Hot peppers are a delicacy across most of the world to, quite literally, spice up bland meals and give them some serious flavor.
They even get used in sport to test the limits of the human body and mind – Buffalo Wild Wings Blazin’ Hot Challenge even lets you immortalize your win over the spices on their walls!
These peppers, herbs, and spices have recently been claimed to curb your appetite, speed up your metabolism, and help you burn more calories.
But, is that true?
Or is it just another gimmick to get people to buy their supplements?
What The Research Says
The main ingredient in most spicy foods is capsaicin. This is the actual compound that causes the burning sensation in our mouths and digestive tract.
Ironically, this is a defense mechanism by the food to keep people and animals from eating it; obviously that didn’t work out for them too well considering people love the taste.
Researchers have described capsaicin as a thermogenic chemical that may help speed up your metabolism and decrease your appetite .
In fact, supplement companies have taken advantage of this claim and have extracted capsaicin from sources like cayenne pepper and capsuled them for sale to you can have the benefits without enduring the spice.
Before you head over to GNC and buy yourself a dozen bottles though, let’s take a deeper look at the research.
Craving and Appetite Suppressant
A 2017 study found that the consumption of capsaicin for breakfast significantly reduced protein and fat intake for the following meal. In addition, when it was added to an appetizer, it reduced the total carbohydrate intake and general calorie consumption for the meal to follow .
This is believed to be a result of stimulating the sympathetic nervous system which is the body’s “fight or flight” response mechanism. As I mentioned earlier, spicy food is spicy so that people don’t eat it. It’s the food’s way of attacking the body which puts our body in defense mode.
When our body is in a sympathetic state, our appetite is suppressed as our body temperature rises to combat the “attack”. Which can be a helpful tool to make use of if you struggle with overeating, but let’s keep diving into this.
Metabolism Booster and Calorie Burner
A 2012 meta-analysis discovered that those that consumed foods higher in capsaicin saw greater weight loss benefits than those that abstained.
Another 2011 study also found that adding spicy foods to the diet of those that didn’t have them in their diets before saw an increase in weight loss.
The reason this happens is that spicy foods raise our body temperature, which then causes our body to go into “cool-down” mode which takes calories to do.
We call this the “Thermic Effect Of Food” or TEF. This is where the consumption of foods raises our body temperature and requires extra energy to digest. TEF can also be defined as the energy (calories) it takes to digest your food. Some foods require more energy to digest than others which we know to be true for high protein foods and fiber-rich foods as well.
Spicy foods do create a boost in your metabolism but it pales in comparison to the increase found from protein on a gram per gram basis.
Should You Be Adding It To Your Diet?
You would think the answer is unanimous “HELL YEAH!” based on all of the evidence for this compound but I don’t think it’s quite that straight forward.
Although it has been measured to burn more calories for you, the thermic effect of food you get from fiber-rich and high protein foods are actually higher.
It’s also important to remember that while this is a helpful tool you can use in your day, it’s not a magical solution to your weight loss.
Adding in spicy foods or a capsaicin supplement isn’t going to make up for poor eating habits and lack of movement.
So in short:
It’s not gonna hurt to add it to your diet.
But it’s not going to replace any of the big movers of change.
If you need help having those big movers make big weight loss change for you then take advantage of a free strategy call with one of our coaches so you can have every aspect of your fat loss journey accounted for!