If you’re having trouble losing fat or just want to lose it faster, “fat burning foods” can’t help you…but this article can.
What if I told you that any food could technically be a “fat burning food”?
- Ice cream
- French fries
No, I’m not joking.
You can eat foods like those regularly and lose fat with ease.
In fact, what if I told you that the entire paradigm of foods causing or preventing fat loss is cock-eyed?
What if foods don’t have special fat-burning or fat-gaining properties?
“Bullshit,” I hear you saying. “Here comes the sales pitch…”
And normally you’d be right.
If I were like most of the peddlers in this space, this is where I would show a picture of me…
…and try to sell you an overpriced pile of PDFs, pills, and powders.
But that’s not what’s going to happen here.
Instead, I’m going to give you everything you need to know…in this article…for free.
So, grab a glass of water…or Skinny Gerbil Detox Tea or whatever…relax, and let’s have some fun.
Table of Contents
Fact: Food Can’t Burn Belly Fat…or Any Other Type of Fat For That Matter
If we’re going to take this journey we might as well start in the belly of the whale, right?
You see, there’s a little problem with the claim that a food burns fat.
Namely…the exact opposite is what generally happens.
That is, food never “burns fat” and, ironically, most foods results in some degree of fat storage.
If this is you right now…
…fret not. It will all make sense soon.
And to unravel this conundrum, let’s take a closer look at what actually happens in your body when you eat food.
Immediately after food enters your face, the digestion process begins.
Saliva contains enzymes that start breaking it down on the way to the stomach, which contains other molecules that further help reduce it to its constituent parts.
For example, amino acids come from protein, glucose and glycogen come from carbs, and fatty acids come from dietary fat.
These are all vital nutrients that our cells need to sustain life.
So, the next stop in the food’s transformation into poop is the small intestine, which is where most of the magic happens.
The small intestine has two vital functions:
- Continue breaking the food down into usable nutrients.
- Absorb these nutrients into the blood.
So, off these nutrients go, through the walls of the small intestine and into the blood.
The next step is getting them into cells for use.
That’s where the hormone insulin comes into play…and when fat storage enters the picture.
And this is where we need to drill deep to get to the bottom of the “fat burning food” myth…
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It works so hard to keep us alive and healthy and what kind of thanks does it get?
Mainstream diet “gurus” demonize it as an evil hormone designed to turn all humans into Type-2 diabetic blobs.
Insulin apparently has an accomplice in this conspiracy as well: the carbohydrate.
Carbs are like insulin’s Trojan Horse, we’re told.
You see the doughnut. Look at its moist, sexy curves. And it even has sprinkles.
You watch helplessly as your hand floats toward it. Into your mouth the pastry goes…and then all hell breaks loose.
Your pancreas laughs maniacally, your insulin levels surge, and you’re now one step closer to disease and dysfunction.
Or are you?
What if I told you that whole story is actually bullshit?
What if I told you that…
Insulin doesn’t make you fat or sick. Overeating and sedentary living does.
You see, much of insulin’s bad reputation stems from the fact that it inhibits the breakdown of fat cells and stimulates the creation of body fat.
That is, insulin tells the body to stop burning its fat stores and instead, absorb some of the nutrients from the meal you just ate and turn them into body fat.
This makes insulin an easy target and scapegoat for obesity and sickness.
The “logic” goes like this:
High-carb diet = high insulin levels = burn less and store more fat = get fatter and fatter over time
And then, as a corollary:
Low-carb diet = low insulin levels = burn more and store less fat = stay lean
Simple, plausible positions like these are easy to sell, especially when you know how to cherry pick scientific research.
Hence the mainstream orgy of insulin- and carb-hating.
Well, it’s true that insulin causes fat cells to absorb fatty acids and glucose and thus expand…but, as I said earlier, that’s not what causes you to get fatter over time.
If that has you scratching (or shaking) your noggin, it will all become clear after we quickly review the principles of energy balance.
Energy balance refers to the relationship between the amount of energy you burn and eat.
- A positive energy balance is a state wherein you’re feeding more energy than your body burns, and this results in fat gain.
- A negative energy balance is the opposite state–one wherein you’re feeding your body less energy than it burns–and it results in fat loss.
This probably isn’t news to you but what you may not know is how it applies to each and every meal you eat.
You see, there are two other food-related states that your body can be in:
- A “fed” state.
When your body is digesting, processing, and absorbing food, it’s in a fed, or “postprandial,” state. (Post means “after” and prandial means “having to do with a meal”).
It’s during this time when the body is in “fat storage mode.”
- A “fasted” state.
Once the body has finished processing and absorbing the food, it enters a fasted, or “postabsorptive,” state (“after absorption”).
With its food energy depleted, your body must turn to its fat stores to get the energy it needs to keep its trillions of cells functioning.
It’s during this time when the body is in “fat burning mode.”
Every day your body alternates between fed and fasted states, storing and burning fat.
Here’s a simple visualization of this:
- If the green and blue portions balance out every day–if you store just as much fat as you burn–your total fat mass stays the same.
- If, however, you store more fat than you burn, your total fat mass increases (you get fatter). And if you burn more fat than you store, it decreases (you get leaner).
This is the fundamental mechanism underlying fat storage and fat loss and it takes precedence over anything related to insulin or any other hormones in the body.
You can’t get fatter unless you feed your body more energy than it burns, and you can’t get leaner unless you feed it less energy than it burns.
The energy stores of batteries can’t be increased without the provision of a surplus of energy to store, and neither can fat stores.
That’s why research shows that so long as people eat less energy than they burn, they lose fat equally well on high-carbohydrate or low-carbohydrate diets.
