Thermic Effect of Food: How It Works, Benefits & Side Effects - Leopard Nutrition

Thermic Effect of Food: How It Works, Benefits & Side Effects

The thermic effect of food is the incremental increase in resting metabolic rate (RMR) after eating due to the thermic effect of food.

Using various methods, researchers have come up with several estimates for how much energy it costs our body to metabolize different foods.

More often than not, this thermic effect ranges between 3% and 10%.

What Is The Thermic Effect Of Food? 

The thermic effect of food is the amount of heat produced through burning calories.

In a negative calorie diet, the thermic effect of food burns off extra fat and helps prevent weight gain. Thermogenic foods increase body core temperature after eating, causing weight loss because the thermic effect can boost metabolism by up to 12 per cent even while at rest.

Thermic Effect Of Food High carb meal 80% - 100%; high protein meal 30% – 40%; low fat meal 5% - 20%. The higher thermic effect from low-carb diets comes mainly from their greater insulin response.

Thermogenics are any food that increases the metabolic rate; however, there is little evidence for the stimulatory effects of coffee and tea.

The thermic effect from food is related to the components of food, like protein (20 - 30%), carbohydrates (100%), and fat (5 – 10%).

The thermic effect of food differs per nutrient because proteins take much more energy to digest than fats or carbohydrates.

The thermic effect of each macronutrient is as follows: 100% carbohydrate intake results in an estimated thermic effect which ranges from 3% - 8%. Protein has thermic effects at 20-30%, which results in an increased metabolic rate that can last for several hours after a meal.

The thermogenic response to fat consumption is very small; therefore, low-fat diets' thermic effect is not statistically different from high-fat diets.

Even the thermic effect of food from beverage differs in thermic effect amongst different drinks.

Beverages like tea, coffee, and chocolate have small thermic effects compared to beverages such as water or skimmed milk (0%).

Consuming liquids with a meal decreases the thermic effect by 50%. Therefore, when consuming liquid calories and solid foods, they should be part of a low-calorie diet plan to lose weight effectively.

The benefits of the thermic effect of food

1. Reduces Risk of Obesity

According to the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism study, food that takes longer to digest can help you lose weight faster than those with a high glycemic index (GI).

This is because foods have different absorption rates, and some take time to enter the bloodstream while others get digested quickly. The effects are felt more by those who eat carbohydrates regularly.

For people eating low-carbohydrate diets, it has been found out that the thermic effect from food contributes only about 2% of total caloric expenditure, which means if you're consuming 10% of your diet as carbs, you'll be burning just 0.2 calories/minute (for an average person this adds up to 80 calories per day).

2. Helps Maintain Body Weight

While you spend time expending energy digesting food, the body uses calories to break down nutrients and absorb them. This is called the 'thermic effect of food' or TEF for short.

In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers found that women who ate 20% more calories than their bodies needed each day had an increased thermic effect than those consuming 40% fewer calories.

With this information, it can be concluded that eating less calorie-rich foods will increase metabolic rate according to our first point above. It's also worth noting that when your metabolism slows down due to under-eating, it makes it harder for you to lose weight.

3. Boosts Exercise Performance

The energy needed to break down nutrients is a big factor in determining whether you can burn fat or not.

A study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that people with more active lifestyles had greater energy expenditure than those leading sedentary lives.

So remember, eat a high metabolism food early (like breakfast) so that this increased energy expenditure will increase your chances to burn fat even during exercise later on! That's why if you ate the right amount of thermic effect foods, it could help you get into your target weight faster.

4. Increases Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

The basal metabolic rate usually refers to how many calories are burnt for digesting, breathing, and other basal metabolic activities.

Studies have shown that a 20% increase in thermic effect will result in 300 calories burned per day. So it's clear that high TEF foods will help you get into your ideal weight quicker.

5. Helps Maintain Ideal Weight

Like we mentioned above, if you eat more calorie-rich food for breakfast, then the thermic effect from food will ensure that you use those excess nutrients to keep your body weight where it was meant to be!

6. Reduces Risk of Colorectal Cancer

Thermogenic response refers to triggering the heat-producing processes that occur when enzymes from bacteria in the gut enter the bloodstream and travel thru-body seeking fats for energy (this is how you get fat).

The process is also known as 'bacterial deconjugation of bile acids, and the more it occurs, the faster you burn fat. More importantly, due to this heat-producing process in our body every day, we can now treat many diseases, including digestive ailments, with the TEF diet.

So if someone has constipation or inflammation in their intestines, they can try the thermic effect from food to help them fight against any disease.


7. Helps Lose Fat Faster

A review published in Medicine and Science in Sports And Exercise journal revealed that eating thermogenic foods will boost metabolism by 20% within an hour. The thermic effect from food helps you lose weight because when your body digests food, it will need to burn energy for this process to occur.

This extra energy is then converted into heat, increasing your metabolism by at least 20% within an hour after eating. So, in essence, when you eat more thermogenic foods often, it helps you lose weight faster and easier than before! Unfortunately, many people don't know about this wonderful benefit of thermic effect from food (even though the fact has been known since the 1920s).

That's why whenever someone tries this method to lose weight, they are always amazed at how quickly the change comes.

