I’d been contemplating this very random concept for QUITE awhile, and I just happened to come across the very study addressing it. Good moment. (Though I was actually looking for studies concerning alcohol’s effect on the sedentary individual. Next time!)
Caffeine is known to increase energy expenditure (EE) and lipolysis (fat burning), but is that only in active individuals? For instance, I often take green extract in the morning for the caffeine + EGCG (a catechin polyphenol, or “catechin” found in tea which also increases energy expenditure). [Side note: I take the extract instead of actually drinking the tea for two reasons. 1. I can more accurately measure and regulate my caffeine intake and 2. The combination of tea in the morning and wine at night was kind of wreaking havoc on my teeth. One had to go. Clearly wine won that battle). But back to the point. I take my green tea every morning, and benefit from the increased metabolism as I scurry about my life, but what about the occasional days I end up sitting more than moving? (Oh hey writing!) Do I still benefit from the caffeine/EGCG from an energy expenditure perspective?
The study I found was actually trying to determine the difference in EE between different combinations of caffeine and catechins (or neither, ie: a placebo), rather than on active vs sedentary individuals per se. Regardless, the study was performed on sedentary individuals, so we get those results thrown in! Going with it.
The study’s findings? Caffeine intake in sedentary individuals yielded an insignificant difference in fat burning. Sad day. The largest increase of energy expenditure by caffeine and catechins in sedentary individuals was a mere 2%. So it did something, true, but nothing major.
So if you want to reap the benefits of increased energy expenditure from fat via caffeine, you’re going to have to literally run with it. Or at least move with it.
SOURCE: Gregersen, N. T., Bitz, C., Krog-Mikkelsen, I., Hels, O., Kovacs, E. M. R., Rycroft, J. A., . . . Astrup, A. (2009). Effect of moderate intakes of different tea catechins and caffeine on acute measures of energy metabolism under sedentary conditions. The British Journal of Nutrition, 102(8), 1187-94. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S0007114509371779