The idea that eating can help you actually lose weight is one that seems impossible while at the same time being very alluring. Most of us are of the belief that in order to burn fat and slim down, we need to cut back on what we’re eating and certainly stop eating those things that we actually enjoy chowing down on. This way we can restrict our calories and thus ensure we’re ‘burning’ more energy than we’re taking in – maintaining a ‘calorie deficit’ as it were.
Actually though, it doesn’t really work like that. Calorie counting is old news, and more and more health experts now suggest that meal timing, metabolism and blood sugar also play a role. And because certain foods affect our body differently, that means that some can actually encourage us to burn fat by stimulating certain hormones and raising our metabolism. Then there’s the thermic effect of food to consider, which states that some foods actually require a lot of calories in order to be digested.
Don’t get carried away now: you can’t expect to eat huge amounts of anything and still lose a lot of weight, but what you do need to be aware of is that choosing the right foods can have a big impact on your ability to burn fat and thus will be more useful in the fight against weight gain than their calories alone would suggest. Read on and we’ll look at ten of the top ‘fat burners’ and why they work so well.
Protein is not just one food, but is actually a food group. The good news is that any protein you eat has a ‘thermic effect’ meaning that calories are burned simply to digest it. Both carbs and fats have their own thermic effects (5-15% and 0-5% respectively), but protein has the biggest weighing in at 20-35%. At the same time, protein also stimulates the production of IGF1 and testosterone which are anabolic hormones that proceed to store those amino acids as muscle while burning fat to do so.
Not only are eggs a source of protein, but they are also high in vitamin B12. As vitamin B12 breaks down and burns fat, this is good news. Eggs are also very satiating (meaning they stave off hunger), and for all these reasons Tim Ferriss (best-selling author of The 4 Hour Body) recommends eating eggs within half an hour of waking up to increase fat burning and to prevent hunger pangs.
Most of us don’t think as curry as being much of a fat-fighting meal, but this is only because we eat it from restaurants that add lots of potatoes and trans fats (in the form of oil). The chillies themselves are actually very good fat burners though as they increase the heart rate (as you will have noticed) as well as boosting the metabolism. Grab yourself some habaneros and you’ll feel the burn…
Garlic is a miraculous super-food that can do all sorts of wonderful things for weight loss, preventing illness and more. As well as widening the blood vessels to increase the delivery of nutrients to the muscles and organs, and antibacterial properties; garlic supplements have been found in studies to aid weight loss independently of exercise (1). In rats, garlic has been found to suppress genes that are involved in fat storage, though no studies have been carried out looking at this effect in humans.
In a similar study (2) it was found that consuming ginger could help to increase the thermic effect of all foods as well as preventing hunger pangs.
Caffeine is not a food really so much as a drug. Specifically, caffeine is a stimulant which means it increases the metabolism and thus makes us feel more awake while also increasing fat burning. Caffeine works by increasing certain neurotransmitters that amp up the body including dopamine and norepinephrine and is one of several types of ‘xanthine’. In fact, caffeine is so effective that essentially most ‘fat burning’ supplements are made of nothing but caffeine and other similar stimulants.
Those supplements are dangerous however, whereas drinking a little coffee isn’t going overboard. Just be careful not to drink too much right before a workout or in the latter half of the day, and likewise ensure that you’re not adding too much sugar and cream to your drinks.
Green tea often contains caffeine (though less than coffee or black tea) and sometimes also contains other xanthines (yerba mate was described as ‘the perfect stimulant’ by none other than Darwin owing to its unique blend of three separate xanthines).
Better yet, green tea also contains the antioxidant ‘EGCG’ which is known for its fat burning properties. Green tea has many other great health benefits too and is well worth adding to your routine.
You can really use any fibre to increase fat burning by essentially reducing the speed at which sugar from our diet enters the bloodstream. ‘Fat burner’ is a bit of a misnomer technically then – instead you could consider it as something of a ‘fat preventer’. Either way, this is a great nutritious source of fibre which can keep you feeling full all day and also help to prevent sugars from being absorbed into your bloodstream as readily.
Coconut oil is another amazing super-food and just so happens to be amazing for pretty much everything… including fat burning. Coconut oil increases ketones in the body which can be used for energy and thus prevent cravings caused by energy dips. More importantly it can increase metabolism and in one study it was found that consuming 1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil could increase energy expenditure by an additional 5% throughout every day (3). It’s also great for weight loss when used to replace other cooking oils (4).
Dark chocolate can reduce the stress hormone cortisol which is linked to weight gain. It also contains caffeine and theobromine – two of the xanthines found in the aforementioned yerba mate tea. It’s not half as sugary as lighter chocolate either, so it’s a great way to get your chocolate fix without binging and ruining your diet. Look for 70% cocoa or higher, and if you find that too bitter try putting it in your coffee!