The way to Use the Thermic Impact of Meals to Enhance Your Metabolism

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Foods that increase your metabolism and burn fat

The central theses

  1. The thermal effect of food (TEF) is the amount of energy required to digest and process the food you eat.
  2. You can increase your daily TEF by eating more protein and whole foods, but not increasing the frequency or size of your meals (eating more often will not “get your metabolism going”).
  3. Read on to find out how the thermal effect of food works, which foods have the highest thermal effect, how to increase the thermal effect of food and much more!

Imagine for a second that you could lose weight faster simply by eating the right foods. Or just change your meal plan.

You know . . .

  • Slim your morning grapefruit and cut yours Thigh.
  • Your daily lunch of canned tuna chips with you Belly fat.
  • Their habit of "nibbling" small meals every few hours keeps fat loss buzzing throughout the day.

Keep imagining because all of this is a mirage.

The reality is that no food can cause directly Fat loss.

(Some foods are better at promoting fat loss than others, but that's not the same as fat loss. More on that in a moment.)

“What about food? get your circulation goingbut? "you might be thinking.

And that brings us to the topic of this article: the thermal effect of food.

Fitness magazines and "Miracle Diet" Hucksters claim that eating foods with a high thermal effect is the secret to getting the body of your dreams.

If it just could be that easy.

The thermal effects of food play a role in your metabolism, weight loss, and weight gain, but not in the way many people would lead you to believe.

That said, the foods you eat affect your metabolism and the speed at which you lose or gain weight, but they're not the primary determinants.

And in this article we're going to break it all down.

By the end, you will know how foods thermally and how to use them scientifically to improve your metabolism and meet your fitness goals.

What is the thermal effect of food?

The thermal effect of food (TEF) is the amount of energy required to digest and process the food you eat.

It is also known as specific dynamic action (SDA) and dietary induced thermogenesis (DIT) and research shows that it makes up about 10% of you Total daily energy consumption.

In general, TEF is measured as the percentage of a food's calories needed to digest that food. In other words, if any part of a particular food has 100 calories and the body burns 20 calories to digest it, that food has a TEF of 20% (20/100 = 20%).

In this way, while eating, your metabolism speeds up, and the amount depends on three factors:

  • The macronutrient composition of your meal
  • The degree of processing the food has gone through
  • How much do you eat in one meal

The biggest determinant of the thermal effects of food is the macronutrient composition of your meals. That's how it works collapses::

  • Protein tops the list with a TEF of around 20 to 35%.
  • Next up are carbohydrates with a TEF of around 5 to 10%.
  • And finally, fat is a TEF of around 0-3%.

Alcohol has a high TEF of around 10 to 15% which leads some people to believe that drinking alcohol might actually be good for fat loss. The problem with this mindset, however, is that while alcohol is high in TEF, it can also reduce fat burning in other ways (especially if you have a calorie excess).

Read: How Bad Is Alcohol Really For You?

After the composition of the macronutrients, the second main determinant of TEF is the degree of processing of a food – foods that are more processed have a lower TEF than foods that are less processed.

For example a study Conducted by scientists at Pomona College, they found that a meal of white bread and American cheese with processed foods increased TEF by about 10%, while a whole meal made of multigrain bread and cheddar cheese increased TEF by about 20%. The difference would likely be even greater if subjects were to eat a meal made of high-fiber vegetables and lean protein (which is even less processed than multigrain bread and cheddar cheese).

Finally, how much food do you eat in one sitting also affects Your post-meal TEF, with larger meals causing a larger increase than smaller ones.

If we left the discussion at that, you would likely get away with the same misunderstanding that many people have:

If different foods boost your metabolism more than others, you can lose weight simply by eating large amounts of foods high in TEFs.

As much as I wish that just eating would be a viable fat loss strategy, it isn't.

And to understand why, we need to delve deeper into what really happens in eating and how it relates to fat burning. . .

Summary: The thermal effect of food is the amount of energy it takes to digest and process the food you eat. The main determinants of TEF are the macronutrient composition of the meal, the processing of the food and the size of your meal.

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When you eat, your energy expenditure increases, which is good for fat loss.

