The thermic effect of food is a reference to the increase in metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories) that occurs after ingestion of food. When you eat food, your body must expend some energy (calories) to digest, absorb, and store the nutrients in the food you've eaten. Therefore, as a result of the thermic effect of food, by consuming calories you actually increase the rate at which your body burns calories.
Understand that there are no hard-and-fast values for the thermic effect of the different macronutrients, because research shows slightly different results from study to study. Here are some generally accepted parameters:
- Protein: 20-35% of calories burned through processing
- Carbohydrates: 5-15% of calories burned through processing
- Fats: 0-5% of calories burned through processing
For example, if you eat 200 calories worth of protein, your body will use between 40 and 70 of them in digestion. The most common estimate for the total thermic effect of food is around 10% of your total caloric intake, but as your protein intake increases so does this number.
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