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Thermogenic Diet

By Mike Samuels

Thermogenesis is the production of heat within your body. An increase in temperature can boost your body's metabolic rate -- the speed at which you burn calories. When this metabolic increase comes about as a result of your diet, it is known as diet-induced thermogenesis. By changing the way you eat, you may be able to increase thermogenesis, which can in turn boost your rate of calorie burn and aid weight loss.

Impact of Protein

A thermogenic diet should be rich in protein. A study published in a 2004 edition of the journal of "Nutrition and Metabolism" found that, of the three macronutrients -- proteins, fats and carbohydrates -- protein had the biggest impact on dietary-induced thermogenesis. Base each of your meals around a lean protein source, such as tuna, turkey, chicken breast, cottage cheese, tofu, beans or egg whites.

Thermogenic Foods

Certain foods are thought to have a potential effect on thermogenesis. A "European Journal of Nutrition" study published in 2013 showed that adding chili peppers and medium-chain triglycerides -- the type of fat found in coconut oil -- to a meal increased thermogenesis by over 50 percent. The researchers concluded that over time, this could contribute significantly to weight loss. Green tea may have a similar effect, due to the caffeine and catechin-polyphenol content.

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Calorie Counting

According to nutritionist Lyle McDonald, the thermic effect of food, or TEF, increases the more calories you eat. McDonald adds, however, that this increase in thermogenesis can often be overstated. You may, for instance, burn an extra 50 calories by increasing your daily intake from 1,500 to 2,000 -- but you have also increased your net calorie intake by 450. Therefore, it's important your calorie needs match your goals. Cutting calories too low can lead to a drop in thermogenesis, which isn't ideal, but keeping them too high will prevent fat loss or result in weight gain if they're not burned off.

Calories, Fat and Carbs

Above all, a diet that encourages an increase in thermogenesis should be calorie-controlled. The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that for weight maintenance, most women need between 1,600 and 2,400 calories daily, and men need 2,000 to 3,000. According to Dr. Stuart Farrimond of Wiltshire College, fat-based foods only have a small effect on thermogenesis. Therefore, while your diet should contain some healthy fats in the form of oily fish, nuts and seeds, it need not be high in fat. Once you've eaten a protein source and a little fat at each meal, fill the rest of your plate with fruits, vegetables and whole grains and include thermogenic foods where possible.

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