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The Endurance Athlete’s Guide to Green Coffee Bean Extract

coach levi's morning green coffee

I thoroughly enjoy the brown coffee beans I use when brewing my morning coffee. I’m also a huge fan of chocolate-covered coffee beans (which are still brown.) I was content with brown coffee beans for years!

But when I heard of this miracle fat loss cure known as green coffee beans (thanks again Dr. Oz,) I quickly lost interest in my boring brown coffee and set out in search of something new!

If you haven’t yet heard of green coffee beans (or green coffee bean extract,) have no fear – you can follow along as I discover the truth about these magic beans and what they can do for us!

 

What Are Green Coffee Beans?

When I first heard of these, I was under the impression that they weren’t actually coffee beans. Rather, something from far away lands, previously unknown in the USA, like the omnipotent açaí berry when it first arrived.

I also assumed the true name was something fancy looking and confusing to pronounce, like grën cõfféé.

Boy was I wrong! Green coffee beans are just coffee beans which have not yet been roasted.

If you explore the coffee roasting process, you’ll see that coffee beans are first removed from inside the fruit, then dried and stored, transported, and eventually roasted shortly before being sold to the end user.

That’s right – brown coffee beans, chocolate-covered coffee beans, and green coffee bean extract all start out the same! Nothing mysterious here!

Where do the beans come from? Brazil, Columbia, Costa Rica, and a slew of other countries where all the coffee you already know and love is grown.

I bet they don’t look a whole lot different than a bag of dried lima beans.

 

So Why Were They Featured on the Dr. Oz Show?

Move over raspberry ketones – it’s time for the green coffee bean project.

When your show promotes tons of weight loss products where even the best imaginable results are marginal, you have to keep pushing new ideas to inspire hope in your audience.

Fortunately, the show’s research team found a study published in January 2012 in Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity which found overweight adults who supplemented with a special green coffee bean extract over 12 weeks were able to lose an average of nearly 18 pounds.

So, Dr. Oz conducted an experiment of his own in early 2012 and revealed the results in September 2012.

The study took 100 overweight women, split them into two groups, and compared the effects of taking green coffee bean extract versus a placebo. (They were even instructed not to change their diet.)

What were the findings?

“In two weeks, the group of women who took the green coffee bean extract lost, on average, two pounds. However, the group of women who took the placebo lost an average of one pound – possibly because they were more aware of their diet for that two weeks because of the required food journal.”

Impressive? Hardly.

Forget them completely? Not just yet.

 

The Benefits of Green Coffee Beans (Backed by Research!)

Part of the reason we’re not going to ignore these magic beans just yet is due to the nature of Dr. Oz’s study. It’s pretty lame, so any results, good or bad, should be taken with a grain of salt.

So, what benefits are there? The only one I’ve seen studied is weight loss.

In some cases, weight loss can be a good thing. If you’re a 250 pound football player and want to compete in cycling now, you’ll almost certainly need to lose weight. But for most endurance athletes, fat loss (which was not studied) is a more appropriate goal.

Anyway, let’s start by examining the original study which gave Dr. Oz his idea.

At first glance, the study sounds like it was well-designed. But look closer and see… it was only 16 people… who were overweight… at a hospital in India… taking different dosage patterns which could have hinted at what they were taking. Oh yeah, it was also funded by Applied Food Sciences, makers of the GCA supplement.

Can you identify with overweight Indians? If you’re an endurance athlete reading my site, my guess is “no.”

Let’s look at their conclusions anyway:

“The results are consistent with human and animal studies and a meta-analysis of the efficacy of green coffee extract in weight loss. The results suggest that GCA may be an effective nutraceutical in reducing weight in preobese adults, and may be an inexpensive means of preventing obesity in overweight adults.”

OK, they’re telling us there’s a chance this stuff works. Fair enough. I guess it could be relatively “inexpensive,” too, if compared to surgery. But what if you compare it to some other method… eating less, for instance. Seems to me that would be an inexpensive means of preventing obesity!

Really, if a humble cycling coach can find issues with the study, imagine what someone in the medical field can do… Oh wait, you don’t have to imagine – just head over to ScienceBasedMedicine.org to see a thorough analysis of the study.

And to see how bad all the green coffee bean research is, look at this meta-analysis study. Researchers got 2,160 ‘hits’ to start with. But after throwing out the studies that didn’t fit their criteria for being credible or worthwhile, they were left with 3 randomized clinical trials to analyze. Three!! That’s it!

Naturally, their conclusion shouldn’t get you excited about this supplement:

“The evidence from RCTs seems to indicate that the intake of GCE can promote weight loss. However, several caveats exist. The size of the effect is small, and the clinical relevance of this effect is uncertain. More rigorous trials with longer duration are needed to assess the efficacy and safety of GCE as a weight loss supplement.”

I’m not giving up yet, though!

 

How Do Green Coffee Beans Work Exactly?

Coffee is full of interesting substances. Caffeine, obviously. Lignans get a decent amount of press, too. There’s also chlorogenic acid, quinides, and trigonelline.

Caffeine certainly plays a role in weight loss, but it’s the other substances that have been shown to affect glucose metabolism (at least in animal studies.)

From the previously mentioned research, it seems green coffee is all about the chlorogenic acid.

