Advanced warning: people who claim to be superior human beings because they eat “clean” may or may not feel butthurt after reading this article. Sory for yor lots.
The term “fat burning food” comes up waaay too much. So much so, that I feel people don’t even understand what they’re talking about. What exactly is a fat burning food? Is there a magic concoction of food that you can digest and absorb that will cause fat to burn off your body like the red hot sun on ice? I’m going to go over a few aspects of why the term “fat burning food” (FBF) should be thrown into a pit of hyenas and mercilessly destroyed for all eternity.
If It Fits Your Macros
First thing first, I don’t know where this term originated from but I can make an educated guess: marketing from a product or guru. Using the term FBF is much more sexy than saying “food that may contribute to fat loss when in a calorie deficit.” Yet that’s the plain truth to it. There are plenty of books on miracle foods and all that kind of BS out there that’s its hard to keep track of them anymore. It’s a marketing scheme to sell, perpetrated by salesman who have the ethical makeup of a certain Enron CEO.
Let’s go over the characteristics of fat burning foods…
All I hear is crickets.
FBF takes the concept of calories and throws them out of the window. ANY food can be eaten as part of a fat loss diet. I’ve eaten chocolate, cake, candy, baked goods, ice cream and a boatload of other crap when I cut 35 pounds (on a weekly basis). I have clients who eat junk food on a weekly basis while cutting. Does this mean these foods are FBFs? I mean technically, they’re burning fat and consuming junk food. This is merely a correlation, and as we know correlation doesn’t equal causation.
Let’s take a look at some fat burning foods portrayed so well by the media:
- This teacher lost 37 pounds in 90 days eating only Mcdonalds.
- In 2010, this dude ate only potatoes for 60 days. He lost 21 pounds and decreased his total cholesterol (doesn’t mention LDL and HDL specifics).
- Another guy lost 20 pounds in a month eating only pizza.
- How about the Nutrition Professor who consumed: Twinkies. Nutty bars. Powdered donuts, Hostess and Little Debbie snacks, Doritos chips, sugary cereals and Oreos, too. He lost 27 pounds in 10 weeks. It is worthy to note that he also ate some other lower calorie foods which contained protein, and some vitamins and minerals.
- Then there is a father who eats McDonalds everyday, lost 100 pounds, and now does Crossfit, rock climbing, snowboarding and is currently training for an Ironman.
Would anyone think these diets contain FBF’s? No, these foods don’t exactly provide you with the sustenance to survive for an extended period of time. They’re empty calories, the people eating them ate less calories than they needed on a daily basis, ergo they lost weight. Any food can be a FBF if they’re part of a diet that is in a caloric deficit.
Plane and simple.
This isn’t to say that junk food and fast food should make the bulk of anyones fat loss diet. Sure you would be getting calories in, but quality still matters when it comes to health. Pizza and McShits doesn’t contain foods that are high in vitamins and nutrients. Due to this, a diet containing only these foods probably wouldn’t actually be healthy despite the fact that you can lose weight. By healthy, I am referring to a diet which would cause fat loss and improved biomarkers of health (increased HDL, decreased LDL, decreased tryglycerides, decreased fasting insulin etc.).
What other issues can jumping on the FBF train, cause. How about unhealthy eating habits, such as fearing foods that one subjectively considers to be a “fat causing food”? Any coach who consults with weight loss clients realizes that consuming less calories isn’t easy. There is a large psychological portion to dieting. This is something that lean people tend to forget when judging obese people, but I digress. Eating junk food lights up the nucleus accumbens (the brain’s pleasure centre), making us happy. Why should someone completely eliminate a food, which makes them happy?
Simple answer: they shouldn’t.
There are so many foods these days that so called experts are telling you to stay away from. I just read a great book by my friend Mike Howard where he mentioned how there are diets that completely contradict each other. Many of these new books are coming out claiming that they have a revolutionary method to burn fat, yet the obesity rate has yet be to decline, or even dwindle. One diet says protein is evil (The China Study) another says to eat protein but limit everything fun (Paleo), who can you trust?
I feel that the best way for individuals to burn fat is not to create a negative image of food, but to accept some moderation in their life. You can’t go wrong with eating meat, poultry and seafood, as well fruits and veggies, and some wheat products, and legumes. Try and eat foods that are whole (that doesn’t come in a package with an ingredients list that may as well be the same length as War and Peace and in another language), processed foods should be eaten sparingly (but still eaten if needed). Basically all fad diets have the guidelines above, but want to sell you shit, so they come up with a food group that is “unhealthy” and write a book about it causing even more confusion in the lay population.
Some individuals are fine not eating junk food for long periods of time, and that’s ok too. Most people need a break every now and then to let themselves go, and eat what their heart desires. This can be healthy for your hormones as well as your psyche. Having a refeed (usually containing higher calories, carbohydrates, junk food, or some combination of the three) can kickstart fat loss plateaus. Refeeds can help elevate leptin levels, which is a good thing (unless you are resistant) for fat loss.
Some people seemingly turn into a famished and angrier version Jabba The Hutt while dieting. They are straight up ornery because they cannot wait to eat something that they want. Their diet eats them up inside causing them to feel uneasy when they’re around family and friends who have two servings of desert when they won’t even allow themselves one. Some people completely limit their social life so that they aren’t tempted to go off their diet. These things are unacceptable to me, and they should be to you too. You don’t need to give up foods that you love in order to get your goals and remain healthy.
The misdirection from all these gurus and their sheep really bothers me. People become close-minded, and narrow in their vision. They listen to their guru, and accept his word as god. You will notice that I cite my resources. I do this to encourage the reader to go out and do their own research. If you don’t agree with me that’s fine. Perhaps I have made a mistake along the way and you have evidence to help change my mind. I have no issues with admitting I’m wrong or that I change my mind over time as new research comes out. What I will not do is follow advice of someone blindly, with no actual evidence. I encourage everyone to make informed decisions, don’t be duped by someone who claims they know everything and isn’t open to new ideas.