Granada Professor Francisco Jose Amaro-Gahete, 29, who is also a part of the investigation team, spoke with Real Press and explained the study aimed to find the conditions that would most efficiently promote fat oxidation, also known as burning fat.
The conditions the scientists varied were the time of day when the exercise was done and the amount of caffeine the participants consumed before the exercise.
Amaro-Gahete assured that one factor that remained the same with all of the participants was that they had all fasted for eight hours at the time of starting the aerobic exercise which he said was a “key factor”.
A group of 15 men aged 32 participated in the study in which their fat oxidation levels were tested under four different conditions.
In one they took a pill with a dose of 3 milligrams of caffeine per kilo 30 minutes before their workout, once at eight in the morning and on a separate day, at five in the evening.
Amaro-Gahete said the caffeine dose is about the same as drinking a strong double coffee.
The test subjects were tested at the hours on different days but given a placebo pill that contained no caffeine during two separate trials. Each one was done a week apart.
Amaro-Gahete said their results showed that fat oxidation levels were generally higher in the evenings than they were in the mornings which confirmed their initial hypothesis.
However, “where it gets interesting” is when they found that “caffeine increases the fat oxidation in both mornings and evenings”.
He added that “taking caffeine before doing exercises in the morning will give you roughly the same fat oxidation levels to working out in the evenings without coffee”, considering the person has fasted for the same amount of time.
Amaro-Gahete said that the increase in fat oxidation after caffeine intake could be partially explained by “a subsequent activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which increases catecholamine production.”
He added: “Said catecholamines will increase the activity of the hormone-sensitive lipase and, therefore, the breakdown of triglycerides, thus releasing a greater amount of free fatty acids into circulation.
“The latter enter the mitochondria of the muscle fibres in order to be oxidised.”
The professor said the source of the caffeine is not important as it can come from any brand of tea or coffee, caffeine pills and some drinks but warned against energy drinks that are filled with sugar. He added that the person would have to remain fasted during the exercise to get the full effects, like the ones from the experiment.
He added that “breakfast being the most important meal of the day” is a “myth” as we “have enough reserves to not have metabolic problems during a long fast” as long as conditions are according to each person’s special needs and at a gradual pace depending on each person’s habits or lifestyle.
He said that “breakfast could be the most important meal of the day” but it doesn’t have to be.
When asked why they thought oxidation levels were higher in the evenings, he said they have two theories that they hope to test one day.
Amaro-Gahete said: “Exercise causes stress which discharges catecholamine, substances from our nervous system that make us ready for stressful situations like running away, and are higher in the evening than in the morning.”
He went on to explain a second hypothesis, saying: “The body temperature is always higher in the evening than in the morning. That increase in body temperature also helps make the fat consumption higher.”
Amaro-Gahete went on to say that though they had very strict conditions during the experiment, there is not too much of a difference between fasting for four and eight hours but they decided on eight for good measure.
He added that people should look to exercises for around 30 minutes or more saying: “When you start doing exercise, the body starts using the glucose and with time, around 15 or 20 minutes later, glucose levels start to go down and fat oxidation progressively increases.”
When asked about the possible hazards that could come from fasting as it has become a popular trend recently. One common practice is intermittent fasting which has a 16-hour fasting window and an eight-hour feeding window when the person can eat all of the calories for the day.
He said that adverse effects were not dangerous to people’s health but they should be sure to eat the necessary food during the feeding windows and follow the right conditions according to each person.
Amaro-Gahete added that fasting also has several benefits, among them is weight loss “as even though you can eat whatever you want in eight hours, there is a calorie deficit that benefits weight loss” as people will generally eat less in eight hours than in 10 hours.