Negative Calorie Foods: The Ultimate List

QUESTION: I recently came across the concept of negative calorie foods (a food that supposedly burns more calories during digestion than the food itself actually contains… like celery and certain other fruits and vegetables) and wanted to know a few things.

First, is this a real thing? Second, assuming it is, do I need to log these foods into my daily calorie count? And third, can you provide us with a list of the best negative calorie foods to eat?

ANSWER: Okay, so this one is really a 3-part question, and I’m going to answer the third part first. Can I provide a list? You bet your sweet ass I can! If there’s one thing you know I love, it’s a list of foods!

Here now is what I personally consider to be the ultimate list of The 10 Best Negative Calorie Foods to include in your fat loss diet:











There you have it, the 10 best foods to eat to maximize the scientifically proven “negative calorie” effect and significantly improve your ability to lose weight.

Have a terrific day!



You’re still here?

Why aren’t you out shopping for the foods on this list?

And then eating them?

And then having a terrific day?


What’s that?

The entire list is blank?

Hmmm. That’s odd.

Why would the entire list be blank?

Ohhhhhhh! Hang on a second! I know why!

Because negative calorie foods are bullshit.

There Are No Negative Calorie Foods

As the person asking this question mentioned, the concept of negative calorie foods goes like this…

There are certain foods – primarily certain vegetables and fruits – that are claimed to require more calories to digest than they provide in the first place.

Meaning, your body will supposedly burn more calories digesting the food than the food contained, thus creating a scenario of “negative calories.”

For example, if some food contained 20 calories but required 30 calories to digest, that food would have provided -10 calories. It would have completely burned itself off, plus an additional 10 calories.

So, imagine how amazing it would be if you could eat a food that had NO calories whatsoever… therefore allowing to you eat unlimited amounts of it without worrying or caring because it won’t have any effect whatsoever on your ability to lose weight (or avoid gaining weight). Pretty amazing, right?

Now take that amazing scenario a step further and imagine that this food actually BURNED additional calories! Calories that were provided by other foods you’ve already eaten or will eat later on. Calories that are already stored on your body in the form of fat.

Double amazing!! A REAL fat burning food!

It’s like eating a tiny magical personal trainer that will do their own little calorie burning workout within your digestive system while you just sit around and do nothing (or simply eat more of this negative calorie food).

Pretty amazing, right?

I agree.

Except for the fact that it’s all bullshit.

Here’s Why It’s Impossible

The human body does indeed burn calories during the digestion process. This part is true. It’s something we refer to as the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF).

While protein, fat and carbs all have some degree of thermic effect, the macronutrient with the highest thermic effect is protein.

How high? Approximately 30%.

Which means, if you eat a high protein food (e.g. chicken breast), about 30% of the protein calories it contains will be burned during the digestion process. So if that food contained 100 calories primarily from protein, nearly 30 of those calories will be burned when your body digests it. This is an example of how TEF works.

The thing is, as I mentioned, TEF is highest with protein. Meaning, you’re not going to have anything higher than 30%.

Why is this important? Because in order for negative calorie foods to truly exist, the TEF of those foods would need to exceed 100%.

And that just doesn’t happen.

The bonus ironic part here is that all of the foods that idiots misinformed people will claim contain negative calories are typically fruits and vegetables… which are foods that contain little to no protein… which means they are foods with a minimal amount of TEF.

If you REALLY wanted to maximize TEF, the most effective way of doing that would be by simply eating a sufficient total amount of protein each day.

No, this will still never have a negative calorie effect or anything remotely close to it, but it can still be beneficial for someone trying to lose weight/prevent weight gain (not to mention the other various benefits of a sufficient protein intake).

The Problem

So, negative calorie foods don’t exist. It’s a bullshit concept built on bullshit reasoning retold by idiots misinformed people just like any other bullshit diet myth.

So to answer the first part of this 3-part question – is this a real thing? – the answer is no.

The big problem, of course, is the second part of this question…

“Do I need to log these foods into my daily calorie count?”

See, that’s the thing about diet myths. It’s not just misinformed people believing in silly incorrect nonsense. It’s misinformed people believing in silly incorrect nonsense WHICH THEN HAS A DETRIMENTAL EFFECT ON THEIR ABILITY TO LOSE WEIGHT.

And negative calorie foods are no different, as our question-asker has clearly demonstrated with their second question…

“Do I need to log these foods into my daily calorie count?”

