What is the Thermic Effect of Food?

The Thermic Effect of Food is one of the components of Total Daily Energy Expenditure and usually makes up about 10% of your caloric intake.

20-Sep 2022, by Lee Sandwith

What is The Thermic Effect of Food?

The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) is the energy the body uses in the process metabolising and storing food.

TEF is one of the components of your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) and usually makes up about 10% of your caloric intake.

This means that after digestion, only a percentage of the calories contained within the food consumed are available for the body for use for energy or storage.

As an example, if you consume 2,000 kcal in one day, around 200 kcal will be burned just through the process of eating.

This means that when calculating your calories in, you can count this as 1,800 kcal, not 2,000 kcal.

The exact percentage depends on the composition of macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates) contained within food and can be summarised as follows:

  • Fat – 3%
  • Protein – 30%
  • Complex carbs – 10-30%
  • Simple carbs – 3%

As you can see, our bodies use up lots of energy digesting protein and complex carbs and little energy digesting fat and simple carbs.

Choosing foods with a high thermic effect, therefore, can be beneficial when you’re trying to lose weight as they contribute to energy balance and your target calorie deficit.

About the Author

Lee Sandwith holds a Masters Degree in Clinical Nutrition and is a registered nutritionist with the Association for Nutrition. You can book a free 30 minute consultation with Lee here.

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