March 11, 2018In NutritionBy Sean Lerwill9 Minutes

Coffee is up there as one of the most popular drinks in the world. Water tops the list followed by tea, and then coffee slides in behind in third. Coffee is the drink that most of us either rely on to get us up in the morning or through the day at work. Or it’s the drink we go to when meeting friends. How many people now use the local coffee shop or high street chain as a meeting place rather than the local pub? Coffee shops have expanded hugely over the last decade and when you look around a high street, they are always full.

The question is: is your coffee choice ruining your fitness goal?

Which Coffee?

A look at the menu in any coffee shop can be overwhelming as there are so many choices and styles. Everyone seems to have their favourite, but why is that? Often the taste isn’t the only driving factor. Sometimes it’s a status thing, or something they’ve seen a friend drink and caught on. But is there a more sensible choice for fatloss or muscle gain?


When you think about nutrition, I believe you should consider two major things:

  1. Health
  2. Goal

What is the health benefit of something, and what is its relation to your goal?

Anything we ingest can be Calorie dense or Calorie low, and nutritionally dense or nutritionally low. If you’re chasing a fatloss goal, then the last thing you want to be ingesting is a lot of Calorie dense, nutritionally low foodstuffs. Those foods aren’t providing much (if anything) towards your health, but they are giving you Calories that could push you over your Calorie needs and ruin any chance of fatloss. Conversely, if muscle gain is your goal, then you’re chasing excess Calories. If you don’t eat enough you can’t build muscle, as your body doesn’t have enough fuel to do so.

If these two concepts are new to you, you should read up and try to understand them as they can be the key to reaching your fatloss or muscle gain goal. My nutrition ebook, Successful Eating, will help you to get a complete understanding.

The Complete Guide to Successful Eating by Sean Lerwill

Coffee for Fatloss

Yes, there are suggestions that drinking coffee can help with fatloss, and I explored this in a previous blog post: Caffeine for Fatloss. However, this post isn’t about. This post is about your coffee choice ruining your fatloss quest.

The average small/tall semi-skimmed latte with some form of flavoured syrup contains around 200 Calories coming from the 2% milk and sugar syrup. Now consider that most people don’t have a tall, and choose full-fat milk, and possibly add whipped cream. You see where I am going? For a fatloss goal, any (every) person must be in a Calorie deficit from their needs. If we take a 60kg female, she may only need 1600 Calories for the day. Her medium size caramel latte with whipped cream just nailed a quarter of her daily Calories. Worse, these are nutritionally low Calories.

The Americano or Filter Coffee

If you are trying to lower your bodyfat, you have to pay attention to your Calorie needs and Calorie consumption. Very few people make their fatloss goal a reality by winging it. Even undereating Calories can have detrimental effects and stall fatloss, so that isn’t an option.

Once you’ve accepted, understood and nailed your Calorie needs, a latte or other Calorie dense drink will be become a treat on a metabolic meal day (see Successful Eating for an explanation). At all other times, there is another option. A small/tall Americano or Filter coffee with a dash of almond or other non-dairy milk and some cinnamon is around 20 Calories. Yes! Only 20 Calories. Even if you went large, you aren’t going to go over 50 Calories.

Now, I appreciate coffee is bitter and most people want the milk and syrup to sweeten it, but this is partly due to habit. Removing the sweet, sweet coffee from your overall diet and only having it on metabolic meal days as a treat can help with your overall fatloss. Actually, by removing the very sweet things, you can change your palate and stop craving very sweet things all the time. After a few weeks those things will actually feel too sweet to you, as you’ve changed your palate and now an Americano or filter coffee with cinnamon is actually palatable. Worst case – and I’m not a big fan of this, as personally I think it masks the problem, and I don’t like processed C.R.A.P (carbonated drinks, refined sugar, additives, processed foods) – you could add Stevia or sugar-free syrup. Ideally though, try not to do this. Try to remove that need.

Muscle Gain

If you want to gain muscle then the biggest mistake is overtraining for the amount of food ingested. Or, if you like: undereating. If you don’t get enough Calories, you can’t build, no matter which training programme from which famous bodybuilder you are following.


Understand your Calorie needs (again, use Successful Eating to help you with this) and ensure you are ingesting enough. Personally, I would be on the Americanos (and sometimes filter with a shot of espresso – the ‘RedEye’) when cutting bodyfat for a photoshoot, and then on the large full-fat milk lattes when trying to add muscle.

If you are adding muscle, you are the envy of those trying to lose bodyfat. You need the excess Calories. If you are in Starbucks or Costa or Caffè Nero, you need the full-fat milk. Not only that, full-fat is more nutritiously dense, so have it. Just understand your overall Calories needs. You don’t want to be ingesting 5000 Calories when you only need 3500 to be in a surplus, because you’ll just get fat.

Coffee Break

The next time you have that meeting in a coffee shop, have a think about what’s more important: the short-term now goal of a drink, or the long-term forever goal of your fatloss or muscle gain. Order appropriately and keep the overall goal in mind. For those on a fatloss quest, the Americano may not taste quite as nice, but leave the sugary treat latte until leg day as a look forward. You will get used to the Americano. It’s also cheaper, so I’m saving you money too.

One last tip if you’re aiming for fatloss… don’t go to the coffee shop with someone trying to gain muscle. They’ll be on the large full-fat milk caramel latte with whipped cream and caramel drizzle! Or at least they should be!