This is a question that implies the idea of magical “free foods.” Foods you can eat that don’t contain any calories (or at least any meaningful amount of calories worth logging, or even a negative amount of calories in this case) and therefore don’t need to be counted.

Which is bullshit. Everything needs to be counted.

Story Time

It reminds me of that story I told on the AWR Facebook page a while ago… right here.

It was a story about a woman who claimed to be eating the right amount of calories she needed to be eating to lose weight, but yet she wasn’t losing weight despite tracking everything as accurately as possible.

Her problem? Her diet allowed her to have “free foods” (all of which were fruits and vegetables) that didn’t need to be tracked or counted. When she then began tracking and counting those foods, she realized they accounted for hundreds of additional calories.

Enough to prevent her from losing weight.

Guess what happened when she started counting those calories? She suddenly began losing weight.

Like I also once said on the AWR Facebook page…

If your weight loss diet has “free” foods that you’re allowed to “eat unlimited amounts of” and “don’t have to count,” then please allow me to bring to your attention the fact that your weight loss diet is fucking stupid.

Negative calorie foods fit into that exact same category.

Except, in this case, not only would the person NOT be counting those calories… they may actually be subtracting additional calories off of their daily total.

Good lord.

So What Are The Best Negative Calorie Foods?

There are none, and the entire concept of it will at best be a pointless time-wasting distraction, and at worst be the thing that’s preventing you from losing weight.

Just like every other equally stupid diet myth, it should be ignored completely in favor of what actually matters (which, in case you didn’t know, is this).

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Jay is the science-based writer and researcher behind everything you've seen here. He has 15+ years of experience helping thousands of men and women lose fat, gain muscle, and build their "goal body." His work has been featured by the likes of Time, The Huffington Post, CNET, Business Week and more, referenced in studies, used in textbooks, quoted in publications, and adapted by coaches, trainers, and diet professionals at every level.

50 thoughts on “Negative Calorie Foods: The Ultimate List”


  1. Ice cubes. There’s one item for your list.

    You will burn calories melting them in your mouth — AND hydrate yourself.

    Hydration is IMPORTANT, you know.


  2. Those foods with 0 calories, like coca cola 0 is, it true ? Would I need to count those ? (obviously I know thats not a healthy thing to drink)

  3. Once again both a whimsical and informative post, Jay! You are truly one of the most gifted writers on the Body Building scene, Bro! YOU RAWK but, then you probably already know THAT! With Ivory Soul, May Palmer, The Queen of Ivory Soul

  4. Great article once again Jay !
    This “idea” seems as silly to me as the the “whole cheat day” ( all you can eat day ) / once a week to speed up the metabolism on what they call “cutting phase” .

    • There’s two different things you might be referring to here. One is a typical cheat day, where people eat whatever they want/however much they want. This has the potential to hinder fat loss as a result of how easy it is for a person to go way overboard and consume thousands of excess calories… enough to wipe out any deficit being created throughout the rest of the week.

      The other is a refeed day, which is a strategic day of planned overeating for the purpose of reversing many of the negative hormonal and metabolic effects that occur as a result of being in a prolonged caloric deficit. This one, when used properly, can indeed be beneficial. Superior Fat Loss (the book I’m currently writing) will cover it in detail.

      • Yep was referring to the thousands of excess calories as a cheat day !
        Looking forward on reading the Superior Fat Loss book !!!

  5. I burst out laughing when I saw 1. 2. 3. empty. Thanks for shutting down all the myths. Now, if I would actually start following what you say and stop overeating ….

  6. I can’t decide what I like more about your articles – the in-depth approach to the subject, the perfectly logical narration, the outstanding wit or the blatant truth you deliver? Obviously, the combination of the four! 🙂 Thank you, Jay, you are amazing!

    • She echoes my sentiment exactly! You are quick, to the point, on the money, hammer on nail heal, absobloominlutely spot on, unfiltered, and all the other phrases I can’t think of. I share your site with everyone who spouts the typical bullcrap…and because some of them are so full of it..they have no room for sense, so they put on their most holier-than-thou attitude, which includes the whole grimace like they smelling something bad on their upper lip, and they can say…he is too vulgar! IDIOTS, self deluded as usual. I on the other hand praise you to the skies, and attribute ny 35lb loss entirely to following your advice. THanks for your writing..I wish you just wrote more just for the fun of it. If, as they say, laughter increases life, I would be immortal after reading your articles.

