Can Green Coffee Bean Help With Fat Loss?
Green Coffee Bean Extract is found in lots of natural fat burning supplements these days. Manufacturers all claim that it can help you lose fat faster than you ever thought possible. They say that green coffee bean extract can help you shed pounds without losing muscle mass. To listen to some health and fitness bloggers, you would think that this stuff was one step down from a serious anabolic steroid.
Every natural substance gets a degree of hype these days. Websites have to produce a certain amount of content, and it’s easy to become an expert in the internet age.
So we’re here to try and answer this question once and for all: does green coffee bean help you lose fat? Is this ingredient all hype, or does it deserve its reputation as a potent fat burner?
We’re going to look at how people think this substance works. We’ll then try to figure out how it actually works. We’ll look at its safety, its reliability, and its value for money. We will then hopefully be in a position to tell you whether it works for fat loss or not.
So, without further ado, let’s get to it.
What Are Green Coffee Beans
Before we get into the details of how green coffee beans are supposed to help with fat loss, it’s probably a good idea to cover what they are.
We don’t think this question gets addressed often enough in the fitness community.
People talk about substances without explaining what they are. When people do their own research, 9 times out of 10 they find that the mysterious, exotic-sounding substance they have been reading about is actually a commonplace food they already have at home.
So it is with green coffee beans.
Green coffee beans are simply unroasted, ‘raw’ coffee beans. The coffee beans you see in coffee grinders are the same beans; they’ve just been roasted.
It isn’t a different species of plant, it isn’t a special type of seed only found in one part of the world. It’s regular coffee that hasn’t been roasted.
Why might that be important?
Many people believe that some key compounds in coffee beans are destroyed when they are roasted.
Indeed, this is almost certainly true. Compounds such as anti-oxidants and vitamins are ‘denatured’ when exposed to extreme temperatures.
One key compound is also damaged during roasting: chlorogenic acid. This brings us on to the hype surrounding green coffee beans.
As mentioned above, there’s a lot of talk about green coffee bean extract in the fitness world at the moment. This is no doubt because manufacturers are using it in their fat loss supplements more and more frequently.
For example, articles like this one on Bodybuilding.com take it as a given that green coffee bean helps accelerate fat loss. The only question they ask is whether or not it rivals green tea; another substance they take as an indisputable fat loss aid.
This sort of article is typical of ingredients like green coffee bean. There is little in-depth inquiry into the extract or compound; there is just a rush to get what little information they have out there to their hungry readers.
One thing that is well understood, however, is the main active ingredient in green coffee bean extract: chlorogenic acid.
Pretty much every single article, blog post, or video on the merits of supplementing with green coffee bean extract will focus on chlorogenic acid, and rightly so.
Unroasted coffee beans do contain a welath of other compounds that are conducive to health, longevity and physical performance. But it is chlorogenic acid that makes green coffee stand out from the crowd, and it is chlorogenic acid which gives it most of its punch.
But again, articles very rarely look at why chlorogenic acid is supposedly so potent a fat burner.
This is largely because there is so much confusion about how chlorogenic acid actually works – you can’t talk about something you know nothing about.
Studies looking at green coffee bean extracts have postulated that it has a wide range of properties.
For instance, this study looked at how chlorogenic acid in coffee affected glucose uptake in the human digestive tract. The researchers concluded thus: “Chlorogenic acid might have an antagonistic effect on glucose transport. Therefore, a novel function of some dietary phenols in humans may be to attenuate intestinal glucose absorption rates”.
However, this study didn’t just look at glucose uptake. It was explicitly looking at glucose uptake and “gastrointestinal hormone and insulin secretion in humans.”
The researchers also just looked at blood glucose levels. As such, there is no way to be certain what mechanism was involved here.
Other studies regularly cited as proof that green coffee bean helps people lose fat have been just as vague and inconclusive.
For example, this trial is often quoted as proof that green coffee bean prevents fat acquisition. The researchers did indeed find that GCB supplementation was correlated with lower body fat levels.
So what mechanism did they postulate was behind this correlation? Here is their conclusion:
“These results suggest that GCBE is possibly effective against weight gain and fat accumulation by inhibition of fat absorption and activation of fat metabolism in the liver. Caffeine was found to be a suppressor of fat absorption, while chlorogenic acid was found to be partially involved in the suppressive effect of GCBE that resulted in the reduction of hepatic TG level.”
It is also important to note that this study was conducted on mice, not humans.
This confusion about how chlorogenic acid works has led to very authoritative, widely-read websites claiming that green coffee bean extract can do all of these things at once.
