by Game Changer Strength and Nutrition Coach Rob Riccobono
Did you know you can actually eat the same total calories, but BURN more of them off by changing some of your food choices? You don’t always need to eat LESS to take in fewer calories.
How is This Possible?
Enter the thermic effect of food. The thermic effect is the calorie burn that happens during digestion. Yes, the act of digesting and breaking down food actually burns off some of the food you eat. Compare two 2,000 calorie diets (we’ll refer to them as Diet A and Diet B). Diet A is composed of many foods with a high thermic effect, while Diet B has very few high thermic effect foods. Although the calorie intake is equal, Diet A will cause you to burn more calories, without increasing your exercise.
What Foods are Most Thermogenic?
The most common way to determine the thermic effect of food is by looking at the thermic effect of each macronutrient. Approximately 25% of calories from protein are burned off during digestion, 6-8% from carbohydrates, and 2-3% from fat, as cited in The Lean Muscle Diet by Lou Schuler and Alan Aragon (and numerous other sources). This means that one quarter of the calories you eat from protein are actually burned off before you even exercise! A high protein diet not only supports muscle growth and suppresses appetite, but also increases your total calories burned. If your fat loss has stalled, and you aren’t consuming one gram of protein per pound of your goal body weight a day, strongly consider increasing the portion of your daily calories that come from protein.
Another way to increase the thermic effect of your food is to choose many of your carbohydrate sources from ones with lots of fiber. Fiber is very thermogenic since it cannot all be absorbed during digestion. Common fiber-rich foods include vegetables, potatoes, whole grain products, beans, legumes, and some fruits.
Another Tool in Your Fat Loss Tool Box
The thermic effect of food will likely not “make or break” your diet, but it does play a key role. According to nutrition coaching program Precision Nutrition, the thermic effect of food contributes to about 10% of the total calories you burn for the day. This is not an overwhelming portion, but it’s enough to affect change. If you’re attempting to lose body fat, or your fat loss has stalled, consider the points made in this post as ammo to make more progress.
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