The term 'fat burning' is thrown around quite a lot these days; fat burning foods, fat burning supplements, fat burning workouts.
Brands and magazines like to throw 'fat burning' in front of something to try to sell products and grab people's attention.
Unfortunately, the way the term 'fat burning' is used in this context is grossly misleading.
I want to rid people of the misconception they have around this term, to help prevent them from focusing on the wrong things and ultimately help them achieve their body composition goals.
I can totally understand why people are drawn to the term 'fat burning' though.
I mean, if you introduce fat burning foods into your diet, it makes sense that they must help you lose weight, right?
Well, no, unfortunately, sorry to burst your bubble, but it doesn't work like that.
Fat burning and losing body fat aren't the same thing. You'd think they were, but they're not.
A little bit about how the human body works (bare with me, I'll try to keep it simple)
Your body is in a constant state of burning fuel for energy.
Even when you're sleeping or just sat at your desk, as well as during activity/exercise, you're burning fuel for energy.
For the most part, your body gets energy from two sources: fat and carbohydrate.
It uses both at the same time, just in varying ratios, depending on what you're doing at the time. You can read more about this here.
So, you could say that your body is burning fat constantly. Just the amount varies and depends on a whole host of things.
You're also storing fat constantly. (Don't panic, this is normal). Again, the amount varies.
Whether you're putting on weight (fat), or losing it, will come down to fat balance over the course of a day or week.
(Fat balance = fat burned vs fat stored.)
Which is ultimately determined by calorie balance.
(Calorie balance = calories in vs calories out.)
Fat Burning Foods
You often see lists of 'fat burning foods' in health magazines, implying that eating these foods will help you burn fat, which presumably will lead to body fat loss.
However, this is grossly misleading.
It's disappointing that many established magazines give out such misleading information.
There's no wonder so many are confused when it comes to fitness and nutrition.
Let's look at one example...
Green tea is commonly on these lists for its 'fat burning' and 'metabolism boosting' effects.
While it might be true that green tea can increase your metabolism and help you burn more fat, it's by such a minuscule amount that it makes zero real world difference.
Green tea aside, 'fat burning foods' contain calories. So eating them provides energy, (fuel), to your body.
For a food to have a true, meaningful fat burning effect, they would need to;
a) use more calories to digest than they contain
b) Somehow make you expend more energy than they contain, by increasing your activity.
In reality, these things just don't happen.
And before people bring up the whole, 'you burn more calories digesting celery than it contains' argument; no you don't, actually.
It's a common held belief, but it's just not true. There's zero scientific evidence to support it.
Viewed with the understanding of energy balance, (calories in vs calories out), the concept of fat burning foods just seems a bit silly.
But without that understanding, I can see how it's easy to get swept up by what you see online and in magazines.
You believe what you want to believe, to a certain extent.
I wish there were fat burning foods too, but they're just not a thing.
So why am I telling you this?
Well, it's pretty common for people to spin their wheels focusing on things that don't matter.
It's a common occurrence, when I start working with someone to help them get in shape, to find that they're worrying about the wrong things.
They're focusing on the tiny details that don't really have much of an impact on their results, instead of getting the basics right.
Unfortunately, the basics aren't that interesting and don't make great headlines. But getting the basics right; getting your calorie intake in line with your goal, eating mostly healthy foods, exercising regularly etc, contribute 90%+ of your results.
And helping people get results is what I really care about.
So make sure you've got the basics covered before worrying about the tiny details that don't really matter. Or in the case of fat burning foods, aren't relevant at all.
You can read the full, original version of this article here http://www.samkwhitaker.com/fat-burning-foods/
Take home points
- Fat burning foods don't actually exist
- Fat burning and losing body fat aren't the same thing
- Whether you're putting on weight (fat) or losing it, will come down to fat balance, which is ultimately dictated by calorie balance.
- For a food to have a true, meaningful fat burning effect, they would need to a) use more calories to digest than they contain or b) Somehow make you expend more energy than they contain, by increasing your activity. And in reality, these things just don't happen.
- Don't think that you'll magically start losing fat if you incorporate 'fat burning foods' into your diet.
- Getting the basics right will get you 90%+ of your results. So don't focus on the tiny, irrelevant details.
If you've any questions, need help with anything or want to find out a bit more about me just head over to my website.