Fat loss – what to eat and the truth about ‘fat burning’ foods

array of healthy meals on plates and in containers

‘Best foods to jumpstart your metabolism and burn fat!’ Sound familiar? There is a multitude of online articles that claim there are certain foods that ‘burn fat’.

And wouldn’t that be wonderful.

Unfortunately, this is a concept of myths and dreams. There are no specific foods that burn fat, and don’t get me started on fat burner supplements (this is another blog in itself, but spoiler alert: ineffective, unsafe or both).

To lose body fat, you need to be in a calorie deficit. That is, you are expending more energy than you are consuming.  It can be easy to blame excess weight on a slow metabolism, rather than acknowledging that you may simply be eating more calories than you are burning. For more information and how to work out what your calorie output is, see the article calories and the energy balance.

While the theory is that these ‘fat burner’ foods increase the metabolism, by causing heat inside the body and the just fat melts away. The reality is that while stimulants such as chilli and caffeine may increase the metabolism slightly, studies show the effect is negligible on body weight.

The good news is, while the below foods are not ‘fat burners’ as such, there are foods that are great to include in your diet (for various reasons) when you are looking to lose body fat.

Here are our top foods to incorporate on a fat loss plan:


Studies have shown that good source of high quality protein will help keep you satiated for longer, and therefore it plays a role in the regulation of food intake. The satiating effect can also help to prevent cravings for unhealthy snacks between meals. Packed full of minerals and vitamins as well, eggs really are a great addition to any fat loss diet.


The effect of caffeine on sport performance has been well researched, with studies showing that caffeine can be used as an ergogenic aid, simply put – a cup of coffee may result in a higher output of exercise, and the ability to sustain the bout of exercise for longer. Both of which can result in more calories burned, and contribute to a greater calorie deficit.

Spicy foods

Capsaicin – the active ingredient in hot peppers has been touted as a magic fat burner.  In reality, while it can increase your internal temperature slightly and lead to a temporary increase in metabolism, it hasn’t been shown to result in any measurable increase in weight loss.

Although, eating foods that are spicy can naturally limit the amount you consume. Either you eat slower or stop eating earlier due to the heat. Therefore spicy foods can be a great inclusion in a fat loss diet as they naturally curb portion sizes.

Fermented foods

The fermentation of foods creates probiotic bacteria, which are essential for healthy digestion. Unfriendly gut bacteria has been linked to obesity and inflammation in the body – inflammation can result in a resistance to the hormones leptin and insulin (the body’s two most important fat regulating hormones). To keep the gut bacteria balanced and maintain a healthy digestive tract, include a range of fermented foods in the diet. Fermented foods include; pickled vegetables, sauerkraut, kefir, miso and tempeh in your diet.

Herbal tea

Bit of a wildcard, as despite what you may have heard (skinny tea, looking at you) teas do not help you lose weight. What does help you lose weight, is eating less calories.

Craving a mid afternoon snack? Or maybe you always feel like a little something in the evenings after dinner. Instead of reaching for what is probably a calorie laden snack, try having a herbal tea. Often snacking can become more of a habit or ritual associated with the time of day. Make tea your new habit!


Fat Loss – 8 steps to get started

fat loss exercise

Fat loss is a hot topic especially at this time of the year, and everyone claims to have the answer as to how to shed the Christmas pounds as quickly, and with as little effort as possible!

With every website providing different advice, it can be very confusing to know what to follow. We find the trick is not to overcomplicate things, so here we have provided you with a simple recap on what is required to lose body fat, as well as 8 easy steps to kick start your fat loss journey


We eat food because our bodies need energy to survive and stay healthy. The energy value of food is measured in calories. This is a measure of energy just like a meter is a measure of distance. Whether you lose or gain weight is determined by the energy balance, which simply means calories consumed minus calories burned.

Energy balance = calories eaten – calories burned

When this equation = zero, you will neither lose or gain weight, as the energy balance is neutral. If this number is positive, you’re in a calorie surplus and you will gain weight. If the balance is negative you’re in a calorie deficit and you will lose weight

For more detailed  information, see our article on how energy balance works.

These 8 steps will help you to manipulate your energy balance equation in order to reach your fat loss goals.

1 – Make an estimation of your calorie needs

How many calories you need depends on your body size, body composition and how active you are. Calorie requirements can vary a lot from person to person, and one of the mistakes people make is in tending to underestimate how much they eat and overestimate the amount of calories they burn with exercise. If you spend most of your time sitting, like many of us working an office job do, you’ll need to be conservative with your estimation. There are many websites that can calculate your calorie needs for you, including our own order form – simply enter in your details here  selecting the Fat Loss goal, or ask or the FFF team.

2 – Apply a calorie deficit large enough to make a difference but small enough to be sustainable

As previously mentioned, the energy balance is the most important factor when it comes to fat loss. So once you have made an estimation of your daily calorie requirements, you need to eat less than that to lose weight. Now it may sound like a good idea to just eat half the calories required, because then you need to stick to your plan for a shorter period of time, right? Theoretically, yes. The reality is that you may be able to live off minimum calories for a day or 2 maybe if you’re very strong willed, but in the long run it is not sustainable. As a rough guide, a deficit of 20% is sustainable for most. This means that if you burn 2000 kcal on any given day, your calorie budget with a 20% deficit would be 1600. The more overweight you are, the larger your deficit can be.

