Calculating the Energy-Cost of Food Part 1 - Why Diet Manipulation is an Effective Intervention for Weight-Loss
by Dr. Matthew Chircop
Many people would be familiar with the following graph (see below). But how can you estimate your current energy-cost of nutrient digestion and absorption, and how does changes in your diet change this?
Well, it turns out that the thermic effect of food (TEF) is maximal within 1 hour after eating a meal, and remains elevated for anywhere from 3-12 hours. Part of the effect relates to the energy-cost of digestion and absorption, and another part of this relates to decreases in the energy efficiency (a process which is stimulated to different extents by different macronutrients). Following a meal, the magnitude of the increase in energy expenditure is, on average, somewhere between 10% and 30% of the food energy ingested. E.g. if you eat 1000 calories in a meal, then TEF will be between 100 and 300 calories. That is comparable to the calories burned by a whole day's worth of physical activity.
What influences the TEF, apart from how many calories are ingested?
Diet can modify the TEF. For example, a meal high in protein can generate a TEF of 30%. It is possible that fibrous vegetables can generate a TEF of 20%. Fat and processed carbohydrates have a relatively low thermic effect (4%). This links in with the observation that overweight and obese people tend to have relatively low TEF. A diet high in processed food, which is easier to digest (and high in fat and sugar), reduces TEF. There is, therefore, a greater risk of weight gain. In conjunction with a high overall energy intake and relatively low activity-related thermogenesis, a low TEF is a potent contributing factor in the development of obesity.
Interestingly, endurance training tends to reduce the TEF in the long-term, but exercise soon after a meal (commencing about 30 minutes after completing a meal) can double the TEF of the meal. So there is some merit to the idea of going for a walk soon after a meal.
Contact us if you would like to learn more about our meal plans to help your lose those pesky last few kilos.
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