DIT, or Dietary Induced Thermogenesis, is an important consideration when setting up your diet and calculating the amount of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrates, fats) you need to lose fat or gain muscle. This article examines DIT from the perspective of dieting to lose body fat.
What is DIT?
When dieting, it’s not just the amount of calories you eat that will dictate the outcome of your physique. It’s the kind of calories you get, as proteins, carbohydrates and fats are all used differently by the body.
Thermogenesis is the production of heat by the body. The more heat your body produces, the higher your metabolism and the more you can eat without gaining weight.
The best possible way to increase metabolism and generate more heat is to be more active. A body in motion is naturally producing more heat. This is why exercise works, be it HIIT sessions or walking around the block. The more you move, the greater the energy expenditure so training your body to be more fit leads to increased thermogenesis and metabolism.
DIT is the energy content of the calories you consume or the component of heat produced by the foods you eat. It will never be as effective in raising metabolism as exercise or body movement in general, but it does play a role in overall metabolism so it’s important to understand. DIT also explains away many of the misconceptions people have regarding how macronutrients are used by the body.
DIT values are reported as follows:
- 20-30% for protein
- 5 – 10% for carbohydrates
- 0 to 3% for fats
- (and 10 – 30% for alcohol consumed)
As an example, if you eat 200 grams of protein, roughly 25% of that will be used up by the body in the process of converting glucose to energy and you end up with roughly 150 grams that your body can use as a ‘building block’, which is how protein is typically used in the body.
Fats have the worst DIT of all and it’s because fats are simply ‘raw energy’. They’re immediately available to be stored or used so while most people do tend to go too low on fat intake (they are extremely useful for weight loss and proper body function), overeating fats will almost certainly guarantee the fat will go straight to your love handles (or favorite fat storage spot).
Carbohydrates are perhaps the most interesting of all when it comes to DIT. Even though the DIT isn’t as high as we might like to see, there’s more work required for them to be stored as fat. If you eat 400 carbs, you lose 10 – 15% for DIT and then the process of storing excess carbs as fat becomes further “costly”. Carbs also stimulate your autonomic nervous system so more “waste” is created by the body in the excess of carbohydrates. In simplified terms.. you poop more and lose many of those carbs instead of seeing them stored as body fat. Carbs also have the greatest effect on metabolic processes though and provide benefits that the others macros simply cannot during a diet, such as increased leptin.
It should be noted that the percentages of DIT can vary highly from one person to the next. It’s dependent on your own phenotypic profile or the genes you were blessed/cursed with.
The Importance of Macros
Overall calories are the most important consideration in losing weight. Total intake of calories (energy) must be less than energy expended. If you drop calories, you will drop weight but let’s compare the difference in dropping specific macronutrients, understanding that DIT plays a significant role in how your body uses the macros.
If you decide to drop carbohydrates to an unreasonably low level, you’ll drop a lot of water weight. The scale will move pretty quickly and this excites most dieters and lures them into believing that a ketogenic diet is going to work well. It’s just water. If you eat 0 carbs every day, there’s every chance your daily weight will be 10 pounds lighter than if you eat 300 carbs every day. This isn’t muscle or fat loss. It’s simply water weight that the scale’s reflecting and your physique will look flat and not nearly as muscular as a result. You’ll also be depriving your body of many nutrients that can improve cellular activity and metabolic processes.
If you cut back on the protein, you’re most likely to lose lean muscle mass and simply create a smaller version of yourself, with the same amount of body fat. Often times, you’ll look worse, even if you weigh less.
If you omit fats from your diet, you’ll deprive your body of being healthy, be highly irritable and hungry all day. You’ll also create an environment where your body becomes resistant to burning fat for energy which equates to a lowered metabolism. That’s bad news. Eat your fats to burn fat.
If you’re doing a lot of cardio to assist with fat loss, carbohydrates are needed for glycogen replacement. A high carb diet with moderate protein and moderate fat will serve you best.
If you avoid the cardio machines altogether and weight training sessions constitute the majority of your weekly activity (assuming you lift heavy), you’ll probably lose fat best by maintaining moderate amounts of all three macros. Weight training isn’t typically a glycogen depleting activity but some carbs are needed to assist with those heavy lifts.
The exception to the rule (there’s always at least one, right?) is for individuals with a lot of body fat. These folks all have a degree of insulin resistance and going low-carb with moderate protein and fat is probably a better option until body fat gets down to normal levels. This helps restore insulin sensitivity and allows for the carbs to be reintroduced at a later time for added dietary benefits.
Macros are an important part of getting lean and burning fat and dietary induced thermogenesis helps regulate the role of all your macronutrients.