  7. The real “MYTH BUSTER!!”. Adam and Jamie don’t have anything on you my man 🙂

    Once again another myth blown out of the water with a touch of irony, a dash of reality and a whole lot of smiles 🙂

    I’ve been following your AWR and ACC pages for a couple of years now, adopting plans and applying them to my goals with great success – I used to weigh 120 kgs, and dropped down to 95 kgs in a just over 3 months by following your advice (and tying a couple other things in between).

    The most beneficial info I’ve taken so far from you is the “Caloric Deficit”. FULLSTOP, HANDS DOWN the best piece of writing you have produced that has benefited me up until this date (well, until I start applying your advice about building muscle a priority anyway!!).

    During this time I have read many articles and blogs you have written and they have always put a smile on my face, and once again you have delivered – because like most other people, I used to believe in all of those “MYTHS” like a school text book, and like most of my school text books, they went flying out the window (bye-bye).

    Keep up the good work – I am looking forward to your new book “Superior Fat Loss”. 🙂

  8. Would you say dill deli pickles are about as close as it gets to a free food? When I was younger and used to lift hard and party I’d keep a huge jar on hand. If I came home a late and starving I could always binge eat the pickles. The juice was great for hangover prevention and recovery.

    • The closer a food is to 0 calories, the closer it would be to “about as close as it gets to a free food.” Pickles are probably close, although they usually contain a shitload of sodium.

  9. Will there be a chapter in SFL focusing on not eating like a pig and drinking like a fish on holiday? I seem to lack any of the rigid control I display in day to day normal life when a bit of sunshine comes my way…

  10. I have been seeing alot of people taking shirataki noodles, a type of noodles that is almost 0 calories, but still satiating. Read it quite abit especially those promoting ketogenic and LCHF diets.

    Anyway, what is your take on the ketogenic diet or Low Cards High Fats diet? Thanks Jay.

      • Do you have any articles I could reference that talk about why you don’t like low carb diets? I love your information and writing style. Thanks for these awesome articles.

        • Nope, nothing specifically like that. But the short answer is that I don’t like any diet built around doing something that doesn’t need to be done (going low carb) for the intended purpose (fat loss).

          It’s completely unnecessary and only makes things harder/worse for most people in most cases.

  11. Now, once again, c’mon! Of course there are negative calorie foods!

    For example — potatoes!

    You buy a 50 lb. bag of seed potatoes. Carry that sack to your vehicle, then, when home, unload it. Open the sack, and cut each potato into “seeds”, that is, pieces which each contain a couple or so “eyes”. Haul those seeds out to a suitable garden or field. With a heavy hoe and spaded shovel, trench several rows into the ground, each about, say, 25 feet long. Place the “seeds” at regular intervals in the trenches. Then use the hoe and/or shovel to cover them with the soil dug from the trenches. When the potato plants begin pushing through the earth, use the hoe to hill them with more soil. When weeds sprout, bend and pluck them out. When the potato plants are mature, use same hoe and shovel to dig out the potatoes from those trenches. Collect the potatoes, which might amount to 200 lbs, in, say, a wheelbarrow, and haul them to a suitable storage location, such as a root cellar. Bag the potatoes. Then, give away, to family, friends, neighbors, and strangers, every single potato you grew. Keep zero potatoes for yourself. Voila’! “negative calorie food” for youuuuuuuuuuu! …

    More examples on request!

  12. hey man i’ve seen one of your articles about re-gain muscle after being injured.. u mentioned that you did experience losing fat and gaining muscle after your injury now question is.. what would you recommend after injury .. be on caloric surplus or deficit? if its possible to lose fat and gain muscle do you think it would be better to be at a caloric deficit to lose the fat gained and gain back the lost muscle? Would like to know what you have done to your nutrition after getting back to lifting. thanks 🙂

    • I’d go with maintenance for the first few weeks or the first month while you get back into things. A small recomp may happen that way as well.

      After that, if you’re a guy 15% BF or over, start off in a small deficit. You’ll be able to regain some muscle while losing that fat.

  13. I’m a beginner. My goal is fat loss. I’m following the routine you mentioned. 3 day full body split. Should i be in progressive overload while I’m in a fat loss phase?

  14. This website is truly an awesome source of information. Starting my ‘hand made’ eating and work out routine tomorrow. Thanks for putting things in plain terms. Keep it up guys!!

    P.S. The writer of these articles seems to have a wicked and dry sense of humour, i love it. Makes it just that much more interesting to read XD

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