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What Your Activity Level Should Be

NEAT, energy, activity, calories, weight loss
What are your activity levels?

Total Daily Energy Expenditure – TDEE

This is basically how many calories you burn in a day.

This is so important to understand, I feel that once I understood how my energy (calories) was expended I understood how I could minipulate it for my goals. I didn’t have to ridigidley count my calories that I was eating if I didn’t want to, instead I focused on small changes away from counting calories and focus on upping my activity and food choices.

See chart below.

I will break this diagram down.


This is how many calories are burned by your body carrying out basic functions such as breathing. So you could lie in bed all day, watch TV, just breath and eat your BMR calories and just stay the same weight. Sounds good eh? There are many ways to work out your BMR but to get a pretty good idea take your body weight in kg’s and if you are female multiple by 22 and male’s 24.

Example 60kg x 22 = 1320 calories BMR.

Then we add onto this with our movement as this is not a lot, well certainly for me personally.

Which brings me to NEAT.

NEAT – Non-exercise activity thermogenesis

For those who have absolutely no idea what I am talking about then I hope I am going to change your world as I believe it changed mine.

NEAT is basically all the energy we use that isn’t sleeping, eating or organised/planned exercise (such as gym classes, running or sport games). So it’s your step count, walking up the stairs, fidgeting, shuffling in your chair or any unplanned movement.

The reason this will change the way you think about your activity goals is because this is what burns the most of your calories throughout the day aside from your BMR. Most people think they need to go to the gym because they need to burn those extra calories but planned exercise is such a small contribution to your energy expenditure.

Ways to get your NEAT up:

  • Aim for as many steps actually possible in your day. The general rule seems to be 10,000 steps but this really depends on your job. Walk home from the train station instead of driving. Get off the bus 1 or 2 stops earlier. Park your car on the opposite side of the car park.

  • Walk up the stairs and the escalator

  • Get a standing desk

  • Go for that walk at lunch or walk to a further away coffee shop

  • Cooking

  • Wash your car

  • Cleaning

Just making an effort to be more active will make a world of difference over the week. Just make small goals to begin with to increase your activity. An extra 1000 steps per day week 1, then continue to add each week until you are happy with the amount you are doing.

I want to break this down so you can see that something small over time can have a huge impact.

Let’s take Sally. Sally weighs 60kg and she wants to maintain her weight. She loves food so she knows that if she wants to eat as much as she does without gaining fat, she will need to increase her activity. She already goes to the gym 4 times a week so she needs to increase her NEAT. Sally picks her daughter up from day-care every day, it’s on the 7th floor and she always gets the lift. Sally decides to from now on she will walk up and down those stairs. It will take 5 minutes to get up and 3 minutes to get down.

Let’s say that 7 minutes of climbing up and down the stairs will burn 50 calories per day.

So doing that 5 days a week is 250 calories per week.

If she does that 48 weeks of the year (4 week off annual leave) then that is 12,000 calories over the year.

There is 7700 calories in 1kg of fat.

This means that over the year Sally will lose 1.55kg for making that one small change that will just become a very normal part of her routine.

TEF – Thermic effect of food

This can also make a small difference to your daily energy expenditure.

TEF is the energy required for metabolic processes such as digestion and absorption. The higher your metabolism the more calories you burn. There are some foods that can help this process.

Protein!! Eating protein rich foods makes your metabolism work harder to digest the food. A high protein diet can increase your metabolic rate by up to 15-30% in comparison to fat being 0-3%. It’s hard to say exactly what difference this could make as it would be different for everyone but certainly no more than an extra 100 calories per day extra burnt.

However that can make a difference.

Let’s half that for Sally. So Sally decides that she is going to increase her protein intake from 60g to 120g per day, because of this she burns an extra 50 calories a day due to TEF.

50 calories per day for 365 days per year equals an extra 18250 per year. That’s 2.37kg lost per year just by upping her protein.

EAT – Exercise activity

This is your planned exercise. So your gym class at lunch time, your morning swim, your horse riding at the weekend. Yes this makes a difference to your calories burnt over the week but not as much as you would think compared to getting your NEAT up. Whereas this is important for heart health and body composition if they are your goals but we shouldn’t beat ourselves up as much as we do if we skip a class.

A lot of us have the mindset that it’s ok to sit on the couch all day watching movies because you went for a 20-minute jog this morning burning 150 calories. You would be much better doing your 10,000 steps over the day and generally being more active for a higher energy burn.

Don’t get me wrong, exercise activity is super important if you have body composition and health goals but it’s just not the most important thing and I think once you have a good idea how are energy is burnt you can make small changes to your day to day life that makes a lot of difference over time.

Making two small changes Sally just burnt 3.92kg over the year without even having to restrict any food.

Take away – get your NEAT up, make one small goal per week as it will make a difference. Eat more good quality Protein if you are not already.

Emma xx


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