Caffeine, lipolysis, weight loss and cellulite: facts and fiction

Does caffeine cause or fight cellulite? Can I lose weight with caffeine?



Caffeine + diet/exercise = results


(Caffeine on it's own = just moving fat from one fat cell to another)

Caffeine is the most widely known lipolytic chemical (lipolytic is a chemical that "break down" fat). However, as everybody knows coffee or caffeine itself does not help you lose weight. Why is that?

The answer is simple: caffeine does indeed break down triglycerides (fat) inside fat cells and stimulates the fat cell to release those triglycerides into the circulation. However, if fat is not oxidised (burned) for energy in muscles or other organs, it will inevitably be absorbed by another fat cell and stored there.

So unless you burn the fat with exercise or diet, that fat will end up back into a fat cell somewhere in the body. In this case, all that caffeine will help you achieve, is to move fat from one fat cell to another.

On the other hand, if you do eat less and exercise more, the fat released due to caffeine, exercise, diet or all of the above, will be oxidised into carbon dioxide and water and expelled from the body via the lungs and urine & sweat, respectively.  This is why most diet pills contain caffeine: it stimulates the expulsion of fat from fat cells. But the rest (i.e. burning the expelled fat) is your job.

So in summary: caffeine + diet + exercise = results. Caffeine on it's own = just nerves ;)

Caffeine cream + exercise + diet
= spot fat reduction


(Caffeine cream on it's own = reduced effectiveness)

    On the other hand, caffeine applied locally, as in anti-cellulite creams that contain caffeine, is effective in reducing local fat, because it does help expel the fat from fat cells in that SPECIFIC area where it is applied, and thereby reduces local fat and cellulite.

    Of course, if you don't exercise / diet when you apply the caffeine-containing cellulite cream, the released fat will end up in the blood circulation and it will be redeposited somewhere else in the body(as we explained above). In fact, some of it will actually be redeposited on the same area.

    That's why you need to exercise / diet when you use a cellulite cream. If you don't, you just reduce the effectiveness of the cream and waste some of your money down the drain.

    On the other hand, if you exercise / diet and use an anti-cellulite cream (with or without caffeine) on a specific area, you can reduce cellulite and local fat from that specific area. This is called spot fat reduction and it is impossible by just exercising a specific muscle on that area.


    But if you are going to bathe on caffeine cream, just drink coffee instead

    Finally, it does not really make sense to apply a caffeine / cellulite cream all over your body, because then you do not achieve a localised effect and the result of the whole body application is equivalent to... just drinking coffee, i.e.  pointless, as we described on the first paragraph of this article. So be smart and use an anti-cellulite cream locally - on one or two body areas max - don't waste money on slapping it all over your body!

    Why does caffeine cause cellulite?


    Well, caffeine doesn't really cause cellulite

    The idea that caffeine causes cellulite is one of those urban myths propagated by misinformed beauticians and journalists.

    The theory that caffeine causes cellulite is based on caffeine's ability to potentially cause water retention if consumed in excessive doses, such as 5x or even 10x cups of coffee a day. Caffeine acts on the kidneys producing a diuretic effect and with such excessive consumption some people's kidneys may become dependent on their caffeine fix and if they do not get it, they develop some water retention.

    However, most women drink 2-3 cups of coffee or tea a day and that is not enough to cause water retention. Furthermore, most women develop much more severe water retention by taking the contraceptive pill or by living a sedentary life, than by overdosing on caffeine. Sugar, alcohol, smoking and constipation are other important causes of water retention.

    Water retention is one of the aspects of cellulite, but fat accumulation, skin looseness, inflammation, free radical damage and glycation are equally important aspects - and none of them are caused by caffeine. Those aspects are directly affected by the other causes of water retention (hormonal contraception, sedentary lifestyle, sugar/carb/fried food consumption, alcohol and smoking) and NOT by caffeine.


    It all depends on how you metabolise caffeine

    Furthermore, it is well known that the effects of caffeine largely depend on the ease by which someone's liver neutralises caffeine. Personally I get jittery with just one cup of coffee, so I would not even dream of having 3 or more cups of coffee a day, as this would exhaust my adrenal glands and nervous system in just a few days. On the other hand, some people can actually fall asleep with a cup of coffee in their hand. Clearly these people can consume large amounts of caffeine with no side effects., because not much active caffeine metabolite makes it to the different body organs and tissues. Women who are more sensitive to caffeine will be affected more by it, while those who are resistant to caffeine's effects, will not feel any negative side-effects.


    In summary...

    In summary, in women who do not consume more than 3 caffeinated drinks (coffee, energy drinks such as "Red Bull", tea, green tea etc) per day, caffeine is not a cause of cellulite, whatsoever. And in women who consume something like 10 caffeinated drinks a day, caffeine is indeed a factor, but I would worry more about the sugar that is found in those cups of coffee or energy drinks, the biscuits that consumed concurrently or in the overall lifestyle imbalance that such a high caffeine consumption betrays, rather than caffeine itself. For women who consume 5-6 caffeinated drinks per day and suffer from cellulite I would say that caffeine could potentially be 10% responsible, with inactivity, unhealthy diet, hormonal contraception, smoking and drinking comprising the remaining 90%.


    Caffeine actually reduces cellulite when applied topically

    To close, I would like to mention that caffeine has both a lipolytic (fat releasing) and circulation-enhancing effect if applied locally, hence the use of caffeine in anti-cellulite creams. Furthermore, the antioxidants contained in coffee, tea and green tea have an anti-cellulite effect, due to their anti-glycation, antioxidant, anti-adipogenic and anti-inflammatory action, so we are not even sure that even high doses of coffee or tea can cause cellulite on it's own.