Physiqonomics Weekly #2: There are no magical fat-burning foods or nutrients

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30 April 2020 | by Aadam


It’s Thursday, which means I’m up in your inbox for another edition of Physiqonomics Weekly.

Every week I drop some knowledge on your face and then up and leave like every bad one night stand you’ve ever had.


Let’s get to it, shall we?


1) How do I get off keto diet safely so I can start building muscle? Been on for 6 months, lost 30 pounds, down to 140lbs, but now I want muscle which means I need more carbs. How can I make this transition without gaining fat back?

You won’t gain the fat back as long as you’re controlling calories and accounting for any metabolic adaptation that might have occurred.

Put another way, as long as you don’t go from eating in a deficit right back to eating the calories you were before starting the diet–fat gain is a non-issue.

The issue you might run into is low blood sugar if you introduce carbs back in to the diet too quickly. (Due to the insulin resistance caused by being in ketosis for half a year.)

So here’s what I recommend you do.

  • First, work out your new maintenance intake by multiplying your body weight by 14 (if female) or 16 (if male) and then knocking off 10% from this number. The 10% will account for any potential metabolic adaptation that might have occurred so you don’t overshoot calories.
  • Now that you know what your maintenance intake is, decide on how many carbs you want to eat when you’re at maintenance. There is no right or wrong answer. This will simply be a matter of preference.
  • Next, take a week to increase your carb intake while reducing fat intake until carbs are at your predetermined intake, keeping protein intake as is.
  • Finally, divide your maintenance carb intake by seven to get the number of carbs you should add back to your diet every day.
Here’s a hypothetical example.

You end the ketogenic diet on 1400kcal/140g protein/30g carbs/80g fat.

After working out your maintenance calories with the 10% reduction and deciding on a maintenance carb intake, you decide your maintenance diet will be: 1900kcal/140g protein/200g carbs/60g fat.

Divide 200 (your maintenance carb intake) by seven:

200 (grams of carbs) / 7 (the number of days in a week) = ~30g carb increase per day.

Then just add 30g to your diet every day while dropping dietary fat until your macros and calories end up at the predetermined amount above (1900kcal/140g protein/200g carbs/60g fat).


In other news, there are no magical ‘fat-burning’ foods or nutrients.

A recent review paper by Bo S et al. (2020) looked at a number of so-called weight loss foods and nutrients. You know, the ones claimed to “boost your metabolism” and “torch the stubborn adipose right off your body.”

The list included: apple cider vinegar, chilli peppers, cocoa and dark chocolate, guarana, cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, green tea, green coffee extract, broccoli, yerba mate, bitter orange extract, garcinia cambogia, spirulina, and nuts.

The researchers concluding:

We found that available scientific evidence on these topics is scarce, and that the limited number of available studies often have poor methodological quality. Only a few foods show beneficial effects on metabolism and energy expenditure.

So what were the foods/nutrients that showed a benefit?

1) Green tea

Green tea contains caffeine, a thermogenic, and a compound called EGCG. Don’t worry about what it stands for, it doesn’t matter. Also, I can’t spell it and I’m not even going to try.

As I was saying, research has found consuming caffeine in conjunction with EGCG can raise metabolism by ~4% (Hursel R et al., 2011). Though, it’s important to mention that a) this doesn’t translate to body fat loss, b) you need to drink a lot of green tea to benefit (4-5+ cups/day), and c) like coffee, the effect on metabolism wears off the more caffeine tolerant you become.

All in all, There might be a small benefit to green tea but it will dissapear once your body gets used to the caffeine. Regardless, it’s not going to make a difference if your diet isn’t in order.

2) Chilli pepper (capsaicin)

Capsaicin is what gives chilli peppers their kick. Its mechanism is similar to caffeine in that it releases adrenaline leading to an increase in metabolic rate and causing the body to break down stored fat and using it for energy.

One 2012 review (Whiting S et al.) found consumption of capsaicin increased metabolic rate by ~50kcal/day. Though, other studies found no effect. Even so, like caffeine, these effects diminish the more spice-tolerant you become.

So if you want to burn your mouth off and spend the day sat on the toilet shooting fireballs out your ass for a miniscule increase in metabolic rate, go for it.

3) Nuts

Nuts are an interesting one. They’re calorie-dense so you’d think they’d lead to weight gain. Interestingly, the opposite happens.

Flores-Mateo G et al. reviewed 36 studies and found nut intake didn’t lead to an increase in body weight or waist measurements.

Another study by Sabaté J et al. investigated whether walnut consumption lead to weight gain when nuts were added to the subjects’ diets with no other changes made. Despite the walnut group consuming ~133 more calories than the control group, there was no difference in weight gain.

No it’s not magic, and it certainly doesn’t mean “calories in calories out” is a myth.

The reason is due to the structure and high fiber content of nuts which limits the amount calories ‘available’ to the body.

The USDA conducted three studies to evaluate the difference in the listed calorie content versus the actual calorie content of three different nuts–almonds, walnuts, and pistachios. (Baer et al. 2012, Novotny et al. 2012; Baer et al. 2016)

They found the calories ‘available’ to the body after digestion was 32% less than listed for almonds; 21% less than listed for walnuts; and 5% less than listed for pistachios.

Meaning, if you consumed 300 calories of almonds, your body would only absorb 204 of those calories; 96 of those calories being lost in the digestion process.

But that’s not the only way nuts can aid in weight loss. Other studies have found nuts increase satiety and feelings of fullness while reducing the desire to eat. (Kirkmeyer SV, Mattes RD. 2000; Mori AM et al. 2011; Tan SY, Mattes RD. 2013)

To be clear, this doesn’t mean you can binge on nuts all day because “Aadam said.” Nuts are calorically dense and if you’re not paying attention to how much you’re eating, you can very easily overeat calories. And if doing so puts you into a consistent surplus, you will gain fat.

There aren’t any ‘magical’ foods or nutrients that will increase fat loss, but there are foods more conducive to supporting your fat loss efforts–notably, whole, minimally processed, nutrient-rich foods. The foods you already know you should be eating more of.


It’s Not as Simple as Calories in Calories out but Calories Still Count. Here’s Why.

One of the arguments I constantly see on the internet is “calories in, calories out” is way too simple to explain weight gain/loss. Some people even going as far as to claim it’s a myth.

This article was a response to those people. I went deep into what a calorie actually is, why calorie math is really complicated, and why, even so, calories are still what matter most.

Read the article

That’s all from me today, speak to you next week.

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