Metabolism and the Thermic Effect of Food

by Cheryl Ann Borne Patient Advocate

The Thermic Effect of Foo ** protein**

Photo credit tiverylucky

The thermic effect of food is a term used to describe the energy that is expended by our bodies after we ingest food. We consume food when we bite, chew and swallow. We then process food when we digest, transport, metabolize, and store it. Energy is expended by burning calories, but all calories are not equal.

The thermic effect of food due to a meal will differ depending on what that meal consists of. Fat, carbohydrates, and protein all effect how many calories are burned due to the thermic effect of food.

The Food Effect

The size, frequency, and composition of meals all have a notable influence on the thermic effect.

Meal size is a factor due to the amount of calories that will correlate with meal volume provided that the amount of protein, fat, and carbohydrates is relatively the same at each sitting. If more nutrients are consumed then more energy will need to be expended to process them.

In general, a person can expect to burn five to ten percent of calories consumed due to the thermic effect.

The thermic effect is greater when a fixed number of calories are consumed during a single meal rather than eating a number of smaller meals over the course of the day. One study showed that the thermic effect of food was about 2% higher when the calories were had at a single meal.

The thermic effect will vary depending on the proportions of fat, carbohydrates, and protein that are in a meal.

Protein is easily the macronutrient that requires the greatest amount of energy to digest. Protein is difficult for the body to digest and as much as 30% of the calories contained in protein can be burned during digestion.

Simple carbohydrates such as sugar are easily digested and turned into energy. They are digested with such ease that they require only about 3% of the calories taken in. Complex carbohydrates require more energy to be digested and are recommended above simple carbohydrates.

Fat is also easy to digest and should be eaten only infrequently. Both carbohydrates and fat burn about 5% of the calories that are consumed.

Irregular meal patterns have been shown to have a negative influence on the thermic effect. A regular schedule is more beneficial, so if you are in the habit of eating three meal per day do not begin compromising that number. For instance, do not fluctuate between three meals on some days and five meals on other days. Stick to a pattern and maintain the number of calories.

What It All Means

Simply put, it means that choice matters and that every little bit helps. Any advantage is a good advantage, and if food choices can be made where the food itself will work to help lose weight then why not make those choices?

Knowing about the thermic effect and those food choices that best enhance it will make losing weight a bit easier, and that is a benefit we all can use.

Cheryl Ann Borne
Meet Our Writer
Cheryl Ann Borne

Cheryl Ann Borne, writing as My Bariatric Life, is a contributing writer and Paleo recipe developer. Cheryl is an award-winning healthcare communications professional and obesity health advocate who has overcome super obesity and it’s related diseases. She publishes the website, and microblogs on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest. Cheryl is also writing her first book and working on a second website.