Even at 20%, a calorie deficit can be tricky to stick to, we know, we’ve tried it. We therefore have ample tips on how to stick to a deficit even when it seems impossible.

3 – Make a plan that works with your lifestyle and preferences  

Most diets out there ‘work’ in the short term, but are not sustainable in the long run. The problem with most of these is that they are too restrictive or don’t fit in with your lifestyle, or align with your preferences. Therefore we recommend finding a diet that suits you and your body. So whether you create your calorie deficit by going vegan, intermittent fasting or eating like a caveman.. that is entirely up to you as long as you adhere to the one rule of eating less than you burn.

4 – Exercise can support fat loss by creating a calorie deficit, but is more important to maintain health

You can increase your calorie budget by exercising. However, people tend to overestimate how many calories are burned during exercise so be careful not to use this as an excuse to double your food intake! That doesn’t mean it is a useless way to spend your time because exercise is important to stay healthy, it helps to build muscle, as well as reducing the risk of cardiovascular and bone disease. And don’t panic if the gym is not your thing, your body does not differentiate between exercising in a gym or anywhere else. Find an activity that you enjoy and that can be anything, running, walking or playing tennis. You’re more likely to sustain the activity if you enjoy doing it.

5 – Focus on eating whole foods

Eating a diet based on whole foods resolves a lot of issues as to why people gain weight in the first place. It is more difficult to overeat on whole foods (nobody overeats broccoli, but it’s very easy to eat a day’s calorie budget with chocolate). Whole foods will satiate better than processed foods and they provide vitamins, minerals and fibre to support your overall health too.

6 – Incorporate foods you love, occasionally

Everyone fancies something delicious every once in a while and trying to make these foods forbidden fruits for the rest of your life is not realistic, no matter how motivated you were on January 1st. It’s also unnecessary. As long as you keep your portions in check, it is possible to enjoy treats on a fat loss diet. There are ways of doing this sensibly. If your favourite food is carrot cake, don’t go and buy a whole carrot cake with the intention of eating only one slice, because chances are you probably won’t stick with one slice. Rather than buying a whole cake, go to your favourite coffee shop, order one slice and enjoy it. Successful weight loss involves controlling your environment, because motivation can only take you so far. Having a carrot cake lying around in the fridge will not make your life easier.

7 – Measure, because you’re not as skilled at counting calories as you think

As mentioned earlier, we tend to underestimate how much we eat but we’re also not very good at estimating the calories in food. So when you first begin dieting, it is really useful to start keeping track of what you eat. There are many handy apps available such as My Fitness Pal to help you do just that. Try this for a week religiously and once you have a better understanding of calories in food you’ll be able to make better choices without having to track everything all the time.

8 – Stick to your plan, monitor progress and adjust accordingly

Once you have created your nutrition and training plan, tailored it to your lifestyle and tastes, then tracked your meals for a while so you know what you’re doing… here’s the magic tip: stick to it. Understand that it takes time to shift weight. Nobody ever gained weight from overeating for one day and similarly you will not lose weight from eating one healthy meal. Losing weight is a gradual process achieved by consistently making the right choices. As long as you are moving in the right direction you are doing well.

If you have any questions on fat loss or any other nutrition topics, jump onto our Twitter and ask away, be sure to hashtag #ASKROBIN, and you’ll questions will soon be answered!

Twitter – @Fresh_Fit_food


Robin Swinkels

FFF Nutritionist


Tom Brazier: Top Ten Tips For Fat Loss

With the mass amount of information available out there, it’s easy to get lost in it all, and ultimately become totally confused by the mass fads, and unrealistic suggestions set for those wanting to drop a little extra.

Thankfully we’ve called upon one of the best in the business, Team FFF Tom Brazier to share with you his ‘Top Ten Tips for Fat Loss’.

1. No matter what diet you follow, you will HAVE to put yourself in a calorie deficit to lose fat/weight (taking in less calories than you expend)

2. Carbs are NOT the enemy. They will fuel your workout and help you sleep.

3. No ONE single food will cause you to gain fat. You will only gain fat if you are in a calorie SURPLUS (eating more than you are expending)

4. DO NOT snack when preparing food. This is one of the main reasons why people over consume on calories. It can turn a 400kcal dinner into a 800kcal feeding!

5. Always favour a Strength or Metabolic Conditioning session to steady state cardio, they are both far more effective in burning body fat.

6. Start taking a spoonful of Organic Apple Cider Vinegar first thing in the morning and last thing at night, it will regulate your insulin levels and it’s great for digestion.

7. Cut out sugary soda and sports drinks. You don’t need them unless you are an endurance athlete running a marathon and they can seriously add to your daily calorie/sugar count.

8. Choose Pink Himalayan salt over table salt. It has over 84 natural minerals that occur in the human body, table salt has none.

9. Ensure you include a small serving of Protein in at least 4 of your meals/snacks during the day.

10. Opt for more wholesome carbs like brown rice, rye breads, oats, sweet and new potatoes, lentils and beans. They will help increase satiety and regulate your blood sugar levels more effectively.