Adding Cayenne pepper to our meals daily can boost our metabolism and burn specifically fat mass. Additionally, new studies are finding benefits of spices in athletic performance!
Let’s explore and get an understanding of how this happens so that we can better remember to implement it in our routines and reap the benefits.
Brown vs White Fat
Brown fat’s function in our bodies is to burn white fat (what we store when we over eat) in order to generate heat when we are cold.
We used to think up until quite recently that brown fat only worked in babies and very young children and became inactivated in older children and adults. It was theorised that older children and adults had larger muscles which shivered to generate heat instead of relying on brown fat.
Multiple studies eventually proved this was not the case though as cold exposure experiments found brown fat activation in many participants as well as re-activation in many other participants after more prolonged exposure.
One found that brown fat activation, even from mild cold exposure, could elevate our metabolism by up to 90%. Another study showed that approximately 110 to 250, with a mean of 180, extra calories could be burnt per day when brown fat was reactivated in study subjects compared to control. At the end of the 6-week study, they also lost significantly more body fat (5%) compared to control.
It has also theorised that because overweight and obese individuals carry more white fat, they are better able to insulate themselves from cold temperatures and as such their brown fats did not need to be activated. This may a reason why it becomes even more difficult to lose weight in higher BMI ranges.
Feel The Burnnnnn
We can imagine that, for many of us, spending a good portion of our day in cold temperatures to purposely activate our brown fats is simply not feasible and may actually be impossible for some.
In comes Cayenne peppers to the rescue!
Researchers have found that consuming capsaicin, which is an active compound of cayenne peppers and many other chilli peppers, can boost brown fat activity significantly enough to raise our resting metabolism by 150 calories per day. One study found that capsaicin given over 8 weeks can raise brown fat activity by almost up to 50%.
A deficit of 150 calories everyday as white fat mass over a prolonged period will only help with ongoing weight loss and maintenance for improved health and wellbeing.
The Master Stubborn Fat Burner
Have you ever lost weight through diet and exercise and then struggled very hard to lose anymore weight if at all? Here’s why:
Our bodies do not like to change and will purposely slow our metabolisms down in order to prevent further weight loss in times of caloric restriction or deficit.
In a study from the Netherlands, two groups of people were put onto a calorie restricted diet with a 20% deficit from baseline. One group was given one-half teaspoon of cayenne pepper in a capsule daily and the other group a placebo capsule.
The placebo group’s metabolism slowed down so much so that the 20% calorie deficit diet they were consuming worked out to be only a 16% calorie deficit diet.
Incredibly, the cayenne pepper group’s metabolism was not affected at all so that the calorie deficit was maintained at the full 20%!
This means that the cayenne pepper’s group would achieve their weight loss goals faster than the placebo group as the cayenne pepper capsules were able to counteract the natural metabolic slowing that had occurred.
Fitter & Stronger
Very recent studies has looked into capsaicin and its effect on athletic performance. Amazingly, it has been found to improve running performance as well as strength training ability.
Capsaicin before exercise was found to improve middle distance running ability by improving the subjects’ times. In another running study, it improved a group’s ability in intermittent high-intensity running efforts. A strength training study found capsaicin supplementation enabled more weight to be lifted in a training session. It also decreased the rate of perceived exertion in both running and strength training subjects.
The mechanism of how this happens is not yet understood but researchers believes capsaicin activates skeletal muscles directly to increase power.
It’s Time Spice It Up Guys!
We honestly never expected chilli peppers to be able to do so much for us: Fat loss, metabolism maintenance, improved running and strength performance – it’s mind-blowing!
Add capsaicin via cayenne peppers or your other favourite chilli peppers to keep your metabolism elevated as well as boosting white fat mass loss!
If you aren’t keen on hot & spicy meals, supplementing via cayenne pepper extract in capsule or tablet form is also a good option to reap these benefits.
Keep In Mind
As always, we should keep in mind that a whole food plant-based lifestyle with regular exercise and mindfulness is the first priority in achieving our health and wellness goals. Adding or excluding specific foods may help us achieve our goals sooner but they should not be the focus of our approach!
- Brychta RJ, Chen KY. Cold-induced thermogenesis in humans. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2017;71(3):345‐352. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27876809/
- Yoneshiro T, Aita S, Matsushita M, et al. Recruited brown adipose tissue as an antiobesity agent in humans. J Clin Invest. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29381803/
- Rigamonti AE, Casnici C, Marelli O, et al. Acute administration of capsaicin increases resting energy expenditure in young obese subjects without affecting energy intake, appetite, and circulating levels of orexigenic/anorexigenic peptides. Nutr Res. 2018;52:71‐79. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29530622/
- Nirengi S, Homma T, Inoue N, et al. Assessment of human brown adipose tissue density during daily ingestion of thermogenic capsinoids using near-infrared time-resolved spectroscopy. J Biomed Opt. 2016;21(9):091305. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29530622/
- Smeets AJ, Janssens PL, Westerterp-Plantenga MS. Addition of capsaicin and exchange of carbohydrate with protein counteract energy intake restriction effects on fullness and energy expenditure. J Nutr. 2013;143(4):442‐447. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23406619/
- Conrado de Freitas M, Cholewa JM, Freire RV, et al. Acute Capsaicin Supplementation Improves Resistance Training Performance in Trained Men. J Strength Cond Res. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28682933
- de Freitas MC, Cholewa JM, Gobbo LA, de Oliveira JVNS, Lira FS, Rossi FE. Acute Capsaicin Supplementation Improves 1,500-m Running Time-Trial Performance and Rate of Perceived Exertion in Physically Active Adults. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29120986/
- de Freitas MC, Billaut F, Panissa VLG, et al. Capsaicin supplementation increases time to exhaustion in high-intensity intermittent exercise without modifying metabolic responses in physically active men. Eur J Appl Physiol. 2019;119(4):971‐979. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30737555/