We can all agree that smoothies are something that everyone loves. Summer, winter, whatever the weather and whatever the reason, smoothies are always a go.
- Need a quick on-the-go breakfast before work because your alarm didn’t go off?
- Looking for a high protein post-workout meal?
- Need to feed your kids a quick and nutrient-dense snack?
- Want a meal that also burns fat?
Then make a smoothie!
The options for smoothies are virtually endless, and depending on what you put in them, they can be incredibly beneficial to your health and fitness goals!
What Are ‘Fat Burning’ Ingredients?
Fat burning foods are more commonly known as thermogenic agents.
Thermogenesis is the process of heat production in an organism, and it’s a natural part of body function.
But what we’re going to hit on today is called diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT), sometimes referred to as the thermic effect of food (TEF).
It is one of the three components that make up daily energy expenditure, along with basal metabolic rate and the energy cost of physical activity 1.
And while diet-induced thermogenesis is present no matter what you eat, some foods can ramp it up better than others.
How Diet-Induced Thermogenesis Works
The energy content of food is one of the key determinants for the extent of diet-induced thermogenesis.
Still, it’s also determined by the protein content of the food, as protein expends the most energy to digest.
Diet-induced thermogenesis happens because of stimulating energy-requiring processes during the post-prandial (after eating) period, such as intestinal absorption of nutrients, the initial steps involved in their metabolism, and nutrient storage 1.
The amount of ATP (energy) required to metabolize and store nutrients differs between foods; thus, we get differing values of DIT.
Here’s the estimated DIT for the three macronutrients:
- Fat: 0-3%
- Carbohydrates: 5-10%
- Protein: 20-30%
As you can see, protein requires the most energy to digest and therefore elicits the most significant effect on calorie burn. And oddly enough, alcohol is up there with protein at 10-30% 1.
While that may seem like enough to treat yourself, it doesn’t permit you to down a bottle of your favorite wine.
We all know there are other negative implications associated with excessive alcohol intake.
The Best Fat Burning Ingredients to Add to Your Next Smoothie
On average, DIT accounts for about 10% of total energy expenditure 2, so by adding any combination of these five fat burning ingredients to your smoothie, why not try to push past that 10%?
You may or may not be a fan of turmeric, but it can add a lovely earthiness to your smoothies, offer a load of benefits (it seems like turmeric is good for just about everything), and may shed fat in the process!
There’s a lot of research available showing that curcumin, the active component of turmeric, is an effective anti-obesity agent because of its direct interaction with adipocytes (fat cells), pancreatic cells, liver cells, macrophages, and muscle cells 3.
It may also interact directly with white adipose tissue, thereby suppressing inflammation, inducing adiponectin expression (mobilizes fat cells), and influence glycemic control and the breakdown of fatty acids 4, 5.
Not a huge fan of the flavour? Try adding just one teaspoon!
2. MCT Oil
While all the research says fats have minimal effect on DIT, MCT is the odd one out.
MCT oil sits in its own category due to its high concentration of medium-chain triglycerides, which are metabolized differently than other fats.
Because MCTs are shorter in length, they’re rapidly metabolized and absorbed into the bloodstream for travel directly to the liver where they are then converted into energy or ketones. Unlike other fats, they completely bypass the GI tract.
Research also shows that C8 and C10 carbons—the only types of MCTs in Performance Lab MCT–may help to boost fat burn. Just 1-2 tablespoons (15-30g) daily can enhance daily energy expenditure 6, 7.
Note: start slow because too much MCT at once can have a laxative effect!
3. Coffee or Green Tea
Tired of nut milks or water for your smoothie base? Kick it up a gear or two with coffee or green tea!
Caffeine-containing compounds like coffee and green or black tea are both great thermogenic agents that help to boost metabolic rate and burn fat.
Studies show that just 100mg of caffeine can boost resting metabolic rate by 3-4% 8, but it also appears to suppress appetite 9, meaning it has a double-duty: increase metabolism and decrease caloric intake.
Green tea, on the other hand, contains several polyphenolic compounds, including the most biologically active one, epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG), that are responsible for many of its benefits.
