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What is "thermogenesis"?

Also known as the thermic effect of food, dietary thermogenesis (DIT: diet-induced thermogenesis) is the process of energy production in the body caused directly by the metabolizing of food consumed (thermē is Greek for heat and genesis for creation).

DIT rate is influenced by

  • our body’s physical state,
  • the energy content (or calories) of the food we consume,
  • the macro-nutrient composition our food.

Although DIT constitutes 5-15 percent (the smallest component) of total daily energy expenditure from a mixed diet of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, it plays an important role in the development and maintenance of obesity.

Thermogenesis Explained

Dietary Thermogenesis–related Satiety

Protein is one of the primary factors in determining dietary thermogenesis. It is also the most significant influencing macronutrient in determining dietary satiety, or a feeling of fullness from eating. Therefore, the researchers suggest, protein is pivotal in regulating body weight because of its key role in dietary thermogenesis–related satiety. 

Brown Adipose Tissue

Brown adipose tissue is like fat tissue except that it also possesses a thermogenic property: That is, it can take the energy from food and convert it into heat. About 5 percent of the body tissue of human infants is brown adipose, but this number decreases as a person ages, contributing to a decrease in dietary thermogenesis.

Why is thermogenesis important for weight loss?

Thermogenesis plays an important role in regulating body weight.

“Our weight depends on two key factors:

food taken in, and energy put out.

In the energy side of that equation, thermogenesis is one of the three main components, along with basal metabolic rate and physical activity. Thermogenesis accounts for all energy expended in the resting state above and beyond your basal metabolic rate. As such, a high dietary thermogenesis helps promote weight loss while a low dietary thermogenesis helps with weight gain.

“The easiest way to experience thermogenesis is to start exercising.

The easiest way to experience thermogenesis is to start exercising.

footballIf you start walking at a fast pace or even running, you pretty soon feel your body warming up (the exercise-triggered thermogenesis is happening).

The main weight loss benefit of thermogenesis is that it uses up stored energy. For our bodies to generate heat we need to burn calories.

And since these calories usually come from the fat stored in our body, we want to trigger as much thermogenesis as possible.

Exercise and dietary composition go hand in hand.

 Exercise can help us boost our weight loss efforts immensely. When we exercise, our stored energy is mostly converted into kinetic energy (energy that enables us to move). This conversion is not completely efficient, thus some heat generated in the process dissipates into our environment.

cayennepepper5However, exercise alone does not influence our thermogenesis rate. Diet affects thermogenesis directly. What we eat can also increase thermogenesis and our calorie burn rate. The different diet compositions result in a diet-induced thermogenesis of 5% to 15% of daily energy expenditure.

Cold triggers thermogenesis.

Whenever the temperature around us drops, our body tries to keep us warm by burning calories to produce heat. Our bodies can fight the cold in two different ways. The first one is the shivering thermogenesis. Our muscles start shivering, which results in heat being generated. This is pretty much the same as the exercise thermogenesis, only without much actual movement.

The second way is the non-shivering thermogenesis. Our stored body fat tissue is also capable of producing heat as necessary (burning up body fat in the process).

You can influence your thermogenesis and your calorie burn rate exposing your body to cold.  Some people exercise in the snow in their underwear, some people take extremely cold showers and some people drink large amounts of near-frozen low calorie drinks. Whatever your (cold) weapon of choice, be careful not to endanger your health in the process.

Certain food items have negative caloric balance.

foods-that-burn-caloriesThis means that the energy used in digestion and absorption (thermic effect) of certain food items is greater than the usable caloric content contained in them. We lose more calories than gain as we consume certain food items due to their high “fiber matrix” (whose fiber matrix is intact —unlike white “refined” flour, corn starch & syrup, sugar or white “polished” rice) that must be unraveled to access their carbohydrates. These food items, if eaten in the right way and proportions, keep our energy levels up and helps us get in all the nutrition we need.

Sluggish metabolism is a major cause of unintended weight gain.

Increasing the internal temperature of the body pushes up the metabolic rate of the body, which stimulates metabolism of fats. Restoring the digestive fire helps with

  • breaking down the fat tissues,
  • eliminating the unwanted fats from our body with ease, and
  • increasing energy production.

Certain food items help in restoring the digestive fire, improving absorption of nutrients from foods and eases elimination of digestive wastes from the body. We strive to feed our metabolism with these:

  • Chicken, turkey and other meats

High protein foods require more energy from the body to process, thus have fat burning properties. The protein is good for muscle building, helps to improve metabolism and strengthens the immune system.

  • Salmon or albacore tuna

Packed with lots of good fats (Omega 3 fatty acid), fish boosts our metabolism, increase satiety (we feel full longer), and is conducive to weight loss.

  • almonds-close-upAlmonds and other select nuts (with skins intact)

Build muscle and reduce cravings.

  • Dairy products

Help in building strong bones and fire up weight loss.

  • Berries (raspberries, blue berries, blackberries)

Berries are good for blood flow (which helps build strong muscles), they are low in carbs and they are thermogenic. These High fiber foods help us with the weight loss by helping us to feel satisfied, fuller for longer period of time and prevent sweet cravings.

  • thermogenetic spiceChili Peppers

Chili peppers spike our metabolism as they contain capsaicin chemicals that are conducive to weight loss. The capsaicin in the peppers heats up our body like a furnace, help us burn off more calories. It works even better when we combine it with coconut oil.

  • Broccoli

Low carb vegetable that can accompany any meal.

  • Ginger

Ginger is great for everything. Eating ginger regularly or drinking ginger tea daily helps in reducing obesity related health problems.

  • Garlic and Onions

Minerals and oils inside garlic and onion help us to break down fat and elevate our metabolism.

  • Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has medium chain triglycerides (MCT), which slow fat accumulation in the body. It also promotes thermogenesis.

  • Black and Red Pepper

Both black and red peppers increase satiety and thermogenesis.

  • Green Tea

Green tea contains the anti-oxidant which works to burn calories throughout the whole day.

  • Coffee

Coffee is highly thermogenic when drunk black.

It is important to drink plenty of water when you increase your fiber intake with the above food items. Otherwise dehydration may occur and this can actually build up in your intestine leading to constipation. Consuming a table spoon of chia seeds daily will help significantly with regular stool without constipation.