The Importance Of N.E.A.T: The Hidden Helper of your Fat Loss Goals
It’s more than just a word you wish your Dad wouldn’t use to describe your new shoes.
It is what you could be confusing as your fast or slow metabolism,
It is what could be stalling your weight loss efforts,
It is why your sister was able to so easily lose that baby weight,
And it is why certain cultures outside of the US tend to be less obese and live longer healthier lives.
I’m talking about Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports/fitness related exercise.
It can come in the form of walking or biking to work, typing, gardening, cleaning up after your messy roommate and even fidgeting. The most trivial of physical activities can increase one’s metabolic rate and accumulate into their daily NEAT, and in turn, NEAT can make more of a difference in your health and fitness than you might realize.
The Importance of NEAT
To simplify-when we are dealing with weight loss or weight gain, we are essentially playing a numbers game.
If the number of calories you consume is greater than the amount of calories you expend then you will GAIN-whether it be fat or muscle.
If the number of calories you expend is greater than the amount of calories you consume then you will LOSE.
I don’t know about you, but I only burn about 340 calories during my intentional exercise sessions. Does this mean I have to eat less than 340 calories a day if my goal was to lose weight?
And once again...never.
The Big Three
There are 3 things that contribute to your energy expenditure requirements for the day.
1) Your basal metabolic rate/Resting Metabolic Rate, which is determined by your height, weight, gender, and age. This is the number of calories required to keep your body functioning at rest. Basically, the energy you tend to burn when you are doing nothing at all.
2) The thermic effect of the foods you eat. Meaning the energy it takes to digest, absorb, and dispose of ingested foods- we have spoken in previous newsletter how some foods about absorbed differently than others.
3) And finally your non exercise activity thermogenisis.
BMR/RMR will account for about 60% of your total daily energy requirements. The thermic effect of food will account for 10-15%.
But your NEAT will depend! You see, it can contribute to as little as 15% of energy expenditure if you are very sedentary BUT up to 50% if you are a very active individual! And that is huge difference!
A neat trick
To be clear-I am not saying that you can toss out a good diet and strength training for non exercise activity thermogenisis. But what I am saying that you could trade in your extra 10 minutes on the elliptical at the end of your strength training for a mid day dance party while doing the dishes. Depending on how NEAT you want to get, you can end up burning anywhere from 150-500 extra calories a day without even really trying! And over the days, weeks, and months, along with your healthy diet and strength training, that really adds up.
Is all NEAT created equal?
Not necessarily. But is anything in fitness? Or in life? Our individual biological factors like our weight, gender and body composition at that moment in time can change the way you experience NEAT or if you are more predisposed to getting it in more naturally or not. The larger something is, the more it takes to move it. But that doesn’t mean you CAN’T, it might just mean you have to be more aware of if you ARE.
Cultural, environmental, and work factors will play a part as well. Ever visited Europe and seen just how many people walk, bike, and generally commute differently than in America? It is no wonder America’s obesity rates sore above our European counterparts. NEAT is just naturally a part of their daily lives that it tends not to be here in the US.
Those whose jobs involve manual labor, or have them on their feet all day have an advantage above those who don’t as well.
tips to get your Neat on!
1- Have a big cleaning sesh. My personal favorite Put on your favorite playlist, and GO. This has becoming a part of my weekly routine, and not only does it make my apartment feel like my sanctuary again, but it truly gets me moving.
2-Take breaks. I am the kind of person that takes a long time to do everything. Especially these newsletters. So whenever I have a task that requires me to sit for long periods of time, I always set a timer for 40 minutes. I focus in for those 40, and when it goes off, I take 20 minutes to get up and do whatever-as long as that whatever gets my legs moving.
3-Track your steps. As you know by now, I am not a big fan of making everything so hard, serious, or obsessive. If tracking doesn’t work for you, fine! But personally I am motivated to get up and take my trash out when I see it is 3pm and I have only taken 5,000 steps.
4-Tv stretch time. We could all use more stretching and mobility in our lives, and watching tv is a great chance to get it in. This is a great habit to create and cultivate in your daily life.
5-All those things you hear about taking the stairs, parking further away, taking a walk to your colleges desk instead of e-mailing them? Yeah, these all add up and are bound to make your day go by a little faster, and with a little more energy.