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To battle obesity, increase body heat — and coffee could help

Published August 09. 2019 11:44PM

During a discussion more about managing life than mastering language arts, a student asked what makes me the happiest. I uttered only one word.


After the appropriate pause, I shared how the sense of it had allowed me to handle those first, frustrating four-hour days of rehab after I fractured my right femur in a bicycle race. The fracture forced me to miss 36 days of school and learn how to walk again — let alone ride and race a bicycle.

But if I had managed in rehab to perform 10 more half squats or pedal 10 more minutes than the day before, I would ascend the stairs for a post-workout nap feeling euphoric — despite the fact that I needed to place my hands on the stairs and walk on all fours to do so. While reading this article may not produce in you the euphoria I felt after a successful rehab session, it just might lead to what created it.


According to statistics released by the CDC in 2017, nearly four out of every 10 American adults are obese and more than seven out of every 10 would benefit from losing some weight; therefore, it makes sense to review thermogenesis, the heat your body produces to digest food — especially since a study published June 24 by Scientific Reports called attention to thermogenesis in another way: by the consumption of a single cup of coffee.

The initial research performed at the University of Nottingham in England using stem cells found that the right dose of caffeine caused brown fat to produce heat. A follow-up found that the same occurred in humans after drinking a single cup of coffee.

Brown fat is the “good” fat in your body.

Most of your body fat is white fat, what you create by consuming more cals than you burn. White fat needs virtually no fuel to sustain itself; brown fat does.

Until 10 years ago, though, the medicos thought you lost all your brown fat as part of the loss of baby fat, but research then found small amounts of it in adults — which led to that thing I love.


By 2012, researchers had used brown fat injections to change white fat to a sort of hybrid fat, beige fat, which kept mice from becoming fat. By 2013, researchers used exercise to transform some white fat in mice to brown fat.

By 2014, researchers found overeating leads to brown fat turning to white, which, ironically, reduces the need for calories by lowering basal metabolic rate.

While the most recent research with coffee consumption did not create the degree of thermogenesis needed to drop significant amounts of weight, it certainly supports related research that shows significant weight can be lost if you know how to choose your foods.

Consuming the typical American diet, for instance, causes about a 10 percent waste during the conversion of food to energy. But the “waste rate,” or degree of thermogenesis needed for the digestion of protein, complex carbs, simple carbs, and dietary fat, differs.

Research performed at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and published in the September 2002 issue of Journal of Obesity found a waste rate of between 6 and 8% for carbohydrates, about 2 or 3% for fats, and between 25 and 30% for protein. A subsequent study separating simple carbs and complex carbs found that the body burns more cals to digest the latter than the former.

These studies show that an eating style used by bodybuilders for more than half a century often referred to as nutrient partitioning makes sense for a loss of fat or body-weight maintenance. A study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition in 2014 certainly supports that.

The study used 30 weightlifters in their 20s. Half the control group was instructed to eat and lift as they had been. The other half was told to do the same, but to make one dietary modification.

They were to consume the same amount of fat and carbohydrates as they had before the experiment, and increase their consumption of protein to 4.4 grams per kilogram of body weight — 5.5 times the United States Recommended Daily Allowance.

For the next eight weeks, the high-protein group averaged 307 grams of protein (1228 calories) a day. The control group averaged 138 grams (552 calories). Training volume, food intake, and body composition were monitored in both groups.

After eight weeks of consuming nearly 700 extra calories of protein a day, the researchers found that the increase in protein did not create additional body fat.

In all likelihood, you don’t have the need or the desire to increase your protein digestion this dramatically, but consider what consuming a higher percentage of protein (as well as complex carbs) and a lower percentage of fats and simple carbs could do for you.

Increasing your body’s need for heat to digest what you eat is a way to lose weight without eating less.

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