Fat Burning Foods & Meal Plan

Turn Up The Heat On Fat Loss

You’ve heard it before. The southern part of the U.S. includes some of the most obese states in our nation; while the north has the majority of the thinnest. Why is this the case? There is a combination of reasons including what you would expect: cuisine preferences and average amount of exercise and activities of daily living. However, those up north have another facto on their side— cold weather, which activates a type of fat in the body that ramps up calorie burning.

Though fat seems like a lazy tissue that sits on our bodies, covering up our muscle definition, that’s not exactly true. There are two main types of fat, white and brown (technically termed brown adipose tissue or BAT). The majority of body fat is white fat— the kind that stores excess calories, therefore serving as a backup tank of fuel when we need energy. White fat also produces and sends hormones into the bloodstream to do their job. Brown fat is packed with iron-rich (hence the brown color) calorie-burning mitochondria—the power plant within each cell. Brown fat keeps our bodies warm by increasing calorie burning, which in turn produces heat to warm our blood. Adults with more brown fat will stay warm for a longer period of time without having to resort to shivering when exposed to cold temperatures. And though lean individuals generally have more brown fat than obese people, everyone has considerably more white fat cells compared to brown fat cells.

Fat Burning Foods & Meal Plan

Red Peppers

Spending time outside in cold weather can activate brown fat, but lighting your taste buds on fire with spicy foods, like hot peppers, can also turn on brown fat and help you burn calories. Hot peppers contain a group of chemicals called capsaicinoids, which activate TRPV1 receptors on brown fat and stimulate thermogenesis (calorie burning). So dine on capsaicinoid-rich chili peppers as a regular pre-meal appetizer, and the increase in calorie burning could translate to actual pounds lost on the scale.

In a review and meta-analysis of the published research on capsaicinoids, calorie intake and changes in weight, researchers found daily consumption of 2 milligrams of capsaicinoids before meals led to a decrease in self-selected food intake by about 74 calories. If you do eat peppers, dine on the thick middle section just below the stem, an area that contains the most concentrated amount of capsaicin (a type of capsaicinoid). The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. Therefore, capsaicin content is greatest in hot chili followed, in order, by red chili, green chili, green pepper, red pepper, yellow pepper. Just more than 3 ounces of hot chili peppers contains 2 milligrams of capsaicin.

Putting red pepper to the test, Japanese researchers added powdered red pepper to high-fat and high-carbohydrate breakfast meals and examined calories burned in 13 Japanese females. Each study participant was placed in a group and consumed the exact same calories in the form of a high-fat meal (15% protein, 45% fat and 40% carbohydrate), high-fat meal with added red pepper (same breakdown of protein, fat and carbohydrate), a high-carbohydrate meal (15% protein, 25% fat, 60% carbohydrate) or a high-carbohydrate meal with added red pepper (same breakdown of protein, fat and carbohydrate as the control carbohydrate meal). Though participants preferred both the taste and appearance of the meals without the red pepper, the addition of red pepper increased diet-induced thermogenesis and the breakdown and use of fat— versus carbohydrate— for energy. The increase in calories burned and fat breakdown was especially noticeable after the high-fat meal with added red pepper. And though that doesn’t mean that you need to eat a high-fat meal to cash in on the benefits associated with red pepper, you may want to choose an appetizer that contains red pepper prior to indulging in any meal, especially if that meal is high in fat.

Caffeine Plus Peppers

What’s more, peppers may be even more effective when combined with caffeine. Eight men were randomly assigned to receive 3 grams red pepper (containing 9 mg of capsaicin) in the form of appetizers before lunch and dinner, as well as 200 milligrams of caffeine in the form of coffee at each meal and one snack or a placebo. The addition of both red pepper and caffeine resulted in a significant decrease in total calories consumed at meal time as well as a significant increase in calories burned. In fact, the red pepper and caffeine group consumed an average of 955 fewer calories than the control group. One important thing to note in this study— palatability (how acceptable a food is to the taste buds) wasn’t measured. Therefore, it is possible that the addition of red pepper and caffeine decreased the desire to eat the food served at each meal and snack.

Sweet Peppers

What if your taste buds shy away from the pungent taste of hot peppers? Try sweet peppers, which contain capsinoids, compounds that also crank up calorie burning as well as the breakdown of white fat. Studies in small rodents and humans show these compounds also decrease body fat. And, there are a few other compounds found in common spices that have chemical structures similar to capsaicin and are therefore expected to act in a similar manner. These include piperine in black and white pepper, gingerols, shogaol, zingerone and 6-paradol in ginger.

