NEAT – Are you considering this in your fat loss journey?

NEAT stands for Non exercise activity thermogenesis. Which is basically a technical way of describing the energy you expend during any form of movement that isn’t ‘structured exercise’. Examples of NEAT include: cleaning the house, fidgeting, or tapping your foot.

As opposed to EAT (exercise activity thermogenesis) which is the energy you expend through structured exercise, such as going for a jog or during a gym session.

Both our NEAT and EAT play a part in how much energy we expend each day (the calories we burn each day) and are the biggest controllable factors we can influence in our overall daily energy expenditure. 

If we breakdown what typically makes up our total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) we can see that NEAT is a big deal.

~70% BMR

~15% NEAT

~10% TEF

~5% EAT

Our BMR (basal metabolic rate) makes up the largest component of our daily energy expenditure and is largely uncontrollable. It is the energy our bodies use in vital bodily processes such as our hearts beating or breathing.

NEAT accounts for around 15% of our daily energy expenditure as is the biggest component we can influence, and also can vary dramatically from one person to another. 

TEF (Thermic effect of food) is essentially the calories used during the digestive process. Our bodies use energy in order to digest different foods, with protein-based foods requiring the largest energy demand during digestion. TEF accounts for around 10% of the total energy we expend each day.

EAT accounts for only around 5% of our daily/weekly energy expenditure (this will dependent upon how many sessions you perform weekly).

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We have to consider here that a workout can be a good way to raise energy expenditure significantly for a short time (the hour or so you are in the gym), however we also need to consider what we are doing the other 23 hours of the day, because this will have a huge impact on expenditure.

Especially when if you consider training 3 times per week (for 1 hour), only accounts for just over 2% of your week. Training has a huge array of benefits, but from an energy expenditure we are missing the boat if we aren’t considering our NEAT.

When we view this through the lens of fat loss, knowing that in order to lose body fat we need to expend more calories than we consume, we have to be considering our overall daily movement. NEAT therefore plays an important role, some research showed Obese individuals have been found to be seated for approximately 2.5 hours more than sedentary lean counterparts [1]. 

There are several factors that can play a role in influencing an individual’s NEAT and depending on these factors we can see energy expenditure between individuals differ by 2000 calories [1]. One example of how an individual’s daily energy expenditure is going to be drastically different, is to compare a postman/postwoman’s daily activity versus an office worker’s daily activity. Clearly this is going to have a significant impact on the calorie balance equation and shows the importance of prioritising your NEAT. 

In order to increase your NEAT here are a few strategies you can adopt:

Take the stairs instead of the elevator

Use a standing desk over a seated desk

Fidget more

Walk faster

Park further away from shops, or alternatively walk instead of drive to the shop (where appropriate)

Do the dishes by hand, instead of using the dishwasher

[1] Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

The Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon of Societal Weight GainJames A. Levine, Mark W. Vander Weg, James O. Hill and Robert C. Klesges

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