Best Thermogenic Foods

January is fast approaching and that means that everyone starts talking about diets and weight loss. And around this time the topic always comes up of are there any foods that can actually burn calories, or rather thermogenic foods. The answer is a bit more complicated than yes or no. There are some foods that can in theory raise your metabolic rate and help your body burn more calories and promote fat loss.

But, it’s not a silver bullet. There is also the fact that certain types of food require more calories to break down, meaning that not all calories are considered the same, we’ll touch on that too.

Understanding Thermogenesis and Its Impact on Metabolism and How Many Calories You Burn in a Day

Before we start with thermogenic foods, we should explain thermogenesis at least briefly.

It's important to understand the concept of thermogenesis and its connection to metabolism.

Thermogenesis refers to the process by which your body produces heat and burns calories to digest and metabolize food. It is a natural metabolic process that occurs in all living organisms.

You can read more about it in our article what is thermogenesis here.

Metabolism, on the other hand, is the set of chemical reactions that take place in your body to convert food into energy.

It is the sum total of all the processes that occur to maintain life.

Your metabolic rate determines how quickly or slowly your body converts food into energy and affects your overall calorie expenditure.

While genetics and age play a role in determining your metabolic rate, certain lifestyle factors, such as exercise and diet, can influence it.

Then there is also your NEAT, whilst this isn’t directly related to the topic of thermogenic foods, it is worth understanding to get the full picture of how your body uses calories.

This is the amount of calories you burn with day to day tasks, and dieting can lower this as we subconsciously move less when we restrict calories, you can read more about that here.

The Thermogenic Effect of Food Macronutrients

Macronutrients are Protein, Carbohydrates, Fats, Fiber and (arguably) Alcohol. They have different basic calorie requirements to break down. This is the thermic effect of food and is often confused with Thermogenic foods.

The rough breakdown is

  • Fiber – Fiber is somewhere between 1-2 calories per gram and it’s thermic effect is around .9 per calorie, so this is why it’s often considered practically 0.
  • Alcohol – It has around 7-8 calories and actually requires about 22.5% of these to break down
  • Fat – Fat is 9 calories per gram with the lowest energy requirements to breakdown 0-5%
  • Carbohydrate – Carbs provide 4 calories and take about 5-15% to break down.
  • Protein – Protein provides 4 calories per gram and needs about 20-30% of these to break down, meaning in general consuming more calories from protein does require more energy to use, meaning they do in fact burn some calories, although you do still consume more than you burn of course.

You can read more about the thermic effect of foods here.

The Power of Thermogenic Foods: How They Boost Your Metabolism

Now, for the reason you’re here, the actual thermogenic foods list or the ones that require more energy to digest and metabolize than the calories they provide.

This increased metabolic activity can help you burn more calories, even at rest, and support your weight loss efforts.

Including thermogenic foods in your diet can have several benefits.

Firstly, they can increase your energy expenditure and promote fat oxidation leading to a higher calorie burn.

Some people tend to include foods can help suppress your appetite, keeping you feeling fuller for longer and reducing the temptation to indulge in unhealthy snacks.

There is argument for another category of thermogenic foods or drinks that can cause you to burn more calories through energy expenditure, which is why we mentioned NEAT earlier. Caffeine, is the key here, and probably not going to surprise anyone that a stimulant can counter act subconscious lethargy that comes from dieting, meaning you use more calories.

Top Thermogenic Foods to Incorporate Into Your Diet

Now that you understand the science behind thermogenesis, let's explore some of the top thermogenic foods that can help boost your metabolism and aid in weight loss. These foods are not only delicious but also packed with essential nutrients and compounds that promote fat burning and overall health.

1. Spicy Peppers

If you enjoy a little heat in your meals, you're in luck! Spicy peppers, such as chili peppers, jalapenos, and cayenne pepper, contain a compound called capsaicin, which gives them their fiery flavor. Capsaicin has been found to increase metabolism, raise body temperature, and promote fat burning. Including these peppers in your meals can give your metabolism a spicy kick and help you burn more calories. You do need quite a lot of it to be effective though and it’s generally easier to supplement.

2. Lean Protein Sources

Protein is an essential macronutrient that plays a crucial role in muscle growth, repair, and metabolism. Foods high in lean protein, such as chicken breast, turkey, fish, tofu, and Greek yogurt, have a high thermic effect as we mentioned earlier meaning they require more energy to digest and metabolize.

3. Green Tea

Green tea is not only a refreshing beverage but also a potent thermogenic food. It contains catechins, a type of antioxidant that has been shown to increase metabolism and promote fat oxidation. Drinking green tea regularly can help boost your metabolism and aid in weight loss. To reap the benefits, try incorporating a cup or two of green tea into your daily routine.

4. Konjac Root

Konjac root or glucomannan can be used to make zero calorie foods, most commonly rice or noodles (these can now be purchased at most major supermarkets in the US). They obviously don’t taste as good as the real thing, but they’re a decent facsimile and contain functionally zero calories. It’s actually a prebiotic as well, meaning it’s good for your gut.

5. Coffee

As we mentioned before caffeine makes you move more, but it’s also an appetite suppressant. Obviously it’s no good if you stack it with sugar and creamer, but a black coffee on the other hand is going to make you move more and eat less. It can also raise your base line metabolism, so in short caffeine is a winner here.

6. Ginger

Ginger, a popular spice with a distinct flavor, has been used for centuries for its medicinal properties. It is also a powerful thermogenic food that can increase your metabolism and aid in weight loss. Ginger has been found to increase the thermic effect of food, reduce blood sugar levels, and improve feelings of fullness. Adding fresh ginger to your meals or enjoying a cup of ginger tea can provide you with a natural metabolic boost.

7. Cacao

Indulging in dark chocolate made from cacao can not only satisfy your sweet tooth but also boost your metabolism. Cacao contains compounds like theobromine and flavonoids, which can increase thermogenesis and promote fat oxidation. Enjoying a piece of dark chocolate as a treat or incorporating cacao powder into your smoothies can provide you with the thermogenic benefits of this delicious food.

8. Turmeric

Turmeric, a vibrant yellow spice commonly used in Indian cuisine, contains a compound called curcumin, which has been extensively studied for its health benefits. Curcumin has been found to have anti-inflammatory properties and can increase thermogenesis in the body. Including turmeric in your meals or incorporating it into a warm golden milk beverage can provide you with a metabolism-boosting effect.

Top Thermogenic Foods Conclusion

Boosting your metabolism and supporting your weight loss efforts can be achieved by incorporating thermogenic foods into your diet. A lot of the information around thermogenic foods that actually work comes down to spices specifically.

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