The Thermic Effect of Feeding

In addition to adding spices to your food, you can put your digestive system to work to help you burn more calories. Digesting, absorbing and utilizing the nutrients from the food you eat requires energy in the form of calories. The calories burned from these processes are collectively termed the thermic effect of feeding (TEF). And though you burn calories while eating, each macronutrient has a different caloric cost. Digesting fat requires few calories— just 0 to 3 percent of the calories you consume from fat are burned during digestion. And obese people burn considerably fewer calories while digesting fat than lean people. Carbohydrates require a little more energy— approximately five to 10 percent of the calories you consume are burned during digestion. And, protein requires the most calories— approximately 20 to 30 percent of the calories you consume are burned while your body digests and uses the protein you eat. Therefore, replacing some of the fat and carbohydrate in your diet with protein, while keeping your total calorie intake the same, should increase the total number of calories you burn every day due to an increase in TEF.

How much protein should you consume over the course of a day and per meal to maximize TEF while still getting enough total carbohydrate and fat in your diet? Right now there is no clear-cut answer to this question and it likely depends on a number of individual differences between people, including overall weight and body composition goals, total calorie intake (the more you cut calories, the more protein you need to maintain your muscle mass while losing weight), training program, age and many other variables. However, a minimum of 1.2 grams of protein per kilogram bodyweight is a good place to start (that’s approximately 0.55 grams of protein per pound of bodyweight).

Suggested per meal protein guidelines aren’t based on TEF but instead satiety and triggering muscle protein synthesis (tissue growth in muscle). Protein helps you stay full for a longer period of time and therefore, you should eat fewer calories at your next meal and hopefully over the course of an entire day when you ramp up your protein intake (as long as you are eating based on physiological hunger— when your stomach actually tells you it’s time to eat). When protein hits your stomach, it triggers a sequence of actions that sends signals to your brain to tell you that you’ve had enough food. In fact, protein’s role in keeping you full is unique because it has a prolonged effect— keeping you satisfied for hours after you’ve eaten. Plus, it is dose dependent— the more protein you eat, the more full you will feel. So, a general guideline of 30 grams of protein per meal has been suggested.

Keep in mind, though, that you shouldn’t stuff yourself to get to 30 grams if you feel full before you finish your meal. But, do aim for regular meals with sufficient protein intake to curb hunger and increase TEF. And, consider rotating around your plate, eating your non-starchy vegetables first and then diving into your protein. By the time you hit that mound of carbohydrate-rich mashed potatoes, you might be too full to finish them.

Turn Up the Heat!

Activating brown fat may be the next big development in targeted treatments for obesity. In the meantime, while we wait for those treatment options to be developed and thoroughly vetted, consider doing everything you can to trigger your brown fat to burn calories while also increasing the amount of calories you burn during digestion. Light your taste buds on fire by adding hot peppers to your appetizers and then dig into a spicy high-protein meal while sipping on a cup of coffee. By doing this, losing weight may be easier than you once thought. If you need ideas, try out our five-day meal plan and recipes.

FIVE-DAY MEAL PLAN

Click here for the Fat Burning Recipes included in this Meal Plan.

Day 1

Breakfast:
Apple cinnamon oatmeal – Get recipe here.
Glass of skim milk
Caffeinated coffee

Mid-morning snack:
1 piece of fruit

Lunch:
Sautéed bell peppers with sautéed chicken breast over a bed of brown rice
Hot green or black tea

Mid-afternoon snack:
Carrots and celery sticks with roasted red pepper and jalapeno hummus – Get recipe here.

