In addition to being satisfying, filling, and good for building muscle mass and stabilizing blood sugar, protein has a high TEF, or thermic effect of food, which is why it’s often touted as a fat burning food TEF is the the caloric cost of digesting and processing different macronutrients in your food. While there are no hard-and-fast TEF values for each macronutrient, it’s generally accepted that the TEF of each macronutrient is as follows:
Protein – 20-35%
Carbs – 5-15%
Fat – 0-5%
To put it simply, if you eat 120 calories from protein, you’d use between 24 and 42 calories digesting that protein, whereas if you ate 120 calories from carbs, you’d only use 6 to 18 calories digesting those carbs.
While that might not seem significant, if you replaced 50 grams of carbs (200 calories) with 50 grams of protein (200 calories) every day, you’d burn an extra 30-40 calories a day, or ~200-300 calories a week without changing anything else. This is a simple way to increase your overall calorie deficit without eating less food. Plus, women tend to under eat protein in favor of carbs so this is just another reason to eat your protein.
Some good sources of protein include: lean beef, turkey, chicken, eggs and egg whites, cottage cheese, bison, shrimp, tuna, and salmon. If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, things may be little more challenging, but there have never been more vegetarian and vegan friendly options at both grocery stores and restaurants! You don’t even have to resort to protein powders. Health.com released a list of delicious, easy protein options for vegetarians and vegans.
For many years, fat was demonized as, well, the thing that “makes us fat.” But that’s just not true. Eating more calories than what we are expending is what’s causing society as a whole to gain more and more weight each year.
In addition, fat is a very satiating food, meaning you feel more full and satisfied when you eat moderate amounts of fat, and you’re less likely to overeat. On the other hand, a diet low in fat can leave you feeling very unsatisfied, and can lead to you wanting to eat everything in sight because you never feel full.
That said, fat is very calorie-dense so you do have to watch your portions. If you enjoy counting your macronutrients, getting approximately 30-35% of your calories from fat works well for most women. If you prefer not to weigh and measure your food, we don’t blame you. Your portion size for fat sources at each meal or snack should be approximately the same size as your thumb.
Some great fat sources to include in your diet are as follows: almonds, olive oil, avocado, coconut oil, nut butter, real butter, flaxseed, fatty fish, and walnuts.
Fiber rounds out the super satiating trio. When it comes to fat burning foods, fiber has a few tricks up its sleeve as well. Fiber is incredibly filling and satisfying, making it hard to overeat high fiber foods. Fiber also slows digestion and keeps you fuller longer, so you’ll wait longer between meals and snacks, and eat less throughout the day overall.
Great sources of fiber include: raspberries, beans, lentils, almonds, pears, pumpkin, artichoke, broccoli, peas, and oatmeal, to name a few.
“Magical Fat-Burning Superfoods”
OK, OK, so at the beginning, when we said there aren’t any “magical fat-burning superfoods”—that wasn’t exactly true. There are two, but in the context of an overall healthy diet, their effect will be very small, so we wanted you to read about the other healthful foods that should comprise the majority of your diet first.
What are these “magical fat-burning superfoods?” Green tea and hot peppers. These foods are superfoods, because they are high in antioxidants, and they may boost fat loss.
Green tea contains an antioxidant called EGCG, which when combined with caffeine, may boost fat loss in supplement form. Some studies have shown a minimal to no effect, while others have shown a respectable benefit 1,2. However, the safety of EGCG in supplement form is not well understood, so take caution and consider all your other medications before considering finding green tea supplements or drinking green tea all day long! Hot peppers contain the antioxidant capsaicin, which has also been shown to increase fat oxidation (i.e. calorie burning), but only in supplement form3.
Remember, no supplements will make a difference if your diet is not on point. You cannot live on Doritos and beer and think that your daily green tea and capsaicin will magically melt fat off your body.
To recap, there are only a couple of true fat burning foods that exist, and their overall effect on fat burning will be small, so in the context of an overall healthy diet, they can definitely boost fat loss, but what you eat the rest of the day is infinitely more important than drinking green tea and take a capsaicin supplement.
However, there are a host of foods to help you lose weight (and by weight, we mean fat) because they create a physiological environment that encourages fat loss by being high in one or more of the following: protein, fiber, or fat.
Some of the foods that fall in two or more of those categories include: almonds, avocado, salmon, nut butter, beans, fatty fish, flaxseed, and eggs.
Make sure you include these “magical fat-burning superfoods” into your diet on a consistent basis, if you want to achieve long-term, sane, and sustainable fat loss.