Review: The Negative Calorie Diet
There’s been a fair amount of hype about “negative calorie foods” and the negative calorie diet lately, and I’ve been receiving more than my fair share of questions on the legitimacy of such claims. Let me first say that no, there is no such thing as a “negative calorie food.” Yes, some foods do elevate the metabolism more than others. For example…
… it requires 25-30% of the caloric value of any protein source to be digested and utilized by the body. So a 400 calorie protein-rich meal would only add 275-300 calories to your daily caloric intake. The remainder of those calories would be required for processing. For carbs, only 6-8% of calories is required for processing, and for fats, it’s only 2-3%.
Obviously then, your best bet is to eat protein rich foods. Not so on the Negative Calorie diet — the focus here is on vegetables, fruit, and the “Negative Calorie” soup, which you’ll be eating until you’re “blue in the face.”
In fact, the lack of variety on this diet will make it very difficult for most people to stay on it for any length of time (although this diet is not meant to be a replacement for your regular eating habits). Lean protein is allowed on this diet, but not until a little later in the program.
Snacks consist of water, celery, and apples, lunch and dinner is soup (with perhaps a baked potato), and breakfast is fruit — cantaloupe, honey dew melon, grapefruit, orange, papaya, pineapple, strawberries, or watermelon — eat until you are full. (In my opinion though, the main problem with this diet is the fact that the food choices are dead boring, and most people will have a heck of a time sticking to the program).
Will the Negative Calorie Diet work for you?
Yes, this diet will definitely lead to weight loss (it claims to help you lose 14 lbs. in 7 days), but most of this weight loss will be comprised of water and muscle, and not fat. In fact, if you’re going to experiment with this diet, I highly recommend you focus on tracking your bodyfat percentage, and not your body weight for a true measure of success. Otherwise, you threaten the lean tissue mass which has a positive effect on your overall metabolism.
The most alarming thing about the Negative Calorie diet is the complete lack of scientific based evidence to back up the claims touted by the publication. The author presents no compelling data that negative calorie foods are anything more than a pet theory of his, and the same goes for some of the deep breathing exercises also touted to elevate metabolism.
In the end, this diet works because of simple caloric restriction, and the preponderance of high fiber, low energy density foods consumed (these are foods that have relatively few calories per gram), not because of any magic or negative calories. Foods high in fiber and volume tend to make you feel full longer, and you eat less during the day. Be sure to eat lots on this diet though… because the extremely low calorie intake of this diet will leave you famished!