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Can you eat your way into a calorie deficit with these so-called “negative calorie foods”? Let’s digest.

are negative calorie foods real

This article:

3 min read

You may have heard about how so-called “negative calorie foods” can help you to lose weight, so today we’re going to discuss this.

The theory revolves around the thermic effect of food (i.e. how many calories the body expends breaking down food).

A so-called “negative calorie food” is food which requires more calories to digest than it contains.

Example: If a carrot contains 5 calories but the body burns 15 calories digesting it, this would be described as a negative calorie food.

So with that in mind, here’s my top 5 negative calorie foods:

  1. They don’t exist
  2. They don’t exist
  3. They don’t exist
  4. They don’t exist
  5. They don’t exist

are negative calorie foods real

The Cold, Hard Truth About Negative Calorie Foods Is That They Don’t Exist

This is a topic which really caught on trend earlier this year, and we saw many “social media influencers” proclaiming you could essentially eat your way into a calorie deficit by gorging on these so-called miracle foods.

The list usually includes (but is not limited to):

  • celery
  • lettuce
  • berries
  • broccoli
  • apples
  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • and other water-based snacks

Now I’m always game for finding new ways to shred body fat, but this concept is nothing more than the latest trend in the long list of social media bulls**t.

You know how many calories are in an apple? 116! They are definitely not ‘free’.

Here’s some science…

do negative calorie foods exist
  • The Thermic Effect Of Food Is Too Small

The thermic effect of food IS a real thing, your body does indeed burn calories breaking down food – but it’s nowhere near as powerful as “gurus” claim.

The U.S. Department of Agrigulture confirms that the thermic effect of food maxes out at 10% (in many foods it’s even lower than this). So if you eat something which contains 10 calories, it would only take 1 calorie to break that food down and begin using it for fuel.

This is why the very idea of a negative calorie food defies logic. It’s like saying you can spend spend $10 and receive $20 change.

negative calorie foods
  • This Approach To Eating Creates An Unhealthy Relationship With Food

A successful body transformation takes time, and along the way you will gradually begin building a better relationship with food.

That means no more beating yourself up for going off track here and there, no longer viewing individual foods as good and bad, no more demonizing certain macronutrients, and so on.

In most transformations that I’ve seen, the behaviours we have around food often go way back to when we were kids or young adults. We create mental associations between foods and feelings (this is why a stressful day at work often makes us reach for the takeaway app on our phones). There’s really nothing wrong with this, because this is how most people are, it simply takes time to break the cycle.

Heck, that’s why people say “It’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.”

So the problem I have with ideas like this (negative calorie foods and other social media trends) is that it does nothing to help us build that crucial better relationship with food. Instead, it tells us to “eat all you want and not gain weight!!!” and encourages us to binge eat – and that simply doesn’t work.

Who Is Russ Howe PTI?

russ howe pti

Featured in Men’s Fitness magazine and voted in the world’s top 50 fat loss coaches by HuffPost, Russ is among the UK’s most subscribed personal trainers with 104,357 people getting his free weekly fitness tips e-mail.

In the gym, clients range from busy parents, to models, to athletes and actresses. Russ also worked alongside the UK government for 8 years in a venture combating childhood obesity in England.

Outside of the gym, he’s a proud Dad to three young boys.

You can get more tips by joining the e-mail newsletter above, and you can instantly access full workout plans by hitting the button below!


  1. Richie avatar

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

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