8. Improves Digestion

Thermic Effect From Food help improves digestion because, after that 20% increase in metabolic rate due to TEF foods, our digestive system gets a kickstart which helps our body to become more sensitive in identifying the nutrients we're getting from different types of food.

This process causes TEF foods to effectively have a higher thermic effect than other calories from other foods, and so you get better digestion when the thermic effect is at work! There was even a study done on athletes who had faster absorption than normal eaters.

9. Fights Obesity

Recent studies suggested that those with a high thermogenic response (TEF) tend to be leaner. Some researchers are trying to prove that the thermic effect from food has something to do with "set point theory" because calorie-rich foods can raise BMR, causing your body weight to increase.

So if you eat less calorie-rich food for breakfast, then the thermic effect from food will make sure that you use those excess nutrients to keep your body weight where it was meant to be.

The side effect of Thermic Effect Of Food

Now, let's talk about some side effects of thermic effect of food.

1. Significantly Increases Your Energy Levels

You will feel more alert and energetic throughout the day as your metabolism ramps up to burn even more calories than before. The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) or thermic effect refers to "the increase in metabolic rate following a meal."

In other words, food doesn't just sit around in your stomach like some dead thing you ate -- after you eat something, it helps you burn additional calories, which is why eating five smaller meals per day keeps your metabolism high.

A protein-rich pre-workout snack like Greek yogurt with peanut butter can prime your body to start burning fat right away, and an incredibly healthy, nutrient-packed breakfast with eggs or oatmeal will help keep you fueled for hours.

2. Your Stomach Will Be Filled

When we feel hungry, sometimes it's because our stomachs are empty! Eating a substantial portion of protein at every meal can satiate hunger and keep us feeling fuller longer.

An egg-and-vegetable scramble is one easy option that has this effect and is loaded with muscle-building nutrients that will make you stronger during your workouts.

And while it may seem strange, chewing your food more thoroughly can also make you feel fuller faster than scarfing down huge bites -- so don't be afraid to slow down while you eat!


3. Live Disease-Free

Besides protecting against heart disease and diabetes, a high-protein diet can also lower your risk of cancer, especially linked to obesity like endometrial, liver, breast, and colon cancers.

Research suggests that higher-protein diets may also help prevent kidney cancer in women by helping the body process estrogen -- which is why it makes sense for women over 40 who are at very high risk of developing breast cancer (or any type) and have had ovarian or endometrial cancer in the past to focus on protein-rich foods. 

4. Protect Against Osteoporosis

As we age, our bones become increasingly more brittle due to a loss of bone density and collagen -- and this can lead to a high risk of fractures, especially in the hip. Not only do protein-rich foods help us build more muscle mass, but protein helps to preserve bone and avoid osteoporosis.

Muscle-building foods with the highest amounts of protein include yogurt, milk, tuna, eggs, chicken breast, and red meat like beef, pork, or lamb. 

Whey is a fast-digesting protein that helps to build muscle and boost strength.

5. You Will Gain More Strength

As we age, our muscles slowly begin to get smaller, which is why one study found that participants over the age of 60 who drank whey protein shake every day gained almost 6 pounds of lean body mass just eight weeks after beginning supplementation.

And a study published in the journal Nutrition found that participants who took whey protein isolate experienced significant increases in strength after just 12 weeks, while another study found that those who supplemented with whey gained nearly 3 pounds of lean muscle mass during the same period.

To get a great source of whey, try adding yogurt to your diet.

6. It Helps You Sleep Better

According to a study published in the journal Nutrition, amino acids like tryptophan and lysine are essential for sleep -- and eating protein throughout the day helps ensure that enough of these nutrients are circulating through your bloodstream at night.

But don't worry if you're not hungry before bedtime; another study found that even when consumed right before going to sleep, eggs help people fall asleep faster than carbohydrates.

7. A Healthy Brain

There's no question about it: Eating protein can help keep our brains sharp as we age! Studies have concluded that animal-based proteins are better at protecting against cognitive decline than plant- sources.

They can raise neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine in the brain that help improve mood and boost memory. Protein-rich foods include fish, chicken, lean red meat, eggs, nuts, and low-fat dairy. 

8. A Healthy Pregnancy

Protein is especially important when expecting a little one, particularly because it helps your body repair itself after childbirth. According to a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, women who consumed more protein while pregnant were less likely to suffer from preeclampsia, bone loss, or gestational diabetes.

Plus, babies who are breastfed receive 25% of their protein calories directly from their mom.

9. Make Up For Lost Time

If you want to make up for the protein you missed out on while dieting or eating a low-protein diet, it's never too late! Experts recommend that those who have lost weight gradually add protein to their diets to help preserve and increase lean muscle mass.


The thermic effect of food is the amount by which your basal metabolic rate increases after eating. It does not account for any other physical activity but can still vary widely from person to person depending on how much muscle mass they have and their genetics.

The more muscle mass you have relative to fat, the higher your TEF will be because it takes more energy to maintain that tissue than fat tissue. This means if you want to lose weight, eat high-quality protein at every meal with some carbs or fruit mixed in (in moderation) so that you don't get too hungry between meals and overeat later on when hunger pangs set in.

In addition, make sure there's enough fiber in what you're eating, as this slows down digestion. If you want to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle, paying attention to this principle could make all the difference in achieving your goals.


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