Welcome to the holiday season—a time for treats in the break room, holiday parties, cookie exchanges, and festive family meals. Sounds fun, but too often all this merriment prevents weight loss and leads to weight gain. Even worse, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, most people NEVER lose the pounds they put on over the winter holidays. Which mean’s it’s much better to avoid gaining them in the first place.

Could coffee and other caffeinated beverages help?

Order yourself a nonfat full-caf latte and read on because the research is promising.

  • According to the Mayo Clinic, caffeine can reduce your desire to eat in the short term—perhaps helping you to avoid those calorie-dense finger foods and buying you time to find a healthy alternative.
  • If you actually fit in a workout this holiday season, researchers from Japan suggest adding caffeine to your pre-workout preparations. Their results, published in Clinical Physiology and Functional Imaging, show that caffeine consumption (about two cups of strong coffee) before exercise promotes more fat burning.
  • A study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people who lose weight and manage to keep it off tend to drink significantly more coffee than the general population.

Of course, we wouldn’t be nurses if we didn’t consider the potential pitfalls of too much caffeine. Rest assured that 83% of adults in the United States are already drinking coffee and experts say that when used in moderation (400 milligrams or less per day, about the equivalent of four cups of coffee) caffeine is generally safe. But too much can, as you know, cause nervousness, insomnia, and other problems. If you’re new to caffeine, please let me know how you made it through nursing school. But seriously, if you’ve generally abstained until now, start slow and see how your body reacts.

Meanwhile, in the coffee shop, remember that those fancy holiday brews (like gingerbread cookie lattes, mint mochas, and eggnog decadence) can come with a hefty calorie count (not to mention the price tag!). Stick with the classics to avoid negating any potential caffeine benefits.

Now, please pass me my mug. It’s time for a coffee break.

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Angela Ballard, RN, EMT

Angela Ballard is a registered nurse and emergency medical technician living in Northern California. She's also a professional writer specializing in health, wellness, and biotech -- writing websites, newsletters, blogs, and more. To help her (and you) keep up with the latest research, Angela co-hosts a scientific and medical podcast called "Medically Clear" (find it on iTunes). She's also co-author of the award-winning hiking book "A Blistered Kind of Love" (Mountaineers Books). In her free time Angela volunteers for Guide Dogs for the Blind and Marin Villages, an organization that helps seniors remain in their own homes. She loves to run, travel, and spend time with her husband and two children.
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