A NEAT Way to Control Your Weight
Gaining weight and losing weight comes down to energy expenditure. Simply put, you consume energy through the food that you eat and you expend energy through 3 different sources. Calories are units used to measure energy. If you are eating more calories than you are burning, then you will likely gain weight. If you are burning more calories than the amount in the food you are consuming, you will likely lose weight.
It is obviously very important to monitor your nutrition and the amount of food you are eating each day. As the old saying goes, “You can’t out-work a bad diet.” So, dialing in your nutrition is number one when it comes to weight management. The second factor then becomes your energy expenditure.
There are three components of energy expenditure. They are 1) resting metabolic rate 2) thermic effect of feeding and 3) physical activity.
Resting metabolic makes up about 75% of an individual’s total energy expenditure (amount of calories burned each day). Resting metabolic rate represents the amount of calories you would burn each day if you never got out of bed. It is primarily determined by the amount of fat free mass in the body and is the amount of energy your body needs to function on a baseline level. Internal organs, muscle, bone and fat all require energy to do their jobs. In order to increase your resting metabolic rate, you must increase your amount of muscle mass throughout your body, which is possible with a good training program.
The thermic effect of feeding represents the energy required by an individual to eat and digest food. It only makes up about 8% of total energy expenditure. We have little control over this number. However, eating a diet higher in protein has been shown to increase the thermic effect of feeding, causing you to burn more calories through eating than you would on a lower protein diet.
Physical activity is the component of energy expenditure that we have the most control over. It is made up of exercise and non-exercise activity thermogenesis or NEAT.
Exercise is intentional physical activity with an aim to improve aspects of fitness. Everyone knows that exercise is crucial to weight management and is a great way to increase energy expenditure. This includes CrossFit metcons, weight training, running, biking, yoga, etc.
NEAT includes daily activities such as fidgeting, maintaining posture, shivering, etc. These activities can have a huge impact on your daily activity. NEAT can account for 15% of daily energy expenditure for sedentary individuals or as much as 50% of daily energy expenditure in highly active people. Studies have shown that NEAT can account for up to 138-685 cals/day. There is a 38 cal/hr difference between sitting quietly and sitting while fidgeting. Also, there is a 60 cal/hr difference between standing motionless and standing while fidgeting.
These examples seem like such simple ways to burn more calories, but our society contributes to low NEAT levels. Advancements in technology and transportation have made us more inactive than ever before. So, how can we combat this and use NEAT to increase our daily physical activity?
Pay attention to what you are doing the 23 hours each day you are not in the gym. Become more active. Try to avoid sitting for extended periods of time and maintain good posture. (Hint: the best posture is one that is constantly changing.)
Examples of NEAT in action include:
- Going for a walk/hike.
- Take breaks throughtout the day to stretch/foam roll/perform body weight exercise.
- Taking the stairs.
- Mowing the lawn with a push mower.
- Use a standing desk.
- Doing chores/yard work around the house.
- Park further away in the parking lot.
- Take the harder route.
- Go ahead and fidget a little. You have my permission. I don’t care if it annoys other people.
All of these activities are low intensity and fairly easy ways to increase your physical activity each day. If you make these types of activities a part of your daily routine, they will have a positive cumulative effect on your health and on the scale. Not only that, but you can use these activities to improve your flexibility, keep your muscle tissue healthy and improve your recovery from workouts. Why wouldn’t’ you use this NEAT way to control your weight?
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