The Thermic Effect of Food

Knowing the thermic effect of foods will help you keep your weight under control. Thermic effect of food

When we eat food, we burn calories. Yes, that’s right – eating burns calories. But before you get too excited and rush over to Dairy Queen, let’s explain this theory and reveal those foods with the highest thermic qualities.

The thermic effect of food was first reported in 1902 by German scientist M. Rubner and later re-examined by Graham Lusk Ph.D in 1930. The digestion process is a complex one. Chewing and swallowing, digesting and synthesizing nutrients all take energy, and energy comes from calories. When we eat, our metabolic rate increases, creating heat in the body. This is called the thermic effect (or specific dynamic action) and each food has its own thermic effect on the body.

To calculate the thermic effect of your daily food intake and how much energy you spend eating food, take your daily number of calories and multiple by 10%. For example, if you consume 2000 calories a day, you’ll burn about 200 calories digesting that food. Proteins require more energy to digest than carbohydrates or fats. In fact, proteins have a thermic effect of 30%, whereas fats rank in at only 3%.

So, there is good reason why serious trainers stick to protein-rich diets. That doesn’t mean you should all embark upon the Atkins Diet. Au contraire. Our bodies need proteins in addition to fats and carbohydrates on a daily basis to function properly and maintain a healthy balance.

Here are some diet guidelines

Proteins – with a thermic effect of 30%, proteins will stimulate your metabolism and are essential for muscle gain and fat loss. Include one portion with each meal.

Carbohydrates – with a thermic effect of 6%, carbohydrates do not rate high on the scale but are still an essential component to any diet plan. Stick to complex and whole grain carbohydrates and make sure they make up 25–30% of your daily caloric intake.

High-fiber vegetables – with a thermic effect of 20%, many fruits and vegetables actually demand more calories to digest, known as negative calorie foods. You should be eating high-fiber vegetables with at least half of your meals.

Fats – with a thermic effect of 3%, fats should be kept to a minimum. Stick to healthy, unsaturated fats like olive oil and Omega-3, 6 and 9.

Spice—hot, spicy foods have a high thermic effect. Just by adding a sprinkle of black pepper to your meals will have some effect. Other spices to include in your diet are hot peppers, cayenne pepper, cinnamon, celery seed, fennel seed, garlic, ginger, mustards, parsley and hot sauces.

Eating smaller meals more frequently at the same times every day will give you a higher thermic effect than if you just ate randomly whenever you’re hungry. Break your meals into five or six portions throughout the day. This will help to keep you feeling fuller for longer, while increasing the overall thermic effect on your body. In other words, you’ll burn more calories and reach your weight loss goals faster.

In effect, losing weight is not just about counting calories, it’s about choosing the right foods that will give you the most nutrients and the highest thermic effect.


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