A NEAT Way to Burn Calories
Breaking Down The Components Of Energy Balance & How They Contribute To Fat Loss
Weight gain, weight loss and weight maintenance essentially come down to two main factors: Calories in versus calories out. If you consume more calories than your body burns throughout the day, you will gain weight. This is referred to as a caloric surplus. If you burn more calories than you consume throughout the day, then you will lose weight. This is referred to as a caloric deficit. Finally, if you consume the same amount of calories that you expend, your weight will remain the same, which is referred to as equal energy balance. A common goal among people in today’s society is weight loss, which, for the average healthy individual, requires one to widen the gap between calories in and calories out in order to create a meaningful caloric deficit.
When we have a goal of weight loss, we typically acknowledge diet and exercise first. While these two factors are very important in creating healthy lifestyle changes that can sometimes result in weight loss, we often overlook one other essential factor: Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT). In simple terms, NEAT refers to the calories that you expend partaking in movement outside of planned exercise, rest and digestion. Foot-travel to and from meetings at work, lifting objects, performing maintenance-tasks in your yard, washing dishes and walking your dog all fall into the category of “NEAT” movement. If we engage in a moderate-to-highly active lifestyle, we will expend a higher percentage of our daily energy through NEAT versus our one-hour of intense planned exercise.
Before we discuss NEAT in depth, let’s take a look at ALL of the factors that contribute to your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
Basics Of Energy Balance
Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) refers to the “calories out” portion of energy balance. “Calories in” is impacted solely by what we consume in the form of food and drink. TDEE, on the other hand, is influenced by 4 main components:
- Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
BMR refers to the amount of energy that is expended, or the amount of calories that one must consume daily, to maintain proper functioning of vital organs and essential bodily tasks while at rest. This includes functioning of your brain, heart, and liver, as well as regulating digestion and respiration. In general, BMR is the amount of calories one would expend if they laid in bed all day, and on average, accounts for about 60-80% of one’s total daily energy expenditure.
- Thermic Effect Of Food (TEF)
Did you know that we actually burn calories while digesting and absorbing the food that we eat? This process is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). TEF will typically account for about 5-15% of our total daily energy expenditure depending on our body type, how much food we eat, and what types of food we eat.
Digestion and absorption of different macronutrients will yield different metabolic demands of the body. For example, protein has a higher thermic effect than carbohydrates or fat, and therefore, will result in a slightly greater caloric burn throughout the digestion, absorption and storage process.
- Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT)
EAT refers to the amount of energy expended during planned exercise. Activities such as a planned run, group fitness interval training, ZUMBA, and globo-gym lifting sessions all fall into the category of “EAT” movement. The amount of energy expended from EAT will vary based on type, volume, duration and intensity of exercise, but typically does not amount to what most people think it does! In general, for the majority of people who engage in one-hour of exercise 3-5 days per week, EAT will account for about 10% of their total daily caloric expenditure.
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
NEAT, as stated above, refers to the amount of energy expended outside of planned exercise, eating and sleep. Entertaining pets, standing at your desk, walking to meetings or events at work, gardening, and cleaning are all examples of “NEAT” movements. Depending on an individual’s activity level, NEAT can account for as low as 5% to as high as 50% of one’s total daily energy expenditure.
Why NEAT Is Important To Fat Loss And Weight Maintenance
When comparing exercise and non-exercise activity thermogenesis, it is clear that NEAT has greater potential and opportunity to increase one’s metabolic rate and contribute to a greater amount of energy expended over time.
On average, we are awake for 16 hours of the day. If one hour is spent in planned exercise, and the majority of our remaining 15 hours is spent sitting at a desk, driving a car or staying static, our lack of daily movement could be the most influential factor in our inability to lose weight.
If you are looking to decrease body fat, lose weight, or simply look more “toned”, focus on combining EAT and NEAT for complementary purposes.
EAT: The Key To Increased Strength And Decreased Injury
During planned exercise sessions, focus primarily on resistance training and time-under-tension movements. This will help to increase lean muscle mass within the body, improve stability and balance, decrease risk of injury and enhance overall quality of life. Additionally, increasing muscle mass within the body will simultaneously increase your energy expenditure, as one pound of muscle tissue burns more calories at rest than one pound of fat. Keep in mind: Increased muscle mass won’t create a substantial caloric burn on its own, but it will help widen the one made through NEAT and assist in maintaining an elevated metabolism.
NEAT: The Key To Increased Caloric Burn And Decreased Body Fat
EAT-related movement serves to increase strength and maintain a pain-free lifestyle. NEAT-related movement is your opportunity to keep your metabolism elevated throughout the day, expend more energy with minimal effort, and make an impactful dent in the caloric burn needed to maintain or decrease weight.
Outside of planned exercise, find small ways to decrease time spent sitting and increase time spent on your feet or moving. Here are five easy ways that you can implement more movement in your daily routine.
