Stupid Personal Trainers, Dead Bunnies, & Negative Calorie Fat Loss Foods

fruit fat lossSo today I saw a personal trainer leaving the gym and lighting up a cigarette. Classic.

That reminded me of the many stupid things personal trainers do, such as having clients stand on dumbbells (I swear I saw this once), and recommending so-called “negative calorie foods for fat loss”.

You may have stumbled across the phrase, negative calorie food in your search for dietary loopholes and excuse makers. Here’s the theory…some poor, misinformed folks believe that there are certain foods which require more calories to chew, digest, and absorb than the food contains. I know, ridiculous, isn’t it?

The list of negative calorie foods on some websites has included everything from celery (the most commonly cited “negative calorie food”) to apples and even bananas. How this makes any sense is beyond my little brain’s capacity to understand.

Let’s just play along for a second. If there really were such things as negative calorie foods, all the bunnies in the world would be dead. And who wants that? (Especially with Easter on the way.)

Seriously, if it cost more energy to chew, digest, and absorb celery (or carrots or any other vegetable), every bnnysingle little cute vegetarian bunny (all other animals that subsist on “negative calorie vegetation”) would be dead of starvation.

Here’s another way of looking at it. Let’s say I was stranded on a deserted island and all I had to eat was an endless amount of apples. All the apples I could possibly want.

Now let’s also say that apples truly are a negative calorie food, meaning that each time I eat an apple it uses up more calories in mastication (fancy word for chewing), digestion (fancy word for turning apple pieces into intestinal mush), and absorption (fancy word for saying “getting the nutrient mush from the intestine into your bloodstream”), than the apple contains.

Guess what happens?

The more apples I eat, the faster I die (because each apple takes energy FROM my body, rather than giving energy TO my body). And you could substitute in celery, lettuce, whatever. If all you ate were negative calorie foods, you’d actually die of starvation. killer

Anyone still believe in negative calorie foods? (Remember, if you do, you’re a BUNNY KILLER!)

Alright, last example. If bananas were really a negative calorie food, someone forgot to tell the 800 pound gorillas at the zoo. (Okay, I know they eat bugs and stuff too. That was a bit of a joke. Hopefully you still didn’t need more convincing.)

Alright, so what about the stats. You still have hope deep inside that celery is a negative calorie food, right? Well, 1 cup of celery is about 19 calories. A lot of volume for a very small amount of calories. Looks promising, right? That will take a lotta chewing, you think. Craig must be wrong!

Nope. Me not wrong. And just to prove it to you, I want you you to get up and run as fast as you can for a minute. Go ahead, get up, sprint your brains out up and down the aisle at work between the cubicles, like you were doing a crazy Turbulence Training fat loss interval. Don’t forget to dodge the mailboy. Or not. Whatever.

You back? Okay. At most, you just burned 16 calories. Sixteen calories per minute of sprinting your brains out, using most of the muscle mass in your body. Sixteen calories exercising at a 90-100% intensity level.

bldyNow go chew some celery.That’s about 0.005% intensity level. You’d be lucky if you burned ONE extra calorie chewing a cup of celery, let alone 19.

Bottom line: There just ain’t no such things as negative calorie foods. Sorry.

But hey, at least you got one interval done!

And hey, if you don’t want to sprint, you can watch me run here:

Diet vs Cardio for Fat Loss

Helping you discover the truth about fat loss,

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Click here for the truth about fat loss nutrition

  • Great analogy!

  • lol, yes it’s pretty ridiculous what people will believe.

    I confess I kind of believed that at one time, but I was 13 or 14 so I forgive myself, sort of. 😉 I ate LOTS of raw carrots. Maybe 1/2 lb or more a day. I loved the taste so it was enjoyable. But the main result was that my skin turned kind of orange which can happen with too much beta carotene.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      I once read about some girl who had her skin turn orange from drinking too much Sunny Delight. Classic.

