March 15, 2023

NEAT, Total Energy Expenditure, and the Effect on Weight Loss [Ep. 34]

NEAT, Total Energy Expenditure, and the Effect on Weight Loss [Ep. 34]

Movement March continues!

Do you know what NEAT is? It's your non-exercise activity thermogenesis. That basically means all the movement you do in a day that is not part of your formal "workout" or exercise routine. 

And you'll be shocked at how much difference it makes in your total energy expenditure for the day.

In my dieting days I only thought my workouts "counted" or were important.  That's for sure not the case! I wish I knew all this science I'm going to teach you today back then!

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Hi, welcome back to the eat. Well think. Well live well podcast. I'm Lisa Salisbury, and this is episode 34. Neat energy expenditure and the effect on weight loss. What is NEAT and eat and how can I increase it are the two main questions we're going to be answering today. I will give you a spