Did you know that you can increase your calorie burn simply by consuming certain foods? Just like a high-intensity workout (HIIT) burns more calories post-exercise compared to steady-state cardio, some food types can also increase calorie burn through digestion. This is referred to as the Thermic Effect of Food, with specific food types capable of elevating metabolism after ingestion.

The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) refers to the increase in energy expenditure that occurs during the digestion, absorption and storage of food. It is estimated that TEF accounts for approximately 10% of daily energy expenditure in a sedentary individual, and can vary depending on the macronutrient composition of a meal. So for example, if you expend 2000 calories per day, around 200 of those will be burned just from eating food. 

Protein has the highest TEF compared to carbohydrates and fats, as it requires the most energy to break down and utilize.

Understanding TEF is important for those looking to regulate their energy balance, as increasing protein intake and making other dietary choices that raise TEF can increase the number of calories burned per day. If you’re trying to lose weight, increase the amount of calories you metabolise by eating more protein.

Research shows that protein-rich foods can increase TEF by 20–30%, compared with 5–15% for carbs, and 0–5% for fats.

Protein-rich foods

– Meat
– Fish
– Eggs
– Dairy
– Legumes
– Nuts
– Seeds

Strategies to Increase TEF

There are several strategies that can be implemented to increase TEF, which can help support weight management and overall health goals. Here are a few options to consider: 


Protein has the highest TEF compared to carbohydrates and fats, and increasing protein intake can boost TEF and help support weight management. Aim to include protein-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, and nuts in your diet.


Eating smaller, more frequent meals can help to keep the metabolism elevated throughout the day and increase TEF. This can be especially beneficial for those who have a tendency to skip meals or eat infrequently.


Certain foods have a thermogenic effect and can increase metabolic rate and TEF. Some examples of thermogenic foods include green tea, chili peppers, ginger, and green leafy vegetables.


Supplements such as caffeine, green tea extract, and capsaicin (the compound responsible for the spiciness of chili peppers) can also increase metabolic rate and TEF. However, it is important to note that supplementation should be used in conjunction with a healthy diet and regular exercise, as supplements alone are unlikely to result in significant changes in body weight or composition.


Regular physical activity can also increase TEF, as the body burns calories during exercise and continues to burn calories post-exercise as it returns to its resting state. Incorporating both resistance training and cardiovascular exercise into your fitness routine can be an effective way to boost TEF.



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