I'm sure we have all heard how important calorie balance is. Calorie deficit vs surplus is the key to achieving our goals whether it is muscle gain, fat loss or maintenance. It's a fine balance between calories we are consuming and calories we are expending. For example, if our goal is fat loss we want to be in a calorie deficit which means we are burning off more than we are consuming whereas if our goal is to gain mass it is ideal to be in a surplus where our caloric intake is greater than what we are expending. This sounds simple enough, but it isn't as simple as food intake vs exercise. Many factors come into play when determining our energy output each day.
TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) is broken down into our BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and NREE (Non-Resting Energy Expenditure). BMR is the energy we burn at rest; it is the caloric amount we would need to just lay down all day with no movement. Factors such as lean body mass, gender and body type can affect this number- it is different in each individual. This is the first number we use to calculate your daily calorie intake. Next, we need to account for the daily activity done when we are not at rest- this is your NREE. NREE is broken into two further categories- EAT and NEAT.
EAT (Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) is the calories we burn during scheduled exercise whether this is a 45 min walk or a 2-hour gym session. NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) is any other movements or activities you do throughout the day e.g. activity levels at work, cleaning, steps done, etc.)
We all sit there any worry about making our gym sessions, but scheduled exercise actually only contributes to on average 15-30% of daily calories burned. Yes, this is important to ensure we stay fit and build lean muscle, but our daily NEAT can contribute up to 50% of our calorie output. As you can see someone who works in an office sitting down all day will need much less calories then someone the same size who works labouring everyday even if they do the same gym session each day.
If your goal is fat loss looking at your daily NEAT levels could be a massive tool to help you achieve your goal faster. If we can increase our NEAT levels, we will be in a much larger calorie deficit therefore meaning we won't have to decrease calories and are on track to smashing our goals.
Daily step targets are the most effective way to track NEAT. I suggest purchasing a step tracker and seeing what you average over the week. E.g. if you hit an average of 70,000 steps over the week (approx. 10k a day) maybe bump this up slightly so you are averaging 11-12k per day.
Here are a few tips to increase your NEAT:
- Take the stairs
- Get up from your desk every hour
- Park further away from where you are going
- Get off the bus a stop early
- Go for a walk in your lunch break
- Cleaning and house work
- Grocery shopping
- Walk the long way to get a coffee or lunch
Try not to overthink it. Moving more means you will burn more! Next time you go to take the lift think about the difference it can make to reaching your goals and I'm sure you will end up taking the stairs.
*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.