Calories in and Calories out is king, or queen, whichever works for you.

Calories in and Calories out is king, or queen, whichever works for you.

November 14, 20235 min read

Calories in and Calories out is king, or queen, whichever works for you. Regardless, this is actually true.

No matter the situation, generally speaking, if you are struggling to lose weight or change your body composition, we need to change calories in or calories out.

The key thing to understand here is this:

Many other things affect how many calories go out as well as in! Including:



Muscle mass

How much protein, carbs or fat you eat

and the thermic effect of food

That last one right there. That’s the one I want to start with. I think this info will be super helpful to everyone so I hope you’ll hang with me!

There are 2 questions I want to answer here that I have gotten in the past. 

First: What is the thermic effect of food?

Second: What other ways can I increase the TEF? Or better yet, are the claims about these ways actually true?

What Is The Thermic Effect Of Food (TEF)?

Examine.com tells us that some of the food we eat is used to eat some of the food we eat. Hahaha. What they really said is this: 

“Some of the calories in the food you eat are used to digest, absorb, metabolize, and store the remaining food, and some are burned off as heat.” 

In folks who eat a fairly mixed diet, this represents about 10% of the total calories burned each day. This number can vary somewhat depending on age, what you eat, and how often you eat. The number of calories needed to consume and digest a given food can be expressed as a percentage of the calories it provides. 

Fat provides 9 calories per gram, and its TEF is 0–5%. So if a stick of butter has 90g of fat in it, roughly 0-4.5g of it will be used to absorb and digest that butter.

Carbohydrate provides 4 calories per gram, and its TEF is 5–10%.

Protein provides 4 calories per gram, and its TEF is 20–30%.

Hold up……… waittttttttttt. So now we have ANOTHER REASON TO EAT MORE PROTEIN????? Yup! Protein requires 20-30% of the total amount you bring in just to digest it!!! That’s massively different from carbs and fats! Not to mention, we literally burn more fat and gain more muscle, when in a calorie deficit if our protein intake is high! See here to read about that--->> https://examine.com/nutrition/dieting-with-a-side-of-extra-protein/

So the TEF is a real thing and it matters when it comes to weight loss. Again, because calories in and calories out is what dictates whether we gain or lose weight. If we are in a net deficit at the end of 7 days, we lose weight. A net surplus of calories, we gain weight. The TEF can contribute roughly 10% to the “Calories Out” portion. So, it’s worth noting! 

What about the number of times per day I eat? Doesn’t eating 6 times per day help increase the TEF and rev up my metabolism?

No. No it does not. Eating 6 times per day, 3 times per day, 12 times per day, it doesn’t matter. None of this will increase TEF enough to affect overall weight loss. The only way to do that is to be in a calorie deficit. The great news here is that if you monitor your calories, you can eat as many or as few times as you would like and still lose weight. Gaining muscle is somewhat different but mainly, it’s a surplus instead of a deficit.

Can I take fat burners or other supplements to increase TEF?

Nope. No matter what the supplement companies tell you, the TEF of supplements like cambodia garcinia, green tea leaf extract and others, isn’t enough to matter in the long run. But guess what does matter? Calories in and calories out. Interestingly, eating ginger with a breakfast muffin did actually increase the TEF of that food! 2g mixed in warm water. Oh yeah, shocker here….. Whey protein actually did increase TEF as a supplement!

What about comparing eating at night to eating in the morning? Is the TEF higher during the day after a meal?

Yup!!! It sure is! In a study where they compared a group’s TEF after a morning meal and after an evening meal, they burned about 100 cals extra after the morning meal than they did the evening meal! This could add up over time and is significant to note! This lends to the reasoning behind decreasing the size of your meal throughout the day as you will have a higher TEF during the day and a lower TEF in the evening. Again, if you aren’t in a calorie deficit, none of this matters. But, you could potentially get into a deficit more effectively by decreasing meal size throughout the day.

What about carbs? Aren’t they bad? Won’t they lead to me getting fatter regardless of TEF?

Nope! Of course, a protein only meal had a much higher TEF than fat or carbs but, a carb meal had a higher TEF than a fat meal. This was discussed up above somewhat as well. So as always, focus your diet around tons of protein and that will help to set you up for success!

Does my bodyweight affect TEF?

It does. In fact in folks who are obese or insulin resistant, TEF can be blunted quite a bit. This is thought to be due to higher levels of body fat.

What about working out, does it rev my metabolism up or increase TEF?

YESSSSSS!!! No matter if you are older or younger, the more active you are, the higher your TEF!!! This can add up over time and will contribute to weight in the long run.

What about TEF as I age?

Sadly, TEF does in fact decrease with age. Luckily, only about 1% but, these things matter over time so it’s worth considering.

I hope this info has helped you in some way today! If anything, remember the following as it pertains to weight loss and maintenance of weight loss:

  • Protein needs to be at every meal!

  • Regular exercise matters not just in the short term but in the long term as well!

  • Don’t be afraid of any specific nutrients. Just make sure protein and exercise are a regular part of your life and it won’t matter so much.



Coach Joe

blog author image

Breakaway Fitness & Performance

Breakaway Fitness & Performance focuses on strength training, weight loss, and a healthy lifestyle in their blogs.

Back to Blog
Nutrition and strength training in Hampstead
Nutrition and weight loss coaching in Hampstead

Are you Ready to become


Click the Button To Start Your Journey Today!!

  • 15200 Hwy 17 N, Suite E, Hampstead, North Carolina 28443

  • info@bfpnc.com

© 2024 Breakaway Fitness & Performance



© 2024 Breakaway Fitness & Performance