As the holy grail of fitness goals, achieving washboard abs can feel like an unattainable dream, alongside Jennifer Aniston’s hair and Victoria Beckham’s husband.
But while the popular answer used to be countless crunches and the consumption of a calorie-restricted diet, the reality couldn’t be more different. Although adopting the less is more approach may seem logical, to see long-lasting results, we actually need to be eating more – more fat-burning foods that will not only fill our bodies with the nutrients they need but give us the flat stomachs we’ve always wanted.
Foods that burn fat might sound like something straight from Heston Blumenthal’s lab but the truth is we don’t need our science books to reap the benefits. “Thermogenesis is quite simply the process of heat production within the mitochondria (the energy factory) of the body. The heat it produces torches energy (calories and fat),” says naturopath Louise Westera (gleneagles.com). “The more specific term of dietary-induced thermogenesis is also known as the thermic effect of food (TEF). This refers to the amount of energy used above our basal metabolic rate (BMR) as a result of digesting and absorbing food, storing nutrients and for the disposal of waste products. It is an important part of our metabolism and may contribute to supporting optimal body weight.” OK, so how can this help us reach our goal weight? When thermogenesis takes place, the cells are being told to turn energy into heat and some of the calories that we consume are automatically being burned off just by raising our body temperature, diverting them from being turned into stored fat.
it work? There are three ways thermogenesis can trim your waist and they depend on which foods you consume. “Certain ingredients can trigger a thermogenic reaction in the body to increase your metabolism. For example, the catechins found in green tea activate fat-metabolising enzymes and as a result support an increase in fat burning,” Louise says. “Secondly, the capsaicin component can act as a trigger to initiate the fight or flight response in the body. The hormones produced in this chain of events result in an increased heart rate and breathing becomes faster and harder.
While you’re hardly going to miss those signs, you may not know that as a result of this process the body shifts fat and glucose into the blood for your muscles to use. And lastly, simply using energy during the breakdown of digestion, absorption, storage and elimination of certain foods burns calories without you knowing. For example, if you ate a meal of 400 calories then between 20 and 40 of those calories are going to be burned during the process of digestion. Over the course of a day of consuming 1,500 to 2,000 calories, approximately 100-200 of these are going to be used to process that food through the body and turn it into energy.” So, get chomping ladies (but perhaps go easy on the chilli)!
Will it give me tum?
In short, yes! Although a thermogenic-only diet may not dramatically change your body shape, it does have a knock-on effect to help you shed the pounds. “We shouldn’t expect miracles, but adopting a phytonutrient-dense diet designed to support blood sugar regulation and satiety is going to give you great results.
This would usually include high quality protein and plantbased foods that have lower levels of calories accompanied by natural herbs and spices that support a variety of metabolic processes,” Louise advises.
Nutritionist Vidhi Patel (gold-collagen.com) agrees that thermogenic food should be part of a wider nutritional picture. “We must eat a variety of foods on a daily basis to actually extract the macro and micro nutrients for our body to be healthy and survive at optimum functional levels. However, one must consume at least three types of thermogenic food every day to see the best results. Our bodies need a combination of three macronutrients daily: protein (thermogenic), healthy fats and carbohydrates.
You can expect to see the changes in three to four weeks time, provided you also get some physical exercise with it.” If you’re expecting to see results overnight, think again!
Like all regimes, introducing thermogenic foods into your diet takes time for your body to adjust. “Once your body gets into the routine of having a healthy and faster, more efficient digestion, it will naturally also aid the process of healthy bowel movements and in turn a naturally flat stomach region is obtained,” Vidhi tells us.
Your fatshredding shopping list
The caffeine and polyphenols in green tea have been shown to boost thermogenesis
We love… Organic Jade Sword Green Tea, £5.60 jingtea.com
The capsaicin in chilli stimulates one of the sensory neuron receptors, which increases your body temperature and burns calories
Garlic contains allicin which is known to reduce unhealthy fats in the body
Curcumin in turmeric can increase capsaicin receptors and thermogenesis rates
This spice boosts metabolism and energy levels thanks to its high iron content
A 300-calorie chicken breast requires around 90 calories to break it down
Not only rich in vitamin C, they’re also good at diluting the fat deposits in your body
Wild salmon’s omega 3s encourage the body’s production of leptin (a component of the body’s natural weight control process)
Healthy fats have been shown to inhibit fat deposition through increased thermogenesis
Try… Pukka’s Organic Virgin Coconut Oil, £7.95 pukkaherbs.com