Caffeine intake, short bouts of physical activity, and energy expenditure: a double-blind randomized crossover trial

PLoS One. 2013 Jul 15;8(7):e68936. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0068936. Print 2013.


PA energy expenditure (PAEE) is the most variable component of Total Energy Expenditure (TEE) and largely due to the balance of sedentary time (SedT) and low intensity physical activity (LIPA). There has been an emergence for seeking an understanding of factors which determine variations in SedT, LIPA, and PAEE. Sedentary behavior and physical activity are relatively resistant to change by experimental dietary treatments and significant body weight changes. Although caffeine (Caf) is by far the most heavily used nutritional agent ingested to promote a sense of vigor/alertness, it is still unknown if Caf is effective in increasing PAEE and physical activity. The aim of the study was to test the hypothesis that 2 daily doses of Caf (as a capsule to blind the treatment and divided equally during breakfast and lunch) increase PAEE and TEE, and it would do so through increasing the frequent and brief bouts of physical activity (~1-5 min long) through the day as measured by accelerometry. In 21 low Caf users (<100 mg day(-1)), we used a double-blind crossover trial (ClinicalTrials.govID;NCT01477294) with two conditions (4-day each with a 3-day washout period) randomly ordered as 5 mg kg(-1) day(-1) of Caf and maltodextrin as placebo (Plc). Resting energy expenditure (REE) by indirect calorimetry, total energy expenditure (TEE) from doubly labeled water, PAEE calculated as TEE-(REE+0.1TEE), and accelerometry measurements of both LIPA and MVPA were not different between conditions. However, regardless of caffeine or placebo, there were several significant relationships between brief bouts of LIPA and MVPA with PAEE. In conclusion, this double-blind study found that low and moderate-vigorous activity as well as the total volume of PAEE in free-living conditions is resistant to dietary caffeine intake that was equivalent to 5 cups of espresso or 7 cups of tea.

Trial registration: NCT01477294.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accelerometry
  • Adult
  • Caffeine / pharmacology*
  • Calorimetry
  • Cross-Over Studies
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Energy Metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity*


  • Caffeine

Associated data


Grant support

This work was supported by the Portuguese Institute of Hydration and Health ( The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.