Now, a couple of weeks after the big holidays, you might have shifted your focus from gains to fat loss. This article might help you a bit on your way to the beach. There have been various accounts of the fact that chili and other spicy foods may increase your thermogenesis and metabolism and therefore work as a “fat burner”. This might actually be true and has been shown in both animal and human studies. The ingredient in chili that is believed to contain the most beneficial effects is capsaicin.
Capsaicin – Fat Burner?
Lee et al. studied the direct effect of capsaicin on adipocytes (fat cells) and found that capsaicin decreased the intracellular lipid content in a dose- dependent manner and that mRNA (the manual for protein- synthesis in the cell) for lipid catabolism increased significantly (CPTI-a, HSL, UCP2) (1). This does not automatically translate into increased fat loss as a randomized trial comparing effects of capsaicin vs placebo on body composition would be needed, but is interesting nonetheless.
Mortality and Spicy Foods
Two other studies that I have looked into found that people that frequently eat spicy foods have a lower risk of dying in various diseases (2,3). The studies where however observational and can as such not express causality. The mechanisms behind the effect is thought to be caused in large part by capsaicin but other nutrients in chili peppers include B-vitamins, vitamin C and pro-A- vitamin which also have beneficial effects on general health, especially if individuals suffer from deficiency of the nutrients.
Study on Chili Pepper Extract
Capsaicin is the active ingredient found in chilli peppers. Consumption of 12mg of purified capsaicin powder 45 minutes prior to resistance training increased the repetitions performed while simultaneously lowering RPE.
However, a previous study on repeated sprints showed no performance benefit
from capsaicin supplementation in the form of cayenne pepper and a substantial increase in stomach discomfort.
While capsaicin supplementation may eventually prove to be a useful ergogenic aid, given the potential to cause GI distress, we would recommend waiting until further research is published before supplementing with it.
1. Lee et al. Effects of Capsaicin on Lipid Catabolism in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes Phytother. Res. 25: 935–939 (2011)
2. Lv. Et al. Consumption of spicy foods and total and cause specific mortality: A population based cohort study. BMJ 2015;351:h3942
3. Chopan M, Littenberg B (2017) The Association of Hot Red Chili Pepper Consumption and Mortality: A Large Population-Based Cohort Study. Plos one 12(1): e0169876
Article written by @jonasliefke a member of team EBT, third year Medical Student with a Bachelor´s degree in Physical Science.