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The Coffee Diet: Can It Actually Help You Lose Weight for Good?

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Coffee diet - Dr. Axe

Generally speaking, high-quality coffee can be a guilt-free way to boost your antioxidant intake, and some studies even show an increase in longevity with coffee consumption. But do coffee and weight loss go together? According to one 2019 British study, consuming coffee stimulates “brown fat,” which is the human body’s own fat-fighting defenses.

Benefits of coffee consumption aside, should you consider trying a coffee diet? This plan is especially appealing to all of the coffee lovers out there, but coffee diet reviews are mixed, and it’s unclear if results will be long term.

While there’s no such thing as a magical weight loss coffee, according to one relatively new coffee diet created by Dr. Bob Arnot, drinking the right type of coffee daily along with a restricted calorie diet just may lead to shedded pounds. Some people are reporting success, but many experts are the fence about whether or not this is a diet plan worth considering.

What Is the Coffee Diet?

Versions of the coffee diet vary with options including a 10-hour coffee diet or a 14-day coffee diet, but one of the most recent coffee diets was created by Bob Arnot, M.D.,  a former 60 Minutes and NBC Nightly News medical correspondent.

Dr. Arnot is the author behind the book, The Coffee Lover’s Diet. Basically, the diet recommends black coffee (both regular and decaf) alongside a diet plan similar to many others  — it focuses on whole foods and avoids processed foods and refined carbs while limiting calories overall.

According to Dr. Arnot, it’s not just about drinking coffee, but it’s about drinking the right type of coffee. The research he conducted with his team reveals light roast coffees are highest in beneficial polyphenols.

Studies have shown coffee polyphenols have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-diabetes and antihypertensive properties.

Dr. Arnot also claims after testing thousands of varieties of coffee beans, some of the most polyphenol-rich coffee is grown in rich volcanic soil at high altitudes in places like Columbia, Brazil, Ethiopia and Kenya.

Like other coffee diets, Dr. Arnot says consuming coffee several times per day can increase your metabolism, burn more fat, block calorie absorption and reduce appetite.

How It Works

Dr. Arnot’s plan recommends a black coffee diet for weight loss, so there will be no cream or sugar. He instructs drinking one cup first thing in the morning … then you can have as much as you want the rest of the day, but you ideally consume at least three cups of a high-phenol coffee daily.

In addition to coffee, you substitute a smoothie (recipes in his book) for one of your meals. The other two meals are low-fat and high-fiber.

His recommended daily meal plans contain around 1,500 calories per day.

Sample Coffee Diet Meal Plan (Sample Menu)

Before you start picturing living on a banana and coffee diet for the foreseeable future, let’s take a look at examples of what you actually eat on Dr. Arnot’s coffee diet for weight loss.

First off, there is a “super smoothie” or several other smoothie recipes that he recommends in his book, The Coffee Lover’s Diet, to consume for one of your meals each day.

In addition to drinking coffee, below are some recommended foods while following Dr. Arnot’s coffee diet for weight loss:

  • Snacks (one to three per day if needed to control hunger) such as:
    • ¼ cantaloupe
    • ½ cup cottage cheese (1 percent)
    • Handful of raw almonds
    • 2 tablespoons smashed berries, 2 teaspoons nut butter and 1 teaspoon wild honey on a slice of sprouted wheat toast
    • 2 ounces nitrate-free deli meat, ¼ avocado, mustard to taste rolled in a large lettuce leaf
  • Optional meals (one option at lunch and/or dinner if not having a smoothie):
    • Option 1: ¾ cup low-fat sprouted granola, ¾ cup Greek yogurt, ¾ cup chopped strawberries, dash cinnamon
    • Option 2: ½ cup warmed teriyaki-flavored tofu; ½ cup shelled edamame; chopped cucumber, carrot and cilantro to taste over ¾ cup brown rice. Drizzle with mix of 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar, 1 teaspoon soy sauce, ¼ teaspoon minced garlic and ½ teaspoon sesame oil
    • Option 3: 4 ounces salmon, herbs and lemon; sliced cucumber and red onion with fresh mint, lime juice, salt and 2 teaspoons olive oil; 1 cup quinoa or brown rice; 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • Option 4: 4 ounces tuna or 2 chopped hard-boiled eggs; ¼ cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt; ⅓ cup mix of chopped celery and onion; pinch curry powder in a whole-grain pita; an apple or any fruit
    • Option 5: Summer Cleanse Salad: 3 ounces cooked shrimp or chicken, ¾ cup berries or any fresh fruit, corn sliced off one ear of corn and 1 tablespoon sliced toasted almonds over a large bowl of seasonal greens, red onion and sugar snap peas with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette

Does the Coffee Diet Promote Weight Loss? Potential Health Benefits

If you’re following a Paleo or keto diet, coffee is approved since it contains no sugar or carbohydrates, but does coffee help you lose weight?

Scientific research does demonstrate that one of the potential benefits of coffee consumption may be weight loss. The reason for this is because coffee appears to boost both metabolism and fat-burning for some people.

These potential benefits have been known for some time. A study published in 1995 in the Annals of Nutrition & Metabolism demonstrates how caffeine was able to boost metabolism by an average of 7 percent within three hours after it was consumed by healthy subjects. However, like recent research, the study was conducted on a very small number of human subjects (12 young men).

Some of the more recent research conducted again with a small number of human subjects is still in its early stages, but so far it appears coffee may help fight fat, but researchers still are looking to determine if it’s the caffeine and/or other aspects of coffee that are contributing to its activation of brown fat, which plays a central role in how quickly we can burn calories.

Risks & Negatives

Coffee naturally contains caffeine, which has been linked to appetite suppression and increased calorie-burning. However, it’s unclear if any potential weight loss as a result of a coffee diet will be long-term. According to experts at the Mayo Clinic, “Caffeine may slightly boost weight loss or prevent weight gain, but there’s no sound evidence that increased caffeine consumption results in significant or permanent weight loss.”

Coffee does contain high levels of antioxidants, which have been shown to be beneficial to health in substantial ways, but if you can’t handle the caffeine, you can opt for decaf coffee.

However, most decaf coffee is created using chemicals and loses some of its valuable properties during the extraction process. If you want to opt for decaf, look for versions made using a carbon dioxide method, which uses no chemicals.

Picking up a coffee habit tomorrow and changing nothing else is certainly not a magic bullet for weight loss. As pointed out in a recent Forbes article, “Americans lead the world in coffee consumption, drinking over 400 million cups a day, yet have the twelfth highest obesity rate.” So it’s likely coffee and weight loss only really go together when someone drinks high-quality coffee alongside a healthy diet and lifestyle.

It’s also important to note that many creators of coffee diets don’t specify the benefits of consuming organic coffee rather than conventional varieties to avoid pesticides, which is very important since coffee is known to be one of the most pesticide sprayed crops in the world after tobacco and cotton.

Coffee is generally considered safe for adults, but it should not be given to children.

Possible side effects of caffeine consumption from coffee or other sources include nervousness, restlessness, insomnia, stomach upset, nausea, vomiting, increased heart rate, increased breathing rate and more.

Drinking excess amounts of coffee may also cause high blood pressure, headache, anxiety, agitation, ringing in the ears and irregular heartbeat.

Check with your doctor before starting to drink coffee or increasing your coffee consumption if you are pregnant, nursing, being treated for a medical condition and/or are currently taking medication.

Final Thoughts

  • What is the coffee diet? There are many variations of this diet, but one of the most recent versions created by Dr. Bob Arnot promotes consumption of light roast coffee alongside a restricted calorie eating plan.
  • Some people experience weight loss on a coffee diet, but it may not be long-term, and it may also be attributed to other factors (such as eating healthier and limiting calories).
  • In general, it’s a good idea to opt for organic coffee whenever possible to avoid pesticides and maximize potential coffee benefits whether you choose a dark or light roast.
  • A huge potential downside of a coffee diet is the consumption of high amounts of caffeine daily.
  • Potential side effects and dangers of caffeine consumption should not be overlooked. For many people, drinking three cups of coffee per day may be too much.
  • It’s important not to start drinking coffee or increase your coffee consumption without first consulting with your healthcare provider.

Read Next: The OMAD Diet: Is Eating One Meal a Day Healthy?


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