Not all food is created equal. If your diet is comprised of mostly unnatural and overly processed food, then your body will respond by being sluggish and chubby. But if your diet is filled with whole, natural foods that are rich in protein and vital nutrients, your body will be energized, lean and muscular. Eating the right food makes all the difference – there are even certain foods that can have an even greater impact on your metabolism and your fat burning ability.
If you’re looking to get lean, make sure these seven foods are part of your fat-burning diet plan!
#1 HIGH FIBER CARBOHYDRATES
Carbohydrates are probably the last macronutrient you think about when you are attempting to melt away fat. But complex carbohydrates can help support your fat-burning pathways. Fibrous foods like oatmeal, green veggies, and brown rice are digested super slow by the gut, reducing spikes in blood glucose levels and subsequently reducing insulin levels. When insulin is released, the body switches its focus to just storing energy, instead of burning it off. One 12-week study showed that eating a healthy diet plus a psyllium fiber supplement, caused weight and body fat loss, plus a reduction in insulin response compared to a diet with no added fiber.
But that’s not all fiber can do. Fibrous foods can form complexes with circulating estrogen in the gut, and subsequently package it for removal out of the body, avoiding re-absorption. Why is this important? Well, when estrogen levels are high this can disrupt fat burning and disrupt muscle-building testosterone. The lower your testosterone, the more likely you are to be carrying extra body fat.
Try This: For best results, minimize the amount of starchy carbs in your diet and up your fiber intake to the recommended 25 g per day from non-starchy green vegetables, squashes, sweet potatoes or whole grains.
#2 HOT PEPPERS
You may already be a fan of hot sauce for its ability to shake up your taste buds on your bland and boring diet food, but did you know that saturating your food in hot sauce could up your fat-burning factor?
Hot sauce is made from hot peppers and contains the active ingredient capsaicin, which has been shown to bind to the BAT signaling pathway, causing the release of the number-one fat burning hormone norepinephrine. Norepinephrine binds to beta-receptors, activating the production of cAMP, further stimulating fat oxidation or fat burning. Multiple studies have shown that capsaicinoids from hot peppers are extremely effective for not only stimulating thermogenesis, but also reducing energy intake.
Try This: One study showed that supplementing with a minimum dose of 2 mg of capsaicinoids prior to a meal reduced energy intake by an average of 74 calories! Kick your food up a notch by adding hot chili pepper flakes or hot sauce to your favorite meals, sauces and on top of meats to give your food a metabolic boost.
You probably already know that any protein from meat is highly thermogenic, which means it takes far more energy to burn off and utilize versus other foods of the same caloric value.
But did you know that turkey delivers even more bang for your buck? It’s one of the lowest fat protein sources around, but it also packs a high content of tryptophan. Tryptophan is an amino acid that is needed by the body to produce serotonin, a key neurotransmitter involved in sleep, mood and appetite regulation. Keeping serotonin levels balanced helps keep your appetite in-check.
Clinical studies on overweight individuals who were given 5-HTP were shown to reduce bodyweight, reduce appetite and subsequently food intake in the form of carbohydrates.
Try This: Instead of always eating chicken, reach for the other white meat instead! A 100g serving of turkey you will get about 20g of protein and about 24 mg of tryptophan.
#4 GREEN TEA AND COFFEE
Green tea delivers two active fat-burning components – caffeine and EGCG. Together, these compounds work synergistically to speed metabolic rate and increase 24-hour energy expenditure – which means you will continue to burn calories long after you leave the gym. One study showed that a dose of caffeine along with a 90 mg dose of EGCG, consumed 3 times daily resulted in an extra 80 calories burned per day, without exercise!
Coffee, on the other hand provides an ingredient called Chlorogenic Acid, which has been shown to help reduce insulin and blood glucose spikes following a meal, while also helping glucose up-take into muscles decreasing storage in fat. Caffeine also can enhance metabolism by blocking the phosphodiesterase enzyme – pde from breaking down cAMP or cyclic adenosine monophosphate. By blocking pde, it allows fat burning to remain active for longer!
Try This: Drinking coffee or green team before a meal can also help decrease appetite and increase energy if you are suffering from diet fatigue!
Fish might not be one of your favorite foods to eat, but when it comes to your hunger hormones, you might consider giving this passed over protein a try. Eating more fish, appears to have an effect on the appetite regulating hormone leptin. When Leptin levels are high, hunger is high, when leptin levels are low, hunger is low, metabolism is high and fat burning is active. One study showed that those who ate more fish had leptin levels nearly five times lower than the levels found in those who primarily ate veggies! You don’t need to give up every protein meal for fish, but increasing your fish intake, to a few servings weekly, may help.
In addition to its leptin regulating effect, fish is also a great source of omega-3, an essential fatty acid that can help regulate anabolic hormones including testosterone and insulin. Keeping fat in the diet is essential to your fat burning and your muscle building. It’s been shown that men on higher fat diets carried around less weight and had higher testosterone levels versus those on lower fat diets. Choose fatty fish like salmon or tuna.
#6 RED MEAT
If you want a lean, hard, muscular body, you’ll need plenty of raw protein – and there really isn’t a better source of protein than red meat. Jacked with nutrients like iron, zinc and creatine, red meat could be considered the perfect muscle-building food.
Because the body uses more energy to break down proteins during the digestion process than foods with the same caloric value, research has shown the typical thermic effect of protein is 20 to 35% of the energy we consume.
Aside from its high protein content, red meat also contains conjugated linoleic acid (CLA), which has been reported to decrease body fat, while helping maintain and even increase lean muscle tissue.
Try This: Although you may want to shy away from red meat because of its high fat content, you need some fat in your diet. Cholesterol can help boost testosterone production, which can lead to increases in lean mass and decreases in fat. As long as you are keeping your carb intake in the low-to-moderate range, red meat can be very effective in helping build lean muscle.
#7 WHEY PROTEIN
Whey Protein is one of the top protein choices available because of its convenience, but it offers more than just helping you meet your daily protein needs. Whey protein supports lean mass gains and has also been shown to help burn fat.
Direct comparisons of caloric equivalent high-protein shake versus an isocaloric equivalent drink not only resulted in increased weight loss, but also better overall body composition and significantly less body fat than those using the isocaloric drink. Whey can also have a direct effect on satiety and appetite, making it perfect for in-between meal snacking options.
Try This: Use whey protein on it’s own or add it to smoothies or yogurt. Shoot for 30-40 grams of protein per shake or drink.
Dulloo AG, et al. Green tea and thermogenesis: interactions between catechins-polyphenols, caffeine and sympathetic activity. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000. 24(2): 252-8.
Dulloo AG, et al. Efficacy of a green tea extract rich in catechins polyphenols and caffeine in increasing 24-h energy expenditure and fat oxidation in humans. Am J Clin Nutr. 1999. 70(6): 1040-5.
Frestest JL, et al. A whey-protein supplement increases fat loss and spares lean muscle in obese subjects: a randomized human clinical study. Nutr & Metab. 2008. 5:8.
Ong KW, Hsu A, Tan BK. Chlorogenic acid stimulates glucose transport in skeletal muscle via AMPK activation: a contributor to the beneficial effects of coffee on diabetes. PLoS One. 2012.
Pal S, et al. The effect of a fibre supplement compared to a healthy diet on body composition, lipids, glucose, insulin and other metabolic syndrome risk factors in overweight and obese individuals. Br J Nutr. 2011. 105(1): 90-100.
Whiting S, et al. Could capsaicinoids help to support weight management? A systematic review and meta-analysis of energy intake data. Appetite. 2014. 73: 183-8.