The catechins in green tea may stimulate thermogenesis and fat oxidation by inhibiting the COMT enzyme that degrades norepinephrine. In doing so, there is a resulting increase in energy expenditure and fat oxidation 9.
When it comes to maximizing calorie and fat burn, protein is the gold standard.
Not only does it rarely contribute to energy production (your body will preferentially use glucose and lipids before tapping into amino acid stores), but it also takes the most energy to metabolize.
The main contributor to protein’s DIT has to do with satiety. Studies have shown increased satiety in diets containing high protein compared with high fat, as well as substantially increased thermogenesis on a high-protein/low-fat diet versus a high-carb/low-fat diet 10.
This suggests that the added energy-cost associated with high-protein diets may help to explain why high-protein diets are so effective for weight loss.
But when it comes to adding protein to your smoothies, opt for something like Performance Lab SPORT Protein.
Derived from organic brown rice protein containing natural enzymes, it’s one of the cleanest, best-tasting, and most effective protein powders on the market.
5. Sweet Potato
You’re probably thinking… “who on earth puts sweet potato in a smoothie?!”
But listen here, it’s actually delicious and gives your smoothies a massive nutritional bang for their buck. It’s great for putting in a touch of sweetness and making your smoothie thick and creamy, but as it stands, it may also be useful for helping to mobilize fat.
Sweet potatoes are loaded with fibre, beta-carotene, vitamin B6, and manganese, all of which contribute to its anti-inflammatory properties, but there’s also research to suggest that sweet potatoes may reduce insulin resistance, as well as fasting plasma glucose and boost levels of the hormone adiponectin, which serves to mobilize fat in the body to be burned for fuel 11.
Don’t knock it before you try it—we promise it’s good!
Maximize Your Smoothies
Whether you’re making a smoothie as a sub for a meal or have a specific goal in mind, being particular about the ingredients you use in your smoothies and not loading them up with high-sugar fruit can help to boost energy, increase metabolic rate, and get you on the path to successful fat loss for good!
- KR Westerterp. Diet induced thermogenesis. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2004 Aug; 1(1): 5.
- L Tappy. Thermic effect of food and sympathetic nervous system activity in humans. Reprod Nutr Dev. 1996; 36(4): 391-397.
- BB Aggarwal. Targeting inflammation-induced obesity and metabolic diseases by curcumin and other nutraceuticals. Annu Rev Nutr. 2010; 30: 173-199.
- PG Bradford. Curcumin and obesity. Biofactors. 2013 Jan-Feb; 39(1): 78-87.
- AM Gonzales, RA Orlando. Curcumin and resveratrol inhibit nuclear factor-kappaB-mediated cytokine expression in adipocytes. Nutrition & Metabolism. 2008 Jun; 5(17).
- AG Dulloo, M Fathi, N Mensi, L Girardier. Twenty-four-hour energy expenditure and urinary catecholamines of humans consuming low-to-moderate amounts of medium-chain triglycerides: a dose-response study in a human respiratory chamber. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1996 Mar; 50(3): 152-158.
- MP St-Onge, R Ross, WD Parsons, PJ Jones. Medium-chain triglycerides increase energy expenditure and decrease adiposity in overweight men. Obes Res. 2003 Mar; 11(3): 395-402.
- AG Dulloo, CA Geissler, T Horton, A Collins, DS Miller. Normal caffeine consumption: influence on thermogenesis and daily energy expenditure in lean and postobese human volunteers. Am J Clin Nutr. 1989; 49(1): 44-50.
- K Diepvens, KR Westerterp, MS Westerterp-Plantenga. Obesity and thermogenesis related to the consumption of caffeine, ephedrine, capsaicin, and green tea. Am J Physiol Regul Integr Comp Physiol. 2007; 292(1): R77-R85.
- CS Johnston, CS Day, PD Swan. Post-prandial thermogenesis is increased 100% on a high-protein, low-fat diet versus a high-carbohydrate, low-fat diet in healthy, young women. J Am Coll Nutr. 2002; 21(1): 55-61.
- CK Shih, CM Chen, TJ Hsiao, CW Liu, SC Li. White Sweet Potato as Meal Replacement for Overweight White-Collar Workers: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Nutrients. 2019; 11(1): 165.