However, what is bad for fat loss is after eating a meal. . .

  1. Fat burning mechanisms in the body are reduced.
  2. Fat storage mechanisms in the body are improved.

The extent of these effects depends on what you eat. Some foods reduce fat burning more than others, and some store fat more efficiently than others.

To understand why, let's look carefully at what happens when we eat.

Digestion begins as soon as you put food in your mouth.

Enzymes in your saliva begin to break down food as they move towards your stomach, doing the process of reducing food to usable nutrients.

protein becomes amino acids, carbohydrates become glucose and glycogen, Dietary fat becomes fatty and so on.

Read: What Every Weight Lifter Should Know About Glycogen

Next is the small intestine, which continues to digest food into nutrients and then absorb them into the blood.

Once the nutrients have entered the bloodstream through the walls of the small intestine, they must be transported into cells for use.

And here is the hormone insulin enter the game.

As well as transporting nutrients into cells, insulin inhibits lipolysis (the breakdown of fat cells for energy) and stimulates lipogenesis (the storage of calories in fat cells). It also transports nutrients into fat cells whose job it is to get fatter.

This makes sense because why should your body burn fat for energy when it has an abundance of food energy (calories) at its disposal?

This may sound bad, but you find that if your body couldn't continually replenish its fat stores, it would slowly (or quickly, depending on how active you are) shrink until you eventually died.

Read: "Metabolic Damage" and "Starvation Mode" exposed by science

These mechanisms are the reason many "gurus" denigrate insulin and eat carbohydrates (because carbohydrates increase insulin levels).

Since insulin inhibits fat burning and triggers fat storage, the basic theory is even more so insulinogenic A diet is the more it causes weight gain.

This seems plausible at first glance, but completely ignores the most important dimension of weight management:

Energy absorption.

Because the reality is that insulin can't make you fat. Only overeating can.

Read: Research Report: Are Ketogenic Diets Best For Fat Loss?

The underlying scientific principles are referred to as Energy balanceThis is the relationship between the amount of energy you use (burn) and use (eat).

  • If you eat more energy than you burn, you will be in a positive energy state and you will gain fat.
  • If you eat less energy than you burn, you will find yourself in a negative energy state and losing fat.

This is true regardless of the types of foods you eat.

You can Getting thicker eat only the "cleanest" tariff and lose weight on a diet from convenience store Pigswill.

These principles apply not just to your overall diet and over time, but to every meal you eat.

Especially your body is always in one of two states related to food:

A "fed" condition.

In this state, your body digests, processes, absorbs, and stores nutrients from foods that you have eaten. This is when the fat burning process has become dull and fat reserves are increased.

A "fasting" state.

In this state, your body has finished processing and absorbing (and storing) the food you have eaten. This is when it needs to turn to its fat stores for the energy needed to stay alive and therefore when fat stores are depleted.

In other words, your body alternates between storing and burning fat every day, which is clearly shown in the graphic below:

Insulin fat gain

If you take a closer look at this diagram, you can come to some simple conclusions:

  • If you store as much fat as you burn over time, your total fat mass will stay the same.
  • When you store more fat than you burn, your total fat mass increases.
  • When you burn more fat than you store, your total fat mass decreases.

That is why the energy balance is so important.

  1. If you eat more energy than you burn, the sum of the green parts of the chart outweighs the sum of the blue parts.
  2. When you eat less energy than you burn, the opposite is observed (the blue parts become larger than the green).
  3. And if you eat more or less the same amount of energy that you burn, the areas of the two servings are balanced.

What does all of this have to do with the thermal effect of food?

Recall that TEF adds to total energy expenditure, which means that it slightly reduces the size of the green areas on the graph (fat storage after the meal).

That said, TEF can aid weight loss by increasing the amount of energy your body burns, but the magnitude of these effects is far too small to really move the needle.

You can increase on a diet that is high in foods high in TEF because you simply eat too much of them, and you can lose weight on a diet that is high in foods with low TEF because you simply do know how many calories to eat and regulate your intake of them.

For this reason, the whole idea of ​​"burning fat" is a myth.

Summary: Energy expenditure increases when you eat, but size is too small to significantly affect weight loss.

