Does coffee and lemon help with weight loss? It's the question everyone's asking as a new wellness trend takes over TikTok and social media, with an impressive 11 million views on the hashtag #LemonCoffee and almost one million on #LemonCoffeeHotWater.
These kinds of videos, where someone films themselves squeezing lemon into their morning coffee followed by "before and after" photos to highlight their supposed weight loss results, are dubious at best in terms of validity. But they're also nothing new. For years, people have been swept up by various health trends that suggest a simple concoction of everyday ingredients will give them instant weight loss results.
More often than not though, it's too good to be true. Whether you want to learn how to lose weight in a week or you're dieting but not losing weight, and are thinking of trying the lemon coffee trend for something new, we unpack the truth behind the claims with the help of a specialist doctor.
Does coffee and lemon help with weight loss?
No, there's no magic combination of coffee and lemon that can aid weight loss, says Dr Alona Pulde (opens in new tab), a family medicine physician who specializes in nutrition. "The reality is that lemon does not have any magic properties to help us trim down. And while coffee may have some benefits, they are temporary at best, come with a cost, and don’t replace a healthy diet nor support long-term weight loss," she explains.
When it comes to losing weight, it's best to stick to the simple calorie deficit formula of calories out > calories in. "This means we have to exert more energy than we consume," says Dr Pulde, who also works with the healthy eating app Lifesum (opens in new tab).
Although there are many ways to get into this deficit, research from multiple institutions, including the Medical University of Vienna (opens in new tab) and Seoul National University Bundang Hospital (opens in new tab), shows that it is the only way to lose weight. "Many of us try to do this by eating less and exercising more, which may be successful in the short run," Dr Pulde adds, but switching up your diet to include plenty of whole foods and protein will also be hugely beneficial.
Are there any benefits of lemon coffee for losing weight?
Lemon and coffee won't help you lose weight directly but if you swap out a high-calorie morning coffee, like a syrupy latte, with this no-calorie alternative then it can help you reduce your total calorie intake for the day and help you to develop a calorie deficit.
The bitter-tasting combination also contains nutritional properties that can help support weight loss alongside a calorie deficit though, as separately they're proven to be some of the best foods to kickstart your metabolism. They act as an appetite suppressant, and they'll help increase your overall water consumption for the day.
1. Boost your metabolism
"The caffeine in coffee can boost metabolism and fat burning," explains Dr Pulde, pointing to a study published in the Clinical Journal of Nutrition (opens in new tab) which looked at the effects of 8mg of caffeine compared to placebo on normal weight subjects. They found that, overall, metabolic rate in participants increased dramatically in the three hours after caffeine ingestion.
"But it's only temporary as we eventually build a tolerance to it," she warns, so it's definitely not one of the detox drinks to lose weight. "It's also a stimulant, so it can increase our overall energy, possibly contributing to more movement, and improving workout motivation."
2. Appetite suppressant
"Studies have also shown that caffeine may suppress our appetite and keep us fuller longer," Dr Pulde adds. For example, a review by Shiraz University of Medical Sciences (opens in new tab) examined several studies on the subject and found that every time a participant doubled their caffeine intake, the reduction in weight, body mass index (BMI), and fat mass increased two-fold thanks to this suppressing effect.
However, caffeine is not a suitable replacement for food in any circumstance. The combination may be almost calorie-free and assist with weight loss by helping to create an energy deficit, but it will not offer the range of macronutrients, vitamins, and minerals required for a healthy diet and long-lasting, sustainable weight loss results.
3. Increased water consumption
"Although there is nothing magical about lemons, lemon water has been shown to help support weight loss," says Dr Pulde, "This is more the result of increasing water consumption in your diet and can be equally accomplished with lemons, strawberries, and even cucumbers. The idea is to make water more appealing to drink."
Consuming more water in the day has several benefits for weight loss, she explains:
- Water has zero calories: "It replaces other sugary drinks including sodas and juices that are loaded with calories and sugar."
- It keeps us hydrated: "This means we don’t confuse thirst with hunger and grab a snack when really we need a drink," she says.
- Water aids in detoxification: "It also helps to keep our bowel movement regular," Dr Pulde explains, making it ideal for those looking to improve their gut health as well.
- It fills our stomachs: "If we drink enough water, we'll feel fuller for longer."
Is it safe to drink lemon coffee?
Yes, there's nothing wrong with drinking lemon coffee if you're trying to lose weight - or if you just fancy trying it out. "Lemon water has for a long time been touted as helpful in weight loss and burning fat. Instead, it is drinking more water that has us cleansing toxins, filling our stomachs, keeping us hydrated and possibly aiding with weight management," says Dr Pulde.
While coffee, as long as you are aware of what too much caffeine does to the body and consume no more than 400mg (roughly four cups of brewed coffee) per day, is absolutely fine.
Coffee lemon recipe
If you want to try lemon coffee for yourself, combine the following ingredients in a mug and stir together. You can also use fresh coffee for this recipe if you prefer and either freshly squeezed lemon or pre-made lemon juice.
- 1 cup (250ml) hot water
- 1 tsp instant coffee powder
- 1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice
Where did the coffee and lemon weight loss trend come from?
The latest uptick in the coffee and lemon trend has come about through TikTok, a social media app with an ever-growing user base where people post one-minute videos about any subject they like and tag it with relevant hashtags to reach other users' homepages.
Much like the Bulletproof Coffee trend a couple of years ago (which is now favored by those on the ketogenic diet) and the recent 12-3-30 workout fitness trend, the lemon coffee trend continues to be popular because it uses simple, easily-accessible ingredients to supposedly improve the chances of losing weight quickly and easily.
A digital health journalist with over five years experience writing and editing for UK publications, Grace has covered the world of health and wellbeing extensively for Cosmopolitan, The i Paper and more.
She started her career writing about the complexities of sex and relationships, before combining personal hobbies with professional and writing about fitness. Everything from the best protein powder to sleep technology, the latest health trend to nutrition essentials, Grace has a huge spectrum of interests in the wellness sphere. Having reported on the coronavirus pandemic since the very first swab, she now also counts public health among them.
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