Thermic Effect of Food

The thermic effect of food (TEF) is known as the amount of calories required to metabolize food products (in order to get their calories to the body), and ranges from 1-3% for carbohydrates and fats while it can reach 20% for protein. Some supplements modify TEF values.

This page features 34 unique references to scientific papers.

Research analysis by and verified by the Research Team. Last updated on Apr 29, 2017.

Frequently Asked Questions

Questions and answers regarding Thermic Effect of Food

Q: Do I need to eat six times a day to keep my metabolism high?

A: Eating food six times a day, or very high meal frequency, does not seem to increase the overall metabolic rate more than simply eating three times a day. If such a meal frequency can help you feel better on a diet then it can be useful but it alone won't cause weight loss or prevent weight gain.

Read full answer to "Do I need to eat six times a day to keep my metabolism high?"

Human Effect Matrix

The Human Effect Matrix looks at human studies (it excludes animal and in vitro studies) to tell you what supplements affect thermic effect of food

Grade Level of Evidence
Robust research conducted with repeated double-blind clinical trials
Multiple studies where at least two are double-blind and placebo controlled
Single double-blind study or multiple cohort studies
Uncontrolled or observational studies only
Level of Evidence
? The amount of high quality evidence. The more evidence, the more we can trust the results.
Outcome Magnitude of effect
? The direction and size of the supplement's impact on each outcome. Some supplements can have an increasing effect, others have a decreasing effect, and others have no effect.
Consistency of research results
? Scientific research does not always agree. HIGH or VERY HIGH means that most of the scientific research agrees.
Green Tea Catechins
All comparative evidence is now gathered in our ​Supplement Goals Reference.
The evidence for each separate supplement is still freely available ​here.
Medium-chain triglycerides  

Scientific Support & Reference Citations

Via HEM and FAQ:

  1. Bellisle F, McDevitt R, Prentice AM. Meal frequency and energy balance. Br J Nutr. (1997)
  2. Palmer MA, Capra S, Baines SK. Association between eating frequency, weight, and health. Nutr Rev. (2009)
  3. Leidy HJ, Campbell WW. The effect of eating frequency on appetite control and food intake: brief synopsis of controlled feeding studies. J Nutr. (2011)
  4. Taylor MA, Garrow JS. Compared with nibbling, neither gorging nor a morning fast affect short-term energy balance in obese patients in a chamber calorimeter. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (2001)
  5. Verboeket-van de Venne WP, Westerterp KR. Influence of the feeding frequency on nutrient utilization in man: consequences for energy metabolism. Eur J Clin Nutr. (1991)
  6. Smeets AJ, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Acute effects on metabolism and appetite profile of one meal difference in the lower range of meal frequency. Br J Nutr. (2008)
  7. Cameron JD, Cyr MJ, Doucet E. Increased meal frequency does not promote greater weight loss in subjects who were prescribed an 8-week equi-energetic energy-restricted diet. Br J Nutr. (2010)
  8. Verboeket-van de Venne WP, Westerterp KR. Frequency of feeding, weight reduction and energy metabolism. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (1993)
  9. Munsters MJ, Saris WH. Effects of meal frequency on metabolic profiles and substrate partitioning in lean healthy males. PLoS One. (2012)
  10. Pearcey SM, de Castro JM. Food intake and meal patterns of weight-stable and weight-gaining persons. Am J Clin Nutr. (2002)
  11. Webber J, Macdonald IA. The cardiovascular, metabolic and hormonal changes accompanying acute starvation in men and women. Br J Nutr. (1994)
  12. Mansell PI, Fellows IW, Macdonald IA. Enhanced thermogenic response to epinephrine after 48-h starvation in humans. Am J Physiol. (1990)
  13. Heilbronn LK, et al. Alternate-day fasting in nonobese subjects: effects on body weight, body composition, and energy metabolism. Am J Clin Nutr. (2005)
  14. Zerguini Y, et al. Influence of Ramadan fasting on physiological and performance variables in football players: summary of the F-MARC 2006 Ramadan fasting study. J Sports Sci. (2008)
  15. Chennaoui M, et al. Effects of Ramadan fasting on physical performance and metabolic, hormonal, and inflammatory parameters in middle-distance runners. Appl Physiol Nutr Metab. (2009)
  16. Sadiya A, et al. Effect of Ramadan fasting on metabolic markers, body composition, and dietary intake in Emiratis of Ajman (UAE) with metabolic syndrome. Diabetes Metab Syndr Obes. (2011)
  17. Shariatpanahi ZV, et al. Effect of Ramadan fasting on some indices of insulin resistance and components of the metabolic syndrome in healthy male adults. Br J Nutr. (2008)
  18. Yarahmadi Sh, et al. Metabolic and clinical effects of Ramadan fasting in patients with type II diabetes. J Coll Physicians Surg Pak. (2003)
  19. Bouguerra R, et al. {Metabolic effects of the month of Ramadan fasting on type 2 diabetes}. East Mediterr Health J. (2003)
  20. Food intake patterns and body mass index in observational studies.
  21. Bertéus Forslund H, et al. Meal patterns and obesity in Swedish women-a simple instrument describing usual meal types, frequency and temporal distribution. Eur J Clin Nutr. (2002)
  22. Drummond SE, et al. Evidence that eating frequency is inversely related to body weight status in male, but not female, non-obese adults reporting valid dietary intakes. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (1998)
  23. International Society of Sports Nutrition position stand: meal frequency.
  24. Observational Studies Refuting the Effectiveness of Increased Meal Frequency on Weight loss/Fat loss.
  25. Titan SM, et al. Frequency of eating and concentrations of serum cholesterol in the Norfolk population of the European prospective investigation into cancer (EPIC-Norfolk): cross sectional study. BMJ. (2001)
  26. Howarth NC, et al. Eating patterns and dietary composition in relation to BMI in younger and older adults. Int J Obes (Lond). (2007)
  27. Duval K, et al. Physical activity is a confounding factor of the relation between eating frequency and body composition. Am J Clin Nutr. (2008)
  28. Weinsier RL, et al. Metabolic predictors of obesity. Contribution of resting energy expenditure, thermic effect of food, and fuel utilization to four-year weight gain of post-obese and never-obese women. J Clin Invest. (1995)
  29. Saris WH. Fit, fat and fat free: the metabolic aspects of weight control. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (1998)
  30. Farshchi HR, Taylor MA, Macdonald IA. Decreased thermic effect of food after an irregular compared with a regular meal pattern in healthy lean women. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. (2004)
  31. Farshchi HR, Taylor MA, Macdonald IA. Beneficial metabolic effects of regular meal frequency on dietary thermogenesis, insulin sensitivity, and fasting lipid profiles in healthy obese women. Am J Clin Nutr. (2005)
  32. Yannakoulia M, et al. Association of eating frequency with body fatness in pre- and postmenopausal women. Obesity (Silver Spring). (2007)
  33. Adechian S, et al. Protein feeding pattern, casein feeding or milk soluble protein feeding did not change the evolution of body composition during a short-term weight loss program. Am J Physiol Endocrinol Metab. (2012)
  34. Solomon TP, et al. The effect of feeding frequency on insulin and ghrelin responses in human subjects. Br J Nutr. (2008)