Drink up! Strong coffee consumed in this exact way may help your body burn fat

By Arianne Cohen

March 25, 2021

There may be an unintended benefit to your caffeine habit: A new study in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition finds that drinking coffee spikes fat burning. But the particulars of how to enjoy this benefit are rather specific:

    drink coffee 30 minutes before aerobic exercise

    make it a strong cuppa (3 mg of caffeine) in the late afternoon (after 4 p.m.)

    do a moderate aerobic workout

It is well-known that caffeine improves sports performance. Researchers from the University of Granada looked to clarify whether caffeine impacts fat oxidation (fat burn) by having 15 participants down either caffeine or placebos, and then exercise moderately at 8 a.m. or 5 p.m. The results were striking: Fat burn was 29% higher in the afternoon with caffeine (compared to placebo), and aerobic capacity (measured as VO2Max) peaked under the same caffeine-in-the-afternoon conditions.

Other studies have indicated that bodies perform better in the afternoon—for example, one study found muscle force to be around 10% higher at 6 p.m. than at 6 a.m. This research adds to the Yay Afternoon Exercise literature: In this study, morning exercisers with caffeine matched the fat burn levels of caffeine-free afternoon exercisers.

Caveats: Exercise research is a wide-open frontier, well-known for producing differing results with different demographics, fitness levels, and types of exercise. This study tested only men, with one form of exercise, at two times of day—and any exercise scholar will tell you to prioritize healthy movement at the time of day that works for you. But if fat burn is your goal, sweating it out in the afternoon is a solid strategy.