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Most people think that you need to hit the gym for hours at a time and sweat like crazy doing some form of “cardio” to burn calories. Although you will burn some calories this way it’s not actually as much as you think. In fact you may actually burn the same amount of calories eating a large meal as you do performing an hour of cardio.
Every time you eat you need to consume, digest and process this food. This requires energy in the form of calories (there is no other type). The caloric expenditure associated with food digestion and utilization is known as the Thermic Effect of Food. TEF can account for up to 10% of your daily caloric expenditure – yes that’s right 10%. So if you expend 2,500 calories in a day, 250 of those calories are burned just from eating food. For a 120lbs person this is equivalent to about 30 minutes of high intensity cross-training or 60 minutes of moderate cardiovascular training.
Different types of food require different amounts of energy to breakdown and certain foods can be consider High Thermic Foods. Protein can be hard to process and therefore has a larger thermic effect. Fat is not as hard to breakdown and has a low thermic effect.
It is even said that certain foods such as celery and cucumbers have a ‘negative caloric balance” meaning the amount of energy it requires to break them down is greater than the amount of calories they provide . It is also possibly to slightly increase one’s TEF through exercise, albeit minimally.
So the next time you look at your plate, you don’t just have to think about how many calories you are eating. Now you can also think of how many calories you are burning.