Protein thermic effect

When it comes to losing fat and building muscle, eating less food is not the answer to getting lean and cut. Others will try to tell you that losing excess fat is simply a matter of using more calories than you eat. What they don’t tell you is that eating significantly less will slow your metabolism.

Part of the secret to eating the right amounts of food while keeping your fat levels in check is to use the thermic effect of food to your advantage.

The thermic effect (also referred to as specific dynamic action) is the incremental energy requirement above your resting metabolic rate used due to the cost of digestion, absorption, and disposal of ingested food.

Translation: Some of the foods you eat speed up your metabolism more than other foods.

You’ll find it much easier to reduce your fat levels if you consume plenty of foods with a higher thermic effect. Proteins tend to have a much higher thermic effect than other types of foods.

Calculating the thermic effect: A general guideline used by some to calculate the thermic effect of the foods you eat is to take your total calorie consumption and multiply that by 10% to get the total get the number of calories for the thermic effect. This method is a general estimation, and the thermic effect for different food types can range from 3-30%.

In general:

  • Fats: Thermic effect of about 3%. Keeping certain levels of fats in your diet is necessary, but fats tend to be high in calories and have a low thermic effect.
  • Fibrous vegetables: Thermic effect of about 20%. Many fruits and vegetables are negative calorie foods. Get a good portion of vegetable in at least 2-3 of your 6 daily meals.
  • Proteins: Thermic effect of about 30%. High protein foods are essential for muscle gain and fat loss. Think of these foods as your metabolic stimulator. One portion with each of your 6 meals.

How to do it:

  • Correct Portions: Each meal you eat should have a portion about the size of your palm/ fist of protein.  Eat about 1 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight. Spread your protein intake evenly throughout the day.
  • Eat, not drink: Eat your protein instead of drinking it. Protein shakes have their place, but the thermic effect is much greater when your body has to break down solid proteins.
  • Weight Lifting: Yes, weight training increases the thermic effect of the foods you eat, according to a study in the journal, Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
  • Vegetables: Again, eat plenty of vegetables, particularly fibrous vegetables.
  • Fruit: One or two pieces of fruit per day.

You will always need at least some carbohydrate intake to keep your body moving and your metabolism roaring. Carbohydrates provide your body with the energy needed so that you can get the workout you need. They are energy source for your muscles, and without some carbs, you won’t be able to get in the type of workout you need to build muscle.

Negative calorie foods: Foods that burn more calories than they provide to you are called negative calorie foods. You can see a list of these foods here. Get your daily fruits and vegetables, but don’t over-rely on these foods in your diet. Eat in the right portions, and you’ll be fine.

It’s virtually impossible to gain weight using a diet that is very high in foods with a high thermic effect. Rely more heavily on these types of foods for fat loss, but keep your carbohydrates in place for weight gain and adding more muscle.

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