We think this is gravely mistaken. We think that the mechanism behind chlorogenic acid’s positive effect on fat loss is simple to understand, and well proven by the available scientific data.
How Green Coffee Bean Actually Helps With Fat Loss
In many of the studies cited above, there is a mechanism of action which is frequently touched upon, but which is never really postulated as being the main reason for chlorogenic acid’s fat burning effects.
Yet we believe that it is the mechanism underlying all of the other suggested actions of chlorogenic acid.
That mechanism is insulin attenuation.
We believe that chlorogenic acid helps with fat loss by inhibiting the insulin response to carbohydrate ingestion.
We’ll first explain why we think this would be a good idea, and then we’ll back up our claims.
When cutting in any way, you are going to be eating fewer calories than you do usually – otherwise it’s not a cut!
As such, your insulin levels will drop lower than usual during your day. Your blood sugar levels will be lower than they are when you’re bulking, or even when eating a maintenance caloric level.
When meal time comes around, and you do ingest some carbs, the insulin response will be very pronounced. This will mean that the protein, fats and carbs you have ingested will be very quickly forced into cells; either cells which need the fuel right away, or into fat cells for storage and later use.
Depending on how that meal is composed, this means more fat storage.
This effect is even more pronounced when intermittent fasting or following a “flexible dieting“, IIFYM-type diet while cutting (two methods we recommend you check out if attempting to cut while retaining your muscle mass).
If you haven’t eaten for the past 14 hours, and you ingest an enormous meal comprising large amounts of high GI carbohydrates and plenty of fats, then you will get a huge insulin spike following that meal. This huge insulin spike means more efficient nutrient shuttling to cells, which means greater fat storage.
So it is with IIFYM-style dieting.
If you haven’t eaten any carbs or fats yet, and you eat them together in large amounts in the same meal, you will have a pronounced insulin spike, with the same results
This is why bodybuilders love insulin. It is the body’s “storage hormone”, but for the same reason it is the body’s “build hormone”.
It shuttles nutrients to cells. This means it shuttles free glucose and fat to fat cells for storage. But it also shuttles glucose and amino acids to damaged, exhausted, glycogen-depleted muscles, allowing them to re-fill and re-build. This is how muscle mass is built.
Yet when we’re cutting, we’ve decided that building muscle mass is no longer what we’re trying to achieve.
We’re trying to lose fat.
When that’s the case, a severe insulin response is our worst enemy.
A pronounced insulin response is not necessary to simply maintain muscle mass. When we aren’t trying to build muscle mass (indeed, when in a caloric deficit this is practically impossible unless you are totally untrained or taking steroids), the only thing we stand to gain from severe insulin spikes is more fat.
By reducing the intensity of your body’s insulin response to carbohydrate ingestion, you can reduce the rate at which insulin shuttles nutrients to your cells after each meal. This will in turn reduce the rate at which you gain fat.
So does chlorogenic acid really do this?
We think so. Here’s why.
There are several studies noting the insulin-sensitizing action of green coffee bean extract, and chlorogenic acid in particular. As this article states, “Chlorogenic acid (CGA) is a phenolic metabolite extracted from some plant species, such as Coffea Canephora Pierre (commonly known as green coffee beans). CGA has many biological properties and insulin-sensitizing activities.”
By insulin-sensitizing, the author means that it is thought to make the body more sensitive to insulin, which means that you need smaller amounts of it to lower blood glucose.
So someone with a relatively high insulin sensitivity will only release small amounts of insulin from their pancreas after blood sugar levels rise. Insulin is effectively able to do its job more efficiently. There is no need for huge insulin responses to a rise in blood sugar levels, and the insulin that is released works better.
This effect has been noted in other studies.
We’ll take this meta-analysis as a good place to start. The researchers here looked at numerous studies on GCBE and found that it has some pretty impressive properties in relation to insulin, glucose, and lipids. They noted that GCBE was found to stimulate insulin release in some people, leading them to describe it as a “potential antidiabetic agent”. They also found that it improved insulin sensitivity and glucose tolerance in obese rats.
So it seems that it generally improves your blood sugar control system.
The authors went on to describe other ways in which GCBE helps with overall health and athletic performance, including by preventing fat accumulation. We recommend that you read the whole thing if you have time – it makes for some pretty good reading!
One of the studies quoted in the previous section, published by Johnston KL et al in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2003, looked at various possible mechanisms of action of chlorogenic acid.
