TEF- I can eat more and still lose weight???

Eating Food Burns Calories: The Thermic Effect of Food

 Have you ever heard that you burn more calories digesting celery than the celery contains? This is actually a myth that I hear a lot as a personal trainer in NYC, but it does point out the significance of something called the thermic effectof food (TEF), which is one of the primary components of your basic metabolic rate (BMR).
TEF refers to the energy that your body expends processing the food you eat. This number is traditionally estimated to be about 10% of the total calorie intake, but it depends on the macronutrient you are eating.
Of 100 calories of protein, 25 simply are lost due to digestion. Carbohydrates stand at 12%, fats at 2%… you can guess where this is going.  Yes,… you must eat protein with every meal!In order to achieve a TEF of 15%,  individuals should consume mixed meals containing protein, fat, carbohydrate, and fiber. While the individual thermic effects of these nutrients in isolation are lower, combining them all into one meal has an accelerated affect. This helps to explain why a growing body of research is finding relatively modest meal frequencies (3-4 meals a day) to be superior for body recomposition aka muscle gain and fat loss. High meal frequencies (5+) are suboptimal for a couple reasons. Research shows that 3-4 meals are  better than 6 for regulating blood sugar and managing hunger. The actual stretching of your stomach from volume of food consumption has an inhibitory effect on hunger, and if all you eat is tiny meals, you never achieve the appetite suppressing effect that a large, protein rich meal provides.

Also, chronic eating leads to chronically elevated insulin levels, which can cause a whole host of problems involved with metabolic syndrome. If you are a very large mammal and need to consume 6000+ calories, by all means have your 6+ meals.  To maximize TEF and minimize hunger, try consolidating your daily calorie allotment into 4 meals, spaced about 3-4 hours apart. Each of these meals should contain a fist-sized serving of protein and a fist-sized portion of fibrous vegetables, such as broccoli or Brussels sprouts. 

Furthermore, TEF has been shown to be higher for whole foods as compared to processed foods, which is mostly due to their higher fiber content which makes digestion more difficult.. One study examined a whole wheat sandwich compared with a white bread sandwich, and found that the whole wheat sandwich had a TEF twice as high! This pokes a major hole in the “if it fits your macros” style of eating, which is basically an excuse to eat junk food. If you choose the right foods, you can eat more of them and still end up with less calories in your bloodstream, which will help minimize hunger during diet.

If you pay close attention to your food choices, you could potentially eat 15% more and still achieve your goals. That’s some pretty cool science.

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