The big joke about "burning fat"

Metabolism promoting foods

Fitness blogs can write any articles you want which foods burn fat and which don't, but it's all a bunch of humbug.

It doesn't matter how much celery or tuna you eat each day – it won't cut your fat stores noticeably unless you are also in a negative energy state (a calorie deficit).

And now you know why:

Food does not burn fat. Energy consumption does.

Thanks to TEF and other factors beyond the scope of this article, some foods result in lower fat storage than others, but you can be rest assured that there will be an energy surplus Results some degree of fat gain regardless of the composition of your diet.

I mentioned earlier that some foods are more conducive to weight loss than others.

That said, they are not "fat burning foods", but they will help you lose weight faster.

In general, foods that are “good” for weight loss are those that are relatively low in calories but high in volume (and so filling).

Many are also high in TEF, and that's an added bonus.

Examples of such foods are. . .

  • Basically all forms of protein
  • full grain
  • Seeds and nuts (they balance at least some of their energy density with theirs high TEF and saturation factors)
  • Many types of fruits and vegetables

Simply eating these foods will not reduce weight, but you can improve Diet plans for weight loss.

Summary: There is no such thing as a "fat burning food", but eating foods that are very filling and low in calories can help you maintain a negative energy balance and thus lose weight over time.

40 foods with a high thermal effect

While no food can "burn" fat, some foods have a much higher thermal effect than others, and when you add more of them to your diet it can be a little easier to lose weight and keep it off.

Remember, foods with minimal processing tend to have the highest thermal effect. This also applies to proteins, carbohydrates and fats. Hence, you should prioritize these in your diet to maximize TEF.


Most protein-rich foods have a 20-35% thermal effect – meaning they are highly thermogenic. Here are some proteins with a high thermal effect:

  • Chicken or turkey breast (skinless, boneless)
  • Tilapia
  • Chuck Roast Beef (or London Broil)
  • Eggs
  • pork tenderloin
  • Mutton (fat removed)
  • tuna
  • bison
  • Wild
  • Cottage cheese (low fat)


Carbohydrates fall somewhere between protein and fat with a thermal impact of around 5 to 10%, with simple carbohydrates like sugar at the lower end of this range and high-carb whole foods like barley, oats and rice at the higher end. Here are some high thermal effect carbohydrates:

  • barley
  • oats
  • Buckwheat
  • Andean millet
  • Bulgarian wheat
  • couscous
  • rice
  • chick-pea
  • Kidney bean
  • pea


Because of their high fiber content, most vegetables have a fairly high thermal effect. Here are some good options:

  • broccoli
  • asparagus
  • cauliflower
  • celery
  • Green salad
  • cucumber
  • Kale
  • spinach
  • carrot
  • Beetroot


Typically, fats found in whole foods (such as almonds) have higher thermal effects, while pure, processed fats (such as olive oil) have very little thermal effects. Here are some fats with a high thermal effect:

  • almond
  • peanut
  • walnut
  • Cashew
  • pistachio
  • avocado
  • Pecan
  • pumpkin seed
  • linseed
  • Chia seeds

Does Eating More Help You Lose Weight Faster?

thermal effect of the food calculator

If food boosts your metabolism, it should be better to eat more than less. . . Law?

Not correct.

The flaw in this logic is the assumption that all meals lead to more or less the same increase in energy expenditure.

The reality, however, is that small meals result in smaller, shorter metabolic spikes, and larger meals have larger, longer-lasting effects.

And does one of these have an advantage over the other?

That is, eating fewer, larger meals increases your total daily TEF more than eating more frequent, smaller meals, or vice versa?

Maybe, but probably not.

Something Studies show If you eat fewer large meals, the overall daily TEF increases more than if you eat more frequent, smaller meals. Even so, all of these studies were fairly short, did not involve many participants, and did not track body weight over time. Hence, it is impossible to say that one method is clearly better than the other.

What's more lots Studies have shown that there is no significant difference in total energy expenditure between "nibbling" and "eating".

In other words, no matter how many meals you eat or how often you eat them, your total daily TEF will be more or less the same.

Hence the best approach is to follow that Eating frequency that works best for you.

