We’ve all heard the term calories in, calories out. It essentially means, if you expend more calories than you take in, you will lose weight. Likewise, if you take in more calories than you expend, you will gain weight. However, understanding how calories are burned throughout your day can make a huge impact on how you can tip the scales in your battle for fat loss.
A calorie is a unit of measuring energy, it’s the energy required to heat one liter of water by one degree centigrade. So, if calories are energy, seeing where they are expended is important. From the time you wake, to the time you are asleep in recovery, these metabolic and movement activities make up your total daily energy expenditure. So, what are all these calories doing?
Basal Metabolic Rate. This is the minimum level of energy used to maintain vital functions of the body. BMR accounts for more than 70% of the energy we consume each day. That’s a big percentage, but then again keeping us alive is hard work.
Thermal Effect of Food. Basically it’s the process used to turn your food into energy; digestion, absorption, and distribution of food and nutrients taken in. This makes up about 10% of total calorie burn, the simple act of eating increases the metabolism. How much metabolic activity goes up, depends on the macronutrient you are consuming. Protein has the highest thermic response and takes more energy to process. This is the reason high protein diets tend to burn fat, it’s also why you get the “meat sweats” at the Brazilian Steak House.
Exercise Activity. This is energy used for exercise like going on a run, having a workout in the gym, or working out at home. This can make up between 10-15% for sedentary people and up to 30% for physically active individuals. The higher intensity the workout, the higher the demand for energy, not only in the workout, but after the workout. This is called EPOC, or excess post-exercise consumption, which is basically the energy needed to bring you back to baseline.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. This is all the other movement that is not exercise. These can include; moving around at home or work, fidgeting and pacing, housework and yardwork, playing with children and pets, etc. So, if you can increase your “NEAT score” you can burn more calories. One pound of fat can provide approximately 3,500 Calories of energy. Increasing your NEAT by 200 calories (walking two miles) and making smarter food choices by decreasing your daily caloric intake by 300 calories (one soda), will put you at a 500-calorie deficit. Do this seven days a week, and you are on your way to loosening that belt.
Other ways of raising your NEAT score can be standing more at work, taking walks or adding weight to your daily walks, playing outside with your kids, taking the stairs versus the elevator or biking as transportation.
If losing weight and trimming up is one of your objectives, NEAT is going to be a big part of your success.
William Davis has been in the fitness industry for 10 years and he’s run Steel Mill Fleming Island for seven years. He’s also a USA weightlifting sport performance and USA powerlifting club coach, a CrossFit Level 2 trainer, PN nutrition coach, CrossFit powerlifting trainer, aerobic capacity trainer, movement and mobility trainer and rowing trainer.