This article was written by Big Les & was originally published in The MuscleTalker June 2009 edition
The chilli is a member of the nightshade family, and has been cultivated since 7500BC, so it has a long history. There are also more than a few varieties, ranging from the large green, red, yellow, and orange peppers our US cousins so descriptively call 'bell peppers', to the small fiery peppers that should come with health warning.
Nutritionally, this massive variety means that what you get depends on what you choose. This article is focussed on the small 'spicy' variety, which is a favourite for two reasons; 1) it adds flavour without calories and 2) it can help stimulate the metabolism.
So the question is: does chilli really burn fat? The answer is yes. In a review by Plantenga et al 2006, capsacicin - the active ingredient in the Capsium species of which the chilli is a member was confirmed as having a metabolic stimulant effect. In fact, capsaicin acts through (or is most likely to act through) the beta-andregenic pathway, the reverse action to that of a beta-blocker. The metabolic stimulation is a direct result of the stimulation of the beta-andregenic pathway, with an effect of 23% increase directly after administration having been reported, metabolic stimulation was also reported in women.
So chilli works, for those of you shedding the flab or cutting up chilli has a second effect - which you may or may not appreciate. Eating chilli in a dose that causes significant metabolic stimulation blunts appetite leading to a reduced intake. And here is the rub of chilli as a metabolic stimulant: to get an effect the dose is often intolerable. Subjects in studies often cannot take the whole meal or dose - and regular ingestion of half has been reported. Not only have subjects been spiced out by the pungency of the chilli needed, but effects such as diarrhoea, indigestion and reflux are reported (even abdominal cramp) - and having a capsule doesn't get round these. Then again eating around 1g of hot chilli pepper (that's 0.25% capsaicin) can be a pretty tall order.
So where does that leave our bodybuilder or athlete? In summary, chilli is a metabolic stimulant that works, and if you like it gets busy with it; if not it's a great flavour enhancer. Check out the chilli sauce recipe below.
One final note, watch out for CH-19 Sweet, a cultivar of the pepper which comes without that fiery spice of the chilli but so far has had similar stimulant properties, you may also see capsiate - which is the active stimulant component of CH-19 Sweet making an appearance.References:Plantenga, M et al (2006). Metabolic Effects of Spices, Teas and Caffeine. Physiology and Behaviour 89: 85-