Eating Burns Calories Too
Yes, you read right – eating burns calories. The process is called thermogenesis (meaning heat generation) and it is designed to regulate body temperature -- to keep the body warm.
Can you increase thermogenesis? Increased thermogenesis means increased heat production, which means an increase in oxygen consumption (heat needs oxygen to be release), and higher metabolism. Sadly, there are many unscrupulous companies out there trying to convince overweight people to take herbal supplements (which aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration) to increase thermogenesis.
The thermogenic effect also helps explain why severe calorie restriction often results in weight gain. The human body is a very efficient system, however. It adapts to the caloric restriction, and in an effort to prevent starvation learns to get by on less energy, just like an energy-efficient furnace. When you begin to eat normally again, your system has learned to treat any calories above subsistence level as energy to be stored, helping you to regain what you lost, and usually more!
So eating food burns calories. Yes, some of the calories (very few) are burned in the act of chewing, but most of the calories are burned in digestion, assimilation and elimination of nutrients. Your body works hard in the digestion process, which requires energy: calories.
Eat early. Metabolism naturally slows down during the latter part of the day, so eating doesn’t expend as many calories as in the morning and early afternoon. Burning off a big breakfast is easier than a big dinner. And if you must eat later, stick to protein and veggies. Pure protein has the most thermogenic effect of all foods (30 percent of its calories are used during digestion) so very lean protein foods will give your metabolism a little boost.
Eat often. Eating “mini-meals” has become a standard recommendation of nutritionists, and thermogenesis is one of the reasons. If you eat every few hours throughout the day (not junk, of course, but healthy stuff), your furnace will be stoked to burn hotter throughout the day.
Eat complex carbohydrates and protein. When it comes to thermogenesis, all foods are not created equal. Your body has to work much harder to break down fiber and complex carbs than it does with simple sugars and carbs. Stick to whole grain foods like oatmeal, brown rice and whole grain cereals and breads.
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