Foods That Burn Fat to Accelerate Your Weight Loss (Sports Illustrated)
Posted: Jul 14, 2023 in In the News
This article originally appeared in Sports Illustrated on July 14, 2023.
Foods That Burn Fat to Accelerate Your Weight Loss
By Savanna Shoemaker
Beyond following one the best diets for weight loss, are there actually foods you can add to meals that help you cut fat? Surprisingly enough, yes. They’re not as powerful as people often hope, but they do offer a very small increase in your metabolic rate during exercise or as the result of the way they’re digested. And most of these foods are nutritious in other ways, too, particularly from the vitamins, minerals, protein or antioxidants they provide.
While the best way to lose excess fat is to eat a balanced diet, exercise regularly and get enough sleep, you can accelerate the process with additional tools like fat burner pills, weight loss programs and certain “fat burning” foods. So without ado, here are the best fat-burning foods to help you lose unwanted weight and support your overall wellness.
This content is meant to be informative, but should not be taken as medical advice. It is not intended for use as diagnosis, prevention or treatment of health problems. Always speak with your doctor before starting any new supplement or exercise regimen.
Natural Fat Burning Foods
While not all of the following are foods (some are spices, oils or beverages), they can all be consumed and can contribute to fat loss.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is a popular weight loss supplement, and there is some evidence to support its use. Apple cider vinegar pills, as well as other vinegars, contain acetic acid, a compound that may help promote fat oxidation (fat burn) and naturally reduce your appetite.
Because healthy gut bacteria also produce acetate when they digest prebiotics from fiber-rich foods like veggies and whole grain cereals, taking a probiotic supplement may be another helpful way to boost the acetic acid levels in your body.
Coffee and tea
Coffee, green tea and black tea are all natural stimulants thanks to the caffeine they contain. Caffeine can provide an immediate boost to your alertness, but it also provides some other effects, namely, increasing how much fat your body burns during a workout.
In a 2020 review of several studies, researchers found that moderate caffeine intake prior to a workout could help to significantly boost how much fat is burned while working out. This effect was particularly strong in people who were previously sedentary or not typically very active.
While you can get a pre-workout dose of caffeine from fat burning or pre-workout supplements, you may get the same effect from a cup of coffee or tea.
Of the three macronutrients (protein, carbs and fat), it takes the most calories to digest protein. The TEF (thermic effect of food) of protein is about 20-30 percent of the calories it contains, while it takes much fewer calories to digest carbohydrates and fat. (TEF refers to how many calories you burn while digesting the food you eat.) This makes high-protein foods, like protein powder, some of the best fat-burning foods.
Protein powder may also help you build your muscle mass when paired with resistance exercise. A higher muscle mass means that your body burns more calories at rest. Both animal-based and plant-based protein powders can offer these effects.
Much like protein powder, lean meats are high in protein—which means they have a high TEF. Fattier cuts of meat have a lower TEF because of their fat content, so it may be better to stick to lean proteins with no visible fat. This includes:
- Beef with minimal marbling and visible fat trimmed
- Pork with minimal marbling and visible fat trimmed
- Skinless chicken breast
- Skinless fish filets
Additionally, protein offers numerous other benefits for body weight reduction—like increased fullness and maintenance of muscle mass. Likewise, meats like grass-fed beef and fatty fish (like salmon and tuna) can be excellent sources of omega-3 fatty acids, calcium and magnesium.
The heat in chili peppers comes from the compound capsaicin. In addition to its hot taste, capsaicin also promotes another kind of heat: thermogenesis, or increased calorie burn.
In a study of people on a calorie-restricted diet, researchers found that just one gram of red chili pepper added to each meal could help prevent reductions in energy expenditure. In other words, the chili pepper helped people on calorie-restricted diets maintain their normal calorie burn, when otherwise it may have decreased due to the reduction in calories they were eating.
Full-fat dairy products like whole milk, butter, cheese and Greek yogurt are rich in a type of fat called conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). CLA may help your body burn more fat. In a 2007 study, researchers found that six months of CLA supplementation increased fat and calorie burn while sleeping. Still, it’s important to note that this study utilized high-dose CLA supplementation rather than naturally CLA-containing foods.
Full-fat dairy products are also higher in calories than their low-fat counterparts, so it’s important to consume these foods in moderation if you’re trying to lose weight.
For centuries, cinnamon has been used as an herbal remedy for high blood sugar levels and type 2 diabetes. Researchers have since confirmed that it does indeed offer a number of metabolic benefits.
Interestingly, a compound found in cinnamon called trans-cinnamic acid may help convert white fat to brown fat in a process called beiging. Brown fat is rich in mitochondria, and it helps stimulate calorie and fat burn.
Coconut oil contains small amounts of fats called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which may help the body burn more fat during exercise. Coconut oil also appears to affect appetite and satiety hormones, and may help prevent overeating that leads to excess weight gain.
In a 2022 study in PLoS One, researchers found that men who consumed coconut oil with their breakfast reported less hunger than men who consumed olive oil with their breakfast. They also had favorable changes in the appetite regulating hormone peptide YY. Obese men in the study who consumed coconut oil also ate roughly 140 fewer calories than obese men who consumed olive oil.
What is a healthy body fat percentage?
According to the American Council on Exercise, a normal body fat level for men could be anywhere from six to 24 percent, while a normal body fat level for women could range from 14 to 31 percent.
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