Winter is typically a time where we naturally want to hibernate. We tend to go for carbs and warmer foods because it is our body’s way of telling us we need to stay warm during the cold months. Even though it has been a warm as warm as 75 degrees here in Charlotte this past December, it is literally in our DNA to consume more calories during this time of the year. Some studies suggest that we can consume up to an extra 200 calories a day during the colder months (blame our primal instincts for that one). The holidays also don’t help when your Aunt Sally always brings your favorite pie and your company’s Christmas party has a buffet of as I like to call them “little nasties.” There is more opportunity to graze on foods that don’t satiate us which of course lead to wanting to eat more.

Balance is important and I fully believe in eating pumpkin pie for breakfast after Thanksgiving but the endless parties and leftovers can leave us and our metabolism feeling sluggish. Thermogenic foods create heat in the body which requires more energy from our bodies during the digestion process. Your body mainly burns calories through physical activity during the day however thermogenesis is responsible for about 10 percent of your daily caloric burn. Consuming foods that have a higher thermogenic effect can significantly improve feelings of satiety and increase natural energy. For example if you were to eat a 300 calorie boneless skinless chicken breast, roughly 100 of them will be burned during the digestion process.

What exactly does that look like? Here’s a chart for those who like science and visuals explaining in greater detail how your meals help to burn calories over a 24 hour period of time.

Starting with breakfast at 9am, you can see how diet induced thermogenesis starts to kick in. This is why eating breakfast is important for stoking up your metabolism. After breakfast your metabolism is fired up for the day and continues to burn after every meal and can even continue burning throughout the night while you sleep. This also depends on the time you ate dinner and the macronutrient balance of what you had. Here are some of the best foods to kick start diet induced thermogenesis

Jalapeños

Jalapeños are a great spicy metabolism booster. Jalapeños contain capsicum which produces a thermogenic effect in the body. Capsaicin activates the sympathetic nervous system which increases energy levels and can aid in decreasing body fat. Studies show that capsicum can increase fat oxidation up to 42%. If you are feeling brave you can add them into dishes raw, or cooked for an extra kick.

Protein

Protein is generally harder to digest than fats and carbohydrates but it is the most thermogenic because it requires more energy to digest. It is no secret that consuming high amounts of protein is a great way to lean out. Athletes and bodybuilders have been doing this for years and there is a reason why, because it really works. Eating more protein throughout the day will not only spike your metabolism but it will provide your body with the proper nutrients it needs to repair itself. Consuming a high protein meal will leave you feeling satisfied for longer periods of time while keeping you lean. If you are a vegetarian don’t panic, there are plenty of high protein based plant sources available that will keep your metabolism stoked.

Matcha

There is a million reasons why I love matcha and this is just one of them. If you haven’t jumped on the matcha train yet, you need to get on it. Green tea is also fantastic for thermogenesis but drinking one cup of matcha is the antioxidant equivalent of drinking ten cups of green tea. Matcha is grown in shady areas to increase the chlorophyll content, the leaves are then harvested, dried, and stoneground into a fine power vs loose leaf which comes in tea bags.  Matcha reigns supreme as an antioxidant filled and fat burning powerhouse. Studies show that matcha can improve your resting metabolic rate by 25%. You can purchase matcha at most health food stores and be sure to buy organic if you can. When preparing your matcha don’t pour boiling hot water over it as it can taste grassy and actually burn it. Let the water sit for 3-5 minutes before mixing your matcha.

 

Garlic

Good news for garlic lovers, garlic has fat-burning properties. Garlic has been used for centuries as a medicinal plant by many different countries all over the world. It is known for its natural antibiotic, anticancer, blood sugar regulator, and natural thermogenic properties. Studies show that garlic supplementation along with exercise is extremely effective in burning visceral fat (the bad brown fat that forms around your organs). If you don’t already put garlic in everything now is the time. Using raw garlic is always the best option for the most potency. You can also use powdered garlic if you don’t have raw or minced garlic at home. You can even straight up eat the raw cloves if you are feeling brave. If you are eating or cooking with raw garlic it is best to let the crushed or cut garlic sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the compounds to become fully activated.