Does drinking coffee cause weight gain?

Enas Shakkour
Nutrition & Dietetics

Drinking coffee doesn’t cause weight gain. Black coffee has zero calories. What you put in your coffee, however, could contribute to excess calories. Creamer, sugar, whipped cream, and chocolate all have calories. Add those "extras" to your coffee sparingly. Coffee shops offer "skinny" and "lite" versions of coffee. Ask for skim milk and skip the whipped cream. 

Marco Di Buono
Nutrition & Dietetics
The short answer this question is maybe.

Coffee in and of itself is not associated to weight gain, but what you put in your coffee may actually lead to weight gain depending on how much you consume.

A Canadian study published in December 2010 concluded that neither coffee or tea consumption is associated with higher BMI in either men or women, but people who consumed the hot beverages with additives - including artificial sweeteners - tended to have higher BMIs or waist sizes.

The bottom line: if you enjoy coffee or tea, take it black!
I agree with the Dr. that what you put in your coffee can be troublesome and drinking black coffee is the best but, for many, coffee is a comfort drink and it helps many to start their day. Many will drink coffee when going out as an alterative to drinking alcohol and many will use coffee as a social tool when meeting with friends.

Drinking it "black" is definitely better. But if someone is properly managing their calories does it make someone fat to put additives in their coffee? Absolutely not!

Go black if you can but, if not, use the advice I give to my clients. When I am dealing with a client we focus on the management of calories. Whether that is a straight caloric level day after day, alternate-day eating, or average calories with a day of higher calories, the key is to manage and be aware of caloric consumption. 

For most of my clients, I will cut a deal with them and ask for a certain amount of clean calories and a certain amount of what I call "whatever" calories. The key is to stick within the boundaries that are set.

So, if a client averages 200 free calories per day and adds things such as sweetener, creamer or other things to their coffee as something they want to do, it is allowed. The important thing is for them to realize that anything they add to their coffee must be accounted for and could take away from their total calories that are allotted for them on a daily basis. Some people will want to add the extras to their coffee, others will see that drinking black coffee will give them more room to eat food in other areas of the day.
When an individual consumes more calories throughout the day then they burn, they create the environment for weight gain. So, does coffee cause weight gain - potentially. Although, this can be said about any food. A couple questions to ponder are:
  • Does coffee fit within your daily management of calories? If your maintenance level of calories is 2500, and your food intake totals 2500 without coffee you must either avoid the coffee or reduce your food consumption to make room for the coffee.
  • Can I prepare my coffee in a way to fit within my daily plan? A 20 oz. (venti) black coffee from Starbucks has 5 calories in it, whereas the same coffee with cream and sugar has ~ 200 calories. The way you consume your coffee can make a big difference towards reaching your goals. Imagine if you drank 2 of these a day, that is an extra 400 calories a day and 2800 extra calories weekly.
  • Why do I drink coffee? Individuals drink coffee for many different reasons. A need for energy, social needs, and emotionally comforting are common reasons. If it is a need for energy, identifying ways to modify your daily food consumption may decrease the need for energy derived from coffee. If it is for social or comforting reasons, potentially modifying your daily food intake to allow for coffee could be a great strategy.
Keri Gans
Nutrition & Dietetics
Keep an eye on your consumption of “fancy” coffee or tea drinks, the kind often topped with syrup and whipped cream. If you’re not careful, their added sugar and calories can cause an unpleasant side effect, too: weight gain. Be brave and check the coffee chain’s website or in-store nutrition information to find out the calorie count for brand coffee or tea drinks. Then log it in your journal, along with the serving size. Despite the hefty amount of calories these beverages can contain, there are often “skinnier” alternatives on the menu -- give them a try. Also, reduce your serving size from grande or vente to tall -- you’ll reduce the calories you take in, too. Even regular coffee or tea from your own pot or kettle can pack a surprising amount of calories if you have a heavy hand with sugar, half and half, or powdered creamer. If you add honey to your tea or coffee (some people do), you’re adding sugar -- 64 calories per tablespoon, which should be logged in your food journal. When it comes to coffee and tea drinks, my recommendation is to go retro. Have a good old-fashioned cup of Joe, black or with a touch of milk and one tablespoon of sugar or artificial sweetener, or a nice cup of tea with a squeeze of lemon or low-fat milk. Order iced coffee or iced tea unsweetened, and add your own low-fat milk and/or a small amount of sugar or artificial sweetener.
The Small Change Diet: 10 Steps to a Thinner, Healthier You

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The Small Change Diet: 10 Steps to a Thinner, Healthier You

THE ONLY “DIET” PLAN YOU WILL EVER NEED! No deprivation, no struggles. Just ten small changes that will transform your life. Keri Gans, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, shares...
Robert DeVito
Coffee (which contains caffeine (a stimulant)) will not cause weight gain. There are multiple studies to show coffee's usage in weight loss programs.

However, you must be mindful of what you add to your coffee.  If you make a coffee drink, then it is no longer just coffee, i.e.: milk, sugar, chocolate syrup etc.

Coffee has zero calories, but you must add-up all of the calories that you add to it. Your sugar may add 100-150 calories, your milk can be 100-300 calories, and so on...

There are some coffee drinks that have anywhere form 200-700 calories per drink. This is where these drinks certainly could aid in weight gain.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.