If you prefer more frequent, smaller meals, give it a try – and if you prefer less frequent, larger meals, that's fine too.

The most important thing is that you are following a meal that you enjoy and that will help you get on with your everyday life reliably Calorie and Macronutrient Goals.

Summary: You will burn the same number of calories from TEF throughout the day whether you eat many small meals or a few large meals. You should therefore stick to the frequency of meals that you enjoy most and that will help you stick to your diet.

Is there anything you can do to increase the thermal effect of food?

Besides eating foods high in TEF (protein, carbohydrates, and minimally processed foods), is there anything else you can do to increase TEF?

Yes possibly.

First, at least one study showed that Strength training can significantly increase TEF. Specifically, people who ate a 660 calorie meal saw a 20% increase in TEF over the next two hours, while people who ate the same meal after lifting weights saw a 34% increase in TEF – an increase of 73% (relative)!

research also shows that the lower your insulin sensitivity and the higher yours Body fat percentageThe lower your TEF will be. Hence, it's also possible that the opposite may be true: improving your insulin sensitivity and lowering your body fat levels can increase your TEF.

Now it's still not clear if it's insulin sensitive and slim causes an increase in the TEF or if just so correlated with a high TEF (for example, people who are slim and insulin sensitive may have a higher TEF). But it's one of the few things you can possibly do to increase TEF. So it's worth trying (not to mention the fact that insulin sensitivity and lean have a number of other benefits).

Read: 13 studies answer: what is the best way to lower blood sugar?

There is nothing you can do to automatically increase your insulin sensitivity or decrease your body fat percentage, but you can improve both of them significantly exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet.

So if you want to increase the amount of energy your body uses to digest food, the best way to do it is to do it for a few hours Strength training and Cardio every week and eat a calorie controlled and nutritious Diet.

Summary: You can increase TEF by lifting weights and you may also improve your insulin sensitivity and reduce your body fat percentage. You can do this by staying active and maintaining a calorie deficit.

The real benefits of a highly thermogenic diet

We have done a lot already, but I have one final topic to address before I sign out.

And the reality is that while TEF is not particularly important to the overall fat loss regimen, the best type of weight loss diet is highly thermogenic.

We remember protein, carbohydrates and fats affect the metabolism in different ways. They have different TEF values ​​and are processed and stored differently.

For example, high protein and high carbohydrate meals cause a greater metabolic boost and Result in less instant fat storage than high fat meals.

So it's not surprising to learn that research shows The protein rich, High carb Diets (which are strongly thermogenic) are best for maximizing fat loss.

There are mutliple reasons for this:

  • Protein and carbohydrates have a higher thermal effect than fats, which increases daily energy consumption.
  • Protein and carbohydrates are usually more filling than fats, which helps prevent overeating.
  • Eat adequate protein and carbohydrates while on a diet for fat loss helps to preserve Lean massThis in turn helps maintain a healthy metabolism.

The bottom line is:

If you are healthy and physically active, diets high in protein, high in carbohydrates to high in carbohydrates, and low in fat are generally best.

(If that sounds ridiculous to you, check it out this article about the big myths about low-carb and high-fat diets.)

Summary: A high protein, medium to carbohydrate, and medium to low fat diet is the best type of diet for weight loss for most people and happens to be very thermogenic.

The conclusion on the thermal effect of food

You cannot lose weight faster by eating more often, eating thermogenic foods, or doing anything other than maintaining a calorie deficit.

That said, if you get a larger portion of your daily calories from foods with a higher TEF like minimally processed lean proteins, vegetables, and whole grains, it can be a little easier to lose weight and keep it off.

Additionally, there is good evidence that strength training can also increase the thermal effects of foods.

In practice, however, your main concern in trying to lose weight should be to meet each other daily Calorie and Macronutrient Goals and eat a plant-centered whole foods. Fortunately, this type of diet is also very thermogenic.

In other words, if you eat a high protein, medium to high carb, and medium to low fat diet consisting primarily of whole foods, you will automatically take full advantage of the thermal effects of eating.

One more reason to concentrate on the basics. 😉

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How do you rate the thermal effects of food? Do you have anything else to share? Let me know in the comments below!

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