Last updated:

25 July 2023

Some “experts” believe you can eat your way into a calorie deficit with this list of special foods.

are negative calorie foods real

Reading time:

3 min read

Social media fitness gurus are currently telling people they can eat their way into a calorie deficit using so-called negative calorie foods.

Sounds crazy, doesn’t it?!

So what the heck is a negative calorie food, you ask?

Well, their theory revolves around the thermic effect of food. This refers to the amount of energy your body uses to break down the food you eat, and a so-called negative calorie food is is said to contain fewer calories than is required to digest it (i.e. if a carrot stick contains 5 calories but the body expends 15 calories breaking it down, this would be described as a negative calorie food).

So is it really possible to eat your way into a calorie deficit and lose weight?

As you’ve probably already guessed.. of course it’s fucking not!

Negative Calorie Foods Do Not Exist

A picture showing so-called negative calorie foods.

The general rule of “if it looks too good to be true, it probably is” applies here.

You see, it’s not physically possible for the body to expend more calories breaking down a food than contained within the food itself. This defies the law of thermodynamics, and is a special kind of woo which has been dreamt up by a self-appointed “expert” who, I can only imagine, spends their spare time stapling their tongue to their forehead.

When pressed for examples of negative calorie foods, this is what you can expect to see:

Examples Of So-Called Negative Calorie Foods
LettuceWatermelon+ other water-based snacks

(FYI there are 116 calories in an apple!)

The reason why negative calorie foods do not (and will never) exist is because the thermic effect of food is too small.

Because while the body does indeed burn calories to break down the food you eat, this calorie expenditure only equates to about 10% of the food in question. There has never been instance of a food with a thermic effect greater than 10% (let alone greater than 100%!).

Also, anybody encouraging people to look for shortcuts like this may be unwittingly opening a Pandora’s Box of problems for them.

A successful body transformation takes time, patience, and discipline; and along the way you’ll learn how to create a healthy relationship with food. This is the real key to success.

You see, in my 20+ years working as a personal trainer (and the thousands of men and women I’ve helped with the training plans on this website) most of the of food-based behaviours I encountered were created very early in a person’s life. We develop mental associations between certain foods and certain feelings (this is why a stressful day at work often causes us to dial the local takeaway). It takes time and hard work to break those links and create a new, healthy lifestyle which is focused on your goals, instead of self-soothing and then beating yourself up for it… so it doesn’t help the situation when fucking cock taboggans basically say you can eat all you want and still lose weight, because that’s downright false information and it encourages binge eating.

Who Is Russ Howe PTI?


Russ has been a personal trainer in the UK since 2002, and provided both training advice and full programs on this website since 2011.

His work has been featured in Men’s Fitness magazine, and the content on this website led to him being voted one of the world’s top 50 fat loss coaches by HuffPost.

Russ’ days are spent coaching men and women in the legendary Powerhouse Gym, and creating new content for the 109,246 followers of his popular free weekly e-mail, which you can join below!

Responses to “Can You Lose Weight With Negative Calorie Foods?”

  1. Richie avatar

    Yet again another hilarious but informative blog from you Russ!!

  2. Tamara avatar

    I don’t know how you’ve worked in the fitness industry for so long Russ, the things people say must drive you insane! I guess this would be like paying for your shopping and expecting to get more change back 😀

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