That’s why Professor Mark Haub was able to lose 27 pounds on a “convenience store diet” consisting mainly of Twinkies, Little Debbie cakes, Doritos, and Oreos. He simply fed his body less energy than it burned.
As you can see, the very idea that certain foods trigger fat burning is fundamentally wrong.
When you eat food–any food–two things happen:
- Fat burning mechanisms are impaired.
- Fat storage mechanisms are enhanced.
The amount of fat storage that actually occurs after you eat a meal depends on what you eat.
- Protein, for example, isn’t converted into body fat very efficiently.
- Carbohydrate is also rarely converted into body fat due to various physiological factors, including the energy costs associated with the process of conversion, the status of glycogen levels, and more.
- Dietary fat is converted into body fat very efficiently, which is why research shows high-fat meals result in more immediate fat storage than high-carbohydrate meals.
Thus, when we’re talking an individual meal, a high-protein and/or high-carbohydrate meal will result in less immediate fat gain than a high-fat meal.
“Wait a minute,” you might be thinking. “If that’s the case then what if I eat nothing but protein and carbs every day? Would that mean I can’t get fatter no matter how much I eat?”
Well, I applaud your creativity…but no, that won’t work.
Fatty acids are vital for cell maintenance, hormone production, insulin sensitivity, and more, and your body has a backup plan to get them in case you can’t or won’t eat dietary fat. It simply converts other substances you do provide (amino acids and glucose) into these fatty acids.
This is why research shows that a surplus of energy results in fat storage regardless of which macronutrient is emphasized or deemphasized.
Unlike the claim that certain foods directly simulate fat burning, there’s some truth here.
Yes, some types of food cost more energy to process than others (this is known as the thermic effect of food), and thereby “boost your metabolism.”
In this way, all food you eat “speeds up your metabolism.”
That said, the magazine article that claims eating very specific foods like tuna, celery, grapefruit, lemon, hot peppers, and lime will dramatically accelerate your fat loss is wrong.
Some foods (spices, mainly) have mild metabolic effects in addition to the inherent thermic effects, but they’re very slight–almost to the point of irrelevancy.
Furthermore, many of the foods that make the “top 10 fat-burning foods” lists have no such effects, like…
- Whole grains
Just about every food that appears on these lists has no metabolic benefits and none confer benefits large enough to, in and of themselves, matter.
The real way to maximize the “metabolic advantage” of food is to eat a high-protein diet.
Protein has a higher thermic effect than carbohydrate and fat and is very filling as well, which is why research shows that high-protein diets are best for maximizing fat loss.
Similar effects have been seen in high-carbohydrate diets as well because although the thermic effect of carbohydrate is lower than protein, it’s higher than dietary fat.
This is one of the reasons why, calorie for calorie, high-carb diets can result in more fat loss than high-fat diets.
The yoga girl swears by a 3-day water cleanse.
The smiley doctor guy says a juice diet can give you a shiny new liver.
The raw food weirdo gushes about the wonders of eating everything uncooked.
And don’t get me started about the Instagram “models” smugly posing with their green smoothies and kale chips.
The more you look, the more cleanses and detox programs you find, with each one apparently better than the last.
The problem, however, is all of them are missing the forest for the trees.
While it’s true your body is regularly exposed to a wide variety of toxic substances, and while some of them are particularly nasty and can accumulate in body fat, there’s no evidence that trendy “cleanses” and “detox diets” help mitigate the damage or rid the body of toxins.
That is, yes, your body has a certain amount of harmful chemicals deposited in its fat stores, but no, drinking a bunch of lemonade for a week isn’t going to do anything about it.
Now, the strongest selling point for many detox regimens is rapid weight loss. Some people would do just about anything short of amputation to lose 20+ pounds in a month.
Here’s the reality though…
A temporary “juice cleanse” or raw food diet or other form of restrictive eating usually entails taking in very few calories. This amounts to starvation dieting, which induces weight loss (of course), but comes with quite a few negative side effects.
- First, most of the weight you initially lose when you eat very little is water and glycogen, not fat. This weight will return once you start eating normally again.
- Second, severe calorie restriction also causes you to lose muscle, and the more severely you starve yourself, the more you lose. The goal is to lose fat, not muscle, and you simply can’t do this when severely restricting your calorie intake.
- Third, the longer you starve your body, the worse and worse you feel. Your energy levels crash, you struggle with hunger, cravings, and depression, and more.
Don’t resort to such weight loss extremes. They’re completely unnecessary.
Alas, the “secret” to effortless weight loss has nothing to do with eating a special collection of foods.
It’s more about, well, not eating, than anything else–not eating as much food as your body wants (calorie restriction).
That said, there are definitely right and wrong ways of going about it. The wrong way is all too common:
- Severe calorie restriction
- Obsessive food restriction (“clean eating” to the extreme)
- Low protein intake
- Large amounts of cardio
- Little or no resistance training
- Over-reliance on ineffective supplements
This makes for an all-around miserable experience and is the fast track to a skinny fat physique.
Instead, when the goal is losing fat and preserving–or even building–muscle, you want to go about things very differently:
- Moderate calorie restriction
- Little or no food restriction (flexible dieting)
- High protein intake
- Low amounts of cardio
- Moderate amounts of resistance training
- Smart supplementation
This makes a world of difference.
It creates a powerful and positive synergism. You enjoy your diet. You’re never starved or deprived. You lose fat and not muscle. It really doesn’t get any better.
Another often overlooked benefit is this appraoch is the incredible peace of mind that you gain. Once you’ve experienced its fruits once, and see that you can change your body composition at will, you’ll know this is it.
No more guru chasing. No more fad diets. No more failed hopes.
That’s what I want for you. That’s why I do what I do.