Every motion throughout the day, as well as every function of your organs requires energy. This includes the body’s digestive system. The use of energy creates “heat” in your body, which is called thermogenesis. It’s what creates your basal metabolic rate for how much energy you use when you’re entirely at rest. In fact, the energy that you generate each day comes from your BMR, diet-induced thermogenesis, and the energy of physical activity.
What people may not realize is that you generate heat from utilizing energy to digest your foods. The harder it is to digest something, the more your body will create heat or thermogenesis.
Thermogenesis and Weight Loss
When your body generates heat and energy, it’s performing a function in your body. Imagine that the heat and energy in your body is much like the furnace on an old-fashioned train. The more you work at increasing the heat and energy, the faster the engine will run.
When you fuel the thermogenesis in your body, you’re banking the fires, so they stay lit for a long time after you’ve stopped providing fuel. That fuel is often exercise, but it can also be the types of foods you eat. Understanding thermogenesis can help with weight loss.
This is a fancy term that just means that the harder your meals are to digest, the more calories you’re burning to get the job done. If you pick the right foods, of course. Not all foods will have the same impact on the body.
How Many Calories Burned with Diet-Induced Thermogenesis?
As you can see from the image, thermogenesis from diet will start working after each meal (arrows are meal times). Even after the meal is over, the body will continue expending energy (calories) at a higher rate than before the meal. This can work for hours after the meal, so it’s possible to keep the energy consumption high throughout the day with the right kinds of foods. You certainly can’t expect to burn the same amount of calories with a basket of fries as you can with a steak.
The Impact of Protein
Let’s talk for a minute about the impact of the food you choose. First, it’s important that you’re still eating healthy foods. You can’t expect to expend enough energy to cover bad choices. Some studies suggest that you can burn as much as 15% of the calories you consume just by the act of digestion. That amount increases with better food choices. Whether your meals are 500 calories or 900, the type of calories will make a difference in the amount burned.
If you were to eat high-protein foods at every meal, you could expect to burn more calories. It will depend on the foods themselves, but you can potentially burn up to 35% of your calories with the act of digestion.
Caffeine and Alcohol on Thermogenesis
Alcohol has surprising benefits to thermogenesis. While you don’t want to add alcohol to the appetizer calories you’re eating at your local pub, between 10 and 30% of calories from alcohol are burned being digested.
Caffeine is another surprise when it comes to boosting your calorie burn. While we know that caffeine can give you a boost of energy to get started in the morning, it’s a good way to release the body’s fat stores, too.
Mistakes to Avoid with Thermogenesis and Diet
Don’t Overdo the Calories
With this knowledge, that doesn’t mean you can eat more calories than before, because you know a partial amount of it will be burned with the act of digestion. If you consume over the recommended amount of calories per day for weight loss, you won’t see a significant difference because of the foods you consumed.
Always replace the calories you’d normally consume instead of adding calories on top of what you’d eat normally.
Don’t Choose the Wrong Foods
While you’d assume that a salad would be a good food, you might be wrong. If the salad is full of lettuce and cheese, it’s not doing much for your thermogenesis. It’s reducing calories, but you’ll need to add protein to help the body burn energy and calories after the meal. Stay away from carbohydrates and fats as much as possible.
Examples of Making the Right Choices
If you have the choice between a salad with chicken or a piece of chicken with a side of mashed potatoes, you should choose the salad. It has protein without the carbs of the potatoes.
In the fridge, you have two yogurts. One of them has lower calories but no protein. The other has higher calories but is a yogurt richer in protein. You should choose the one with protein. The calories will be burned with the help of the protein.
Thermogenesis can help burn calories consistently throughout the day if you’re eating the right foods and keeping calories under the guidelines for your weight loss goals.