- Implement Movement Into Breaks
When you’re on break at work, what do you typically do? Many of us migrate to our smartphones and check in on social media posts, update ourselves on the latest news reports and disconnect with TikTok videos. There is nothing wrong with social media entertainment when used in moderation, but many of us have become so attached to it that it has become a staple in our down-time routine. Instead of spending breaks sitting and scrolling, use that time to get some movement in! Go for a walk outside, do some air squats in the sun, or stretch.
- Stand Versus Sit
You’ve probably heard the saying, “Sitting is the new smoking”, but what does this actually mean? Engaging in a sedentary lifestyle and spending an abundance of time sitting throughout the day can actually create health risks comparable to those that are caused by smoking, such as heart disease, diabetes and some cancers. Upgrade your office desk to a standing desk. Set an alarm to stand or walk for one minute after sitting for an hour.
- Take The Stairs
Where there is an elevator, there are also stairs. Instead of standing in an elevator (and probably staring at your phone to avoid looking at those around you), get some extra steps in and take the stairs. I promise, it’s not as dreadful as you think it is!
- Park Further Away
When you’re bringing your children to the store with you, or have had a long day at work and want to shorten your grocery trip, it can be tempting to choose the closest parking space available. Resist the urge and opt for a back-row parking spot. Enjoy the extra steps and fresh air that will accompany them!
- Level Up Your Cleaning Routine
NEAT doesn’t include just walking or standing - it includes ANY movement throughout the day! Washing the dishes, sanitizing the counter and sweeping the floor all increase activity throughout the day, and in doing so, increase your overall energy expenditure.
NEAT For Disease Prevention And Longevity
It is important to acknowledge the benefits of increased daily movement and energy expenditure other than just burning fat and controlling weight. A sedentary lifestyle, characterized by sitting for long periods of time, can increase the risk of metabolic syndrome, which refers to a group of conditions that can influence one’s risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. High blood pressure, high blood glucose levels, decreased insulin sensitivity and insulin resistance, increased visceral fat, and increased LDL cholesterol levels are all biomarkers of metabolic syndrome. All of these conditions can be addressed and adequately treated through a combination of diet changes, purposeful exercise and increased daily movement.
Set Small Goals To Promote Big Changes
Begin increasing your NEAT-expenditure today by setting a simple, realistic goal! Identify one way that you can increase your daily movement - whether it be taking the stairs as you enter and leave work, parking further away from the office or grocery store, or going for a ten minute walk on your lunch break. Write this goal down in your planner or set a reminder in your phone, and check it off once it has been completed! Over time, these small goals will turn into automatic habits, which will lead to impactful and sustainable lifestyle changes.
To master a movement we need to be able to stop at any time during the movement and hold the position. This shows you have full control and awareness. This is why we ask you to think about what muscles are doing the work. When we communicate with our body and we bring movement into the conscious brain, it builds the mind muscle connection or GPS signal.
What if you can't feel the muscles doing the work? Make it easier and go slower. This means we might move the body one inch over 5 seconds. We don't expect you to excel right from the get go. But if you've been struggling with the same movement for years on end it's time to start focusing on why. I promise you it's not the lack of reps we do in class. It's more about the awareness of your movement or your ego to complete the reps than stop when you can perfect the movement.
The brain doesn't want to think about moving. It just wants to move in the easiest way possible. It's like electricity, because your body is sending electrical pulses. It's finding the shortest distance and easiest route to get the job done. Easiest is not always the most efficient. Sure it is right now, but how much wear and tear are we placing on the joints and tendons day after day? Pain is the last signal to let you know you need to adjust your movement pattern, not the first. So if pain creeps in, stop thinking about what you did the day before. Start thinking what patterns do you do everyday that you feel the pain. How can you perform that movement by changing the way you hinge, rotate, or squat?
We will all get arthritis at sometime in our life. It's inevitable. What we can do is prolong when we get it through improving our basic functions we've lost along the way because we haven't practiced them. If we already have tendonitis, bursitis, arthritis DON'T give up and accept it. Movement is the key to releasing the pain in your body. If nothing seems to work it just means we haven't found what does or put in enough time to learn. You are going to spend your entire life moving. We can just accept the pain and inefficient patterns or we can take control and make the change.
Our steady state tempo workouts are the perfect time for you to make the change. Nadine and I have spent tens of thousands of hours learning how to move with intention. We are trying to save you years of learning on your own with the best communication techniques, programming, and consistent cues. Sometimes we need to go into the discomfort to find freedom of movement and fitness as intended.
So make sure you focus on your position over trying to reach the set number of reps we post. Those are general guidelines to help you hit the stimulus but might not be the perfect reps for what your body can do efficiently. Ask questions, start bringing your movement from the subconscious to the conscious brain. Trust the process and learn to have fun exploring your movement instead of looking at it as work.
Want to work with me? Click the link to schedule a 15 minute consult to get started.