Weight Loss Experiment #1

‘Metabolism’ is a word that is often mentioned when discussing a person’s weight. It’s either too fast for skinny people (who seem to be fine with this!) or too slow for fat people, who’s bracket I currently fall into and are usually looking for ways to speed it up a bit. But what on earth is a metabolism? Someone wrote on Wikipedia that

Metabolism (from Greek: μεταβολή “metabolē”, “change” or Greek: μεταβολισμός metabolismos, “outthrow”) is the set of chemical reactions that happen in living organisms to sustain life. These processes allow organisms to grow and reproduce, maintain their structures, and respond to their environments. Metabolism is usually divided into two categories. Catabolism breaks down organic matter, for example to harvest energy in cellular respiration. Anabolism uses energy to construct components of cells such as proteins and nucleic acids.

That’s exactly what I thought. Ha. Basically, chemical reactions that help you to live. Right?

Jay used to work as a personal trainer and so, as much as I don’t like to admit it, sometimes he has very interesting facts about what can help you to lose weight. Before he goes for a run (and boy, does he run for hours and hours), he does the following things, probably in this order:

  1. Drinks a tonne of water, hydrating oneself.
  2. Puts on running gear, for one to run in.
  3. Drinks a cup of black coffee…
What? Coffee? That’s right, folks. Apparently, if you drink a cup of the black stuff before you work out, it helps to burn calories and essentially, the fat in your body quicker.
Naturally, I didn’t believe him when he told me, but he has been doing this for quite a while and, as I’m still trying to reach my first stone this year, I thought I’d research this a little bit more. Googling ‘coffee before exercise’ brings up a lot of articles. This article from The Times in 2003 was the first I stumbled upon and says that Australian researchers had found that caffeine tricks the muscles in your body to use fat instead of carbohydrates, thus resulting in weight loss.
Researchers found that cyclists who sipped flat cola or coffee while riding were able to keep pedalling for longer and faster than those who drank water.
Good, eh? Speedy cyclists for longer. An American study showed that coffee before the gym made you less tired (or ‘exercise-induced fatigue’, if you want to be posh). So, not only does your body think, “Hey, I’ll use the fat as my fuel instead of the carbs”, but it improves your performance when you are exercising.

To boost fat metabolism… one or two cups before pulling on the Lycra and trainers is probably sufficient. “You have to be prepared to sweat for the benefits,” she said. “No research has shown that coffee on its own does the trick. Exercise plus caffeine is the recipe for fat-burning.”

Well, it does sound good to be true… So the critic in me decided to google for the disadvantages – and there are some (sorry, guys!). I found this article of supposed disadvantages of coffee before exercise. Firstly, it says you probably should avoid drinking coffee before exercise if you have hypertension or are at an increased risk of heart disease (I suppose this means if it runs in your family). Coffee has a diuretic effect on your body, which means that it will dehydrate you more than if you just stuck to your water or Lucozade and will also mean you need to pee more. Yup. Laaaavly. Nevertheless, in the name of science (and in the hope of additional pounds lost!), I am going to try and drink coffee before I exercise for a month. It will be quite a struggle (I cannot stand coffee!) but one cup a day before exercising won’t kill me. I’ll just need my chewing gum to get rid of the God awful taste! I am starting this from today and, of course, will let you know how I get on.
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