While many people use this study to suggest that chlorogenic acid prevents glucose absorption, the paper’s conclusion doesn’t necessarily tell us this. It states: “Differences in plasma glucose, insulin, and gastrointestinal hormone profiles further confirm the potent biological action of caffeine and suggest that chlorogenic acid might have an antagonistic effect on glucose transport.”
Insulin secretion was seen to be effected by chlorogenic acid supplementation. Indeed, by attenuating the insulin response to carbohydrate ingestion, chlorogenic acid would indeed have a profound effect on insulin sensitivity, glucose transport, and body fat levels.
It must be said that all of this is conjecture on our behalf. But then that is what our website is for!
We simply see insulin manipulation coming up in study after study. We also cannot see how chlorogenic acid would prevent glucose uptake in the intestine.
We have reasoned that the main mechanism by which glucose modulates body fat gain is by making insulin work better. By making us effectively more sensitive to insulin, chlorogenic acid makes the body able to achieve better results with less insulin, in turn preventing fewer insulin spikes. As explained above, this can in turn help prevent unwanted fat gain during a cut.
Is It Safe?
All evidence points to green coffee beans being safe to consume.
After all, it is the same seed that we use to make our morning drink every single day. The only difference is that un-roasted coffee beans contain larger amounts of certain substances, all of which are good for human health as far as we’re aware.
Regular roasted coffee does contain chlorogenic acid. It just contains far less than green coffee.
Many people make drinks from un-roasted, “raw” coffee beans, without ever experiencing side effects.
Many fat burners contain green coffee bean extract which contains higher concentrations of the compounds useful for fat loss; again, the occurrence of side effects from these supplements is rare (assuming we are talking about high quality fat burners with no dangerous ingredients).
Chlorogenic acid itself has been extensively studied. Participants in several studies have been given larger amounts of chlorogenic acid than you will find in most fat burning supplements. Side effect incidence has always seemingly been minimal.
But as always, we urge you to consult with your doctor before supplementing with a new substance.
Is It Effective?
So we’ve covered what green coffee is, why most people think it works, how we think it works, and whether or not it’s safe.
But that isn’t why you are here. You probably only want us to answer one question: does green coffee bean extract really help accelerate fat loss?
All of the evidence we have seen tells us that it does.
This study, published in Pharmaceutical Research in 2015, concluded the following: “Our study provides direct evidence in support of CGA as a potent compound in preventing diet-induced obesity and obesity-related metabolic syndrome.”
This study looked at green coffee bean supplementation and weight loss. The researchers found that chlorogenic acid-enriched instant coffee produced greater fat loss than either control or the group given regular instant coffee. The difference in weight loss here was around 4kg; a very significant difference.
Another study, conducted on mice, found a correlation between chlorogenic acid supplementation and reduced body weight. A special mention is made of chlorogenic acid’s relationship with visceral and hepatic fat levels.
But individual studies conducted on mice are not overwhelmingly convincing. What really convinced us of green coffee bean’s fat burning potential, and that of chlorogenic acid by extension, was this meta-analysis.
After reviewing much of the literature on green coffee bean extract, the researchers concluded emphatically that a proper degree of green coffee bean extract supplementation can bring about greater fat loss. To borrow the words of the literature review’s authors: “The meta-analytic result reveals a significant difference in body weight in GCE compared with placebo (mean difference: −2.47 kg; 95%CI: −4.23, −0.72).”
Of course, there were caveats to this conclusion.
The authors noted that the results were “moderate”. Of course, these researchers were looking at this in terms of its potential use as a clinical intervention. This is quite different to looking for a natural supplement to help speed up your rate of fat loss during a cut.
They also stated that more research was needed. But importantly for us, they said that the initial results were promising.
All things considered, we don’t think a modern, high quality, premium-priced fat burner can afford to leave green coffee bean extract off their ingredient list.
Considering how many useless, under-performing, side effect-inducing ingredients manufacturers insist on putting in some of their products today, to leave out green coffee bean extract would be a crime in our opinion.
It has been thoroughly tested, and its ability to enhance fat loss is almost indisputable.
Of course, its mechanisms of action could be better understood, and there are a few competing theories as to why it works the way it does.
We have our own theory on this (explained above), but what is not really debatable is that several clinical trials and a lot of anecdotal data points ot it being an effective, safe, reliable fat burner.
If you’re interested in utilizing green coffee beans during your next cut, then you could try either buying your own raw, un-roasted beans from your local supplier, or you could check out some fat burning supplements which make use of green coffee bean: Instant Knockout or BurnerTEK are out current highest rated.