Thermic effect of food: what is it and how does it work?

When calculating energy needs, the thermal effect of food must be taken into account. This depends on the nutrients they concentrate.

Last update: 26 September, 2022

The thermal effect of food is known as the amount of energy needed to process the food and get the nutrients inside. It is the result of digestion, absorption and metabolism.

It is also known as “postprandial thermogenesis” and can determine daily energy expenditure. For this reason, it is important to take it into account when establishing a person’s caloric needs.

Before starting, we must emphasize that the calculations regarding energy requirements are always approximate. There are various formulas for making estimates. but you can’t really know the exact value.

Anyway, it’s not overly relevant. Making adjustments at the dietary level afterward based on the results obtained will be enough to improve the state of body composition.

Thermic effect of food

Normally, the thermic effect of food is determined by the amount and proportion of the nutrients found inside it. Therefore, not all foods have a similar value, but different calculations would have to be made to determine the result of each of the products that make up the diet.

The thermic effect indicates the amount of energy needed to process nutrients during digestion

In general, 25% of the caloric value of a protein is necessary for its digestion and metabolism. As for carbohydrates, only 10% of the total energy will be used for these processes. When we talk about fats, the thermal effect is even less. Just 2% of the energy they provide to ensure optimal digestion with subsequent metabolism.

In any case, there are more values ​​that can affect the thermal effect of food. One of them is physical exercise. For example, a work session after a high protein intake could increase the amount needed for digestion by between 5 and 10%. Fiber is another of the components that will affect, also managing to modulate the feeling of satiety. This is evidenced by a study published in Nutrition Reviews.

Even toxic habits could reduce this value. An example would be smoking. Also, stimulating substances such as coffee would cause variations in energy expenditure derived from the metabolism of nutrients. However, the amount of the modification is not known with certainty.



Is the thermal effect significant in weight loss?

Although food requires energy to be metabolized, this expense will not be too influential on the state of body composition. At first, it was believed that a high-protein diet could improve the energy deficit, due to higher caloric requirements for metabolism. However, the truth is that this diet causes progress because it generates greater satiety and contributes to muscle retention.

After all, to experience loss of body fat, it will be key to consolidate an energy deficit. This can be achieved through dietary restriction, although it is much smarter to do it through physical exercise. For example, him hiit It has shown great benefits when it comes to increasing daily expenditure and subsequent metabolic activity.

Physical exercise is essential to promote weight loss.

One of the keys will undoubtedly be the consolidation of new muscle mass. Lean tissue is metabolically very active, so it will help increase your daily caloric needs. If they are not compensated through diet, a deficit will be established that will be compensated with mobilization and subsequent oxidation of fatty acids. Yes indeed, For this to work, certain dietary adjustments will have to be made.

Ensuring sufficient protein intake will make a difference. These nutrients manage to retain muscle mass and promote its development. At least a consumption of 0.8 grams per kilo of weight per day is required in sedentary people.

However, when we talk about athletes, these requirements can easily be doubled or tripled. This is evidenced by research published in the journal Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.



Thermal effect of food, an element to take into account

As you have seen, the processing of food and nutrients inside the body costs energy. This must be computed when calculating the caloric need for a person.

Thus, a more precise result will be achieved that can lead to benefits at the level of body composition. over time. Of course, it will not be the only thing that matters when it comes to achieving that goal.

To finish, keep in mind that physical activity will make a difference in metabolism. It will increase the total daily energy expenditure, which will allow establishing a deficit that later stimulates fat loss.

Of course, in order to maximize profits, it is advisable to adjust the nutritional guideline and plan the training sessions correctly. In general, it will be positive to give higher priority to strength work.

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