  • deb roby

    I have seen stupid young personal trainers walk into the gym carrying a McDonald’s bag with hamburgers and fries in it.

    Totally lost their credibility.

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Hi Deb, thats a strange one for sure!

  • Good one, Craig. You really made a great point with the negative calorie theory. I was laughing at some of your comments.

    Those are some cute little bunnies too!

    • Craig Ballantyne

      Cute bunnies, but killer bunnies too!

  • Nouri

    Bananas? What a joke! These idiots obviously haven’t seen tennis players eating them during a match to keep their energy levels up.

  • Lara

    An interesting analogy, but it’s flawed. Rabbits and horses are herbivores, which means that they have different digestive tracts than omnivores like humans. Their intestines are proportionately longer and they produce more enzymes to break down cellulose, the main ingredient in supposedly negative caloric foods. This means that herbivores must expend less energy to extract the same amount of nutrients from fruits and vegetables than omnivores.

    I’m not sure if I buy into the negative calorie theory, but your examples do not disprove it.

  • Hahahaha. Good one ya bunny killer!
    Rock on
    Mike T Nelson
    PhD(c), CSCS

  • JH

    What Lara said…

    Assuming our digestive system is like a rabbits is a bad idea. Following that logic, assume for a moment that we can eat what a dung beetle eats… See? Bad idea.

    Anyway, says that celery indeed burns off more than it contains. And they are pretty good at debunking the BS.

    So I think the snarkiness of this post is misplaced.


  • R.Cope, ND

    I agree… I’m not a bunny either. Your story, while cute and chock full of quips about bunny digestion, was FLAWED. You have no science to back up your theory, even though the SCIENTISTS that identified the original “negative” calorie foods list have years of study behind their ideas. You were assuming that the calories would only be used during the chewing of the food (the whole “funny” part about sprinting burning only 16 calories). True, chewing isn’t going to burn very many calories, but your body DOES burn calories during the digestion process. Celery is one of the hardest foods for our bodies to digest because it is so fibrous. You actually CAN burn 50 calories digesting celery. Bananas? Not hardly. Wherever you got that bananas were on the list is probably where you get your whole “humans digest food the same way as rabbits” train of thought. It’s just incorrect. The reason that people can and DO lose weight with negative calorie foods is that our body, though not bunny-like in nature, knows how to handle these foods and process them. We don’t starve to death because we use ALL of the nutrients from the foods, not just the calories. How many vegans do you know that weigh 300 pounds? But there ARE still vegans walking the planet.

    • Will

      Right on with what you said. We don’t have a purely herbivore type digestive system like a bunny.

  • Negative calories is not a myth, albeit they will never make fat people skinny. See the above link to Snopes for an excellent discussion on the subject.

  • James

    Do your own research people. Look up negative calorie foods in google and find out what this means for yourself. This article is terribly flawed, snarky and not really helpful.

    There is some good information out there regarding this but there is no proof either way…but all the foods on there do take more calories to digest either way making the point of negative calorie foods a good one.

    To the point that we would die of starvation by eating only negative calorie foods is completely ignorant. If negative calorie foods were 100% legit and you went into a calorie deficiency by eating only those foods, your body would go into “fasting mode” which would then slow down your metabolism to the point where those same foods would no longer be “negative calories”. In the same vein, this is how people who have anorexia are almost always in a calorie deficiency but at some point quit losing more weight.

  • IzzyRooster

    great!! funny analogy, although flawed.

    Yes, there are such things as “negative calorie foods”, they do burn up more energy then they contain. There are statistics and medical knowledge to back this up, whereas your analogy had no statistics or adive from experts.

    My paretns are both specilaesed doctors, my relations doctors, pharmacists, physologists and dietitians. So o have a lot of expreience in this field, and believe me, there are such things. They are awesome for weight loss and still fill you up, however a diet based mainy on these is not reccomended as you would not be gaining the proper nutrients and supplements.

    Witty piece, well done, even if not entireley accurate.