Dinner:
Traditional meatloaf – Get recipe here.
Glass of skim milk

Day 2

Breakfast:
Scrambled eggs with chopped onions and bell peppers
Whole-grain toast with light butter
Caffeinated coffee

Mid-morning snack:
1 piece of fruit

Lunch:
Turkey wrap – whole-wheat wrap with roasted red pepper and jalapeno hummus spread on top and filled with roasted turkey, chopped celery and radishes
Glass of milk

Dinner:
Grilled shrimp coated with Cajun seasoning (make your own from salt, oregano, paprika, red pepper and black pepper or pick up already made seasoning)

Dessert:
1 serving of prepared pudding with crumbled ginger snaps on top

Day 3

Breakfast:
Nonfat or 1% fat cottage cheese
Diced pineapple sprinkled with ginger mixed in
Bowl of oatmeal
Caffeinated coffee

Mid-morning snack:
1 piece of fruit

Lunch:
Large mixed green salad with roasted red pepper vinaigrette
Baked salmon
Whole grain couscous
Glass of skim milk

Dinner:
Crock-Pot salsa chicken – Get recipe here.
Glass of skim milk

Day 4

Breakfast:
Whole-grain toast with jalapeno pepper jelly
Cup or bowl of plain Greek yogurt
Caffeinated coffee

Mid-morning snack:
Sliced apples sprinkled with cinnamon and ginger and microwaved for 1.5 to 2 minutes or until soft

Lunch:
Salmon and asparagus frittata

Dinner:
Steamed vegetables including bell peppers
Coffee-rubbed steak – Get recipe here.
Baked potato with light butter, seasoned with black pepper

Dessert:
Coffee chocolate cupcakes – Get recipe here.

Day 5

Breakfast:
Leftover salmon & asparagus frittata
Caffeinated coffee or tea

Mid-morning snack:
1 piece of fruit

Lunch:
Chicken and bean burrito
Spread hot salsa on a whole grain tortilla and stuff it with:
Shredded rotisserie chicken
Shredded dark green lettuce (any variety)
Black beans
Brown rice
Finely diced jalapeno
Sprinkle black pepper on top and wrap!

Dinner:
White Chicken Chili – Get recipe here.

DOWNLOAD THIS MEAL PLAN

References

Swaminathan R, King RF, Holmfield J et al. Thermic effect of feeding carbohydrate, fat,
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Yoneshiro T, Saito M. Transient receptor potential activated brown fat thermogenesis as a target of food ingredients for obesity management. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 2013;16:625-631.
Whiting S1, Derbyshire EJ2, Tiwari B3.Could capsaicinoids help to support weight management? A systematic review and meta-analysis of energy intake data. Appetite 2014;73:183-8.
Supalkova V, Stavelikova H, Krizkova S et al. Study of Capsaicin Content in Various Parts of Pepper Fruit by Liquid Chromatography with Electrochemical Detection. Acta Chim Slov 2007;54:55-59.
Othman ZAA, Ahmed YBH, Habila MA, Ghafar AA. Determination of Capsaicin and Dihydrocapsaicin in Capsicum Fruit Samples using High Performance Liquid Chromatography. Molecules 2011;16:8919-8929.
Yoshioka M, Doucet E, Drapeau V, Dionne I, Tremblay A. Combined effects of red pepper and caffeine consumption on 24 h energy balance in subjects given free access to foods. Br J Nutr 2001;85(2):203-11.
Stephens M, Ludgate M, Rees DA. Brown fat and obesity: the next big thing? Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 2011;74(6):661-70.
Ma S, Yu H, Zhao Z, Luo Z et al. Activation of the cold-sensing TRPM8 channel triggers UCP1-dependent thermogenesis and prevents obesity. J Mol Cell Biol 2012;4(2):88-96.
Luscombe-Marsh N, Westerterp-Plantega M. Protein-induced satiety: Effects and mechanisms of different proteins. Physiology & Behavior 2008;94:300-307.
Paddon-Jones D, Westman E, Mattes RD, Wolfe RR, Astrup A, Westerterp-Plantenga M. Protein, weight management, and satiety. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;87(5):1558S-1561S.
Belza A, Ritz C, Sørensen MQ, Holst JJ, Rehfeld JF, Astrup A. Contribution of gastroenteropancreatic appetite hormones to protein-induced satiety. Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97:980-9.
Layman, D. Dietary Guidelines should reflect new understandings about adult protein needs. Nutr & Metab 2009;6:12.
Yoshioka M, St-Pierre S, Suzuki M, Tremblay A. Effects of red pepper added to high-fat and high-carbohydrate meals on energy metabolism and substrate utilization in Japanese women. Br J Nutr 1998;80(6):503-10.
Yoshioka M, Doucet E, Drapeau V, Dionne I, Tremblay A. Combined effects of red pepper and caffeine consumption on 24 h energy balance in subjects given free access to foods. Br J Nutr 2001;85(2):203-11.