Chlorogenic acid has been shown to inhibit glucose-6-phosphatase, an enzyme that promotes the formation of glucose in the liver.

So, your body doesn’t create or store as much glucose. For typical Americans, who are at a high risk of developing diabetes, that’s probably a good thing.

Some studies suggest that chlorogenic acid slows absorption of fat from food intake and also activates metabolism of extra fat.

Great! So there is the potential for fat loss!

 

Why Green Coffee Beans Could Be Useful for Endurance Athletes

Truth be told, I’m a little scared of this chlorogenic acid stuff now!

I mean, less liver glucose?! That sounds like a bad thing!

I need my liver to store glucose so it can release it into my bloodstream during training and racing.

However, there is a bright side.

In some cases, fat loss is going to be more important than having an ample supply of glucose. And if chlorogenic acid helps me metabolize my fat stores and burn them for energy, that’s always helpful!

During the off-season and/or base training periods, where losing excess body fat is a priority, this supplement could maybe possibly help you a little bit.

Just keep in mind, I’m not aware of any real studies where the test subjects were endurance athletes. The studies instead focus on overweight individuals (and rightfully so.)

 

Can You Drink Green Coffee Or Must You Take The Supplements?

Since I prefer food in its natural state, I got to thinking, why not just brew up some green coffee? I mean, I like green tea, so why not green coffee?

So I asked around.

And… it’s a bad idea. Without roasting the beans, coffee would be “essentially undrinkable.”

Not only do the green beans produce an extremely bitter and acidic drink, they are rock solid and nearly impossible to grind properly.

Just watch the first half of this video and you’ll see the beans look similar before and after the grinding attempt!

So, yes, you have to take the green coffee bean extract in supplement form. Which means a bottle of pills.

 

Buying Green Coffee Bean Extract

If you’re going to spend the money on this supplement, as least make sure you’re getting the real deal. (As with anything featured on Dr. Oz, there will be TONS of free trial offers that not only sell you inferior products, but put you into a $60 monthly rebill program that’s tough to cancel.)

This means, the pills must contain the true chlorogenic acid extract. It’s going to say this on the label; just make sure you look for it.

There are two brand names you should be able to trust to at least provide the proper active ingredient:

  • GCA® (which stands for Green Coffee Antioxidant)
  • Svetol®

If you don’t see one of those names in the Supplement Facts section, don’t buy it.

Also, get the correct dosage.

The dosage used in the Dr. Oz project was one 400mg capsule, three times a day, 30 minutes before each meal. Other studies used even higher doses.

They also suggest finding a capsule that contains at least 45% chlorogenic acid. (Again, this will be on the label.)

Avoid any ridiculous websites.

There are plenty of sketchy places to buy green coffee bean extract: TryCoffeeDiet.com, PureGreenDiet.com, and MaxTrimDiet.com, for example.

I’d avoid all those.

Instead, stick to names you know and trust.

VitaCost, for example, has tons of options, from their own private label brand to one of my favorites, Source Naturals.

Though I normally recommend the VitaCost brand, in this case, I’m unsure of their source – it doesn’t have GCA or Stevol on the label.

So I’d spend a little bit more and opt for the Source Naturals brand. It’s a good choice, as usual, and the active ingredient comes from GCA®. You’re looking at about $22 for 20 day supply.

I also managed to find one on Amazon that’s good quality. Coincidentally, it’s the #1 seller. This one is from NatureWise, and while I’m not familiar with the company, it contains GCA®, and that’s what counts. This one is just about $25 for a 30 day supply.

 

What’s Wrong With Regular Coffee?

Is this one of those situations where the raw food is healthy, while the cooked version lacks all the nutrients?

Depends on which study you read.

It seems that roasted coffee still contains beneficial chlorogenic acid. So you can enjoy brewed, roasted coffee and still get the benefits.

The amount of chlorogenic acid does seem to change, though.

It can also depend on the actual roasting temperatures used.

Exactly how much you get in a cup of brewed coffee is tough to say. So that’s probably why most people stick with green coffee in supplement form.

 

My Final Verdict Is…

pouring a mug of green coffee

As far as weight loss goes, there are much, much better methods out there.

Eating healthy, eating less, exercising more, keeping a food journal, hiring a nutrition coach, etc. – all of those methods have better track records than any miracle weight loss drug.

Even if you use supplements to help you in the short-term, I’ve found better ones. Lean Out, for example.

For now, I say it’s only worth trying the green coffee stuff if you love experiments, have money to waste, and don’t mind taking risks.

I’d suggest buying the Source Naturals Green Coffee Extract and doing a two week test during your sport’s off-season.

Me personally? I’ll stick with my regular coffee.

 

Prefer a Realistic Method of Losing Fat?

I highly recommend watching this totally FREE 5-part video series from Dr. John Berardi, one of the sharpest minds in sports nutrition and fat loss.

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Just click play!

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coach levi
Hi, I'm Coach Levi. I'm a USA Cycling Certified Level 3 Coach as well as Level 1 Certified with Precision Nutrition. Want to feel better, ride faster, and look great? Let's work together!

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Coach Levi is my favorite child and favorite cycling coach. I'd choose him over Christoper McCarmikael even. Did I mention that Levi can coach you to a healthier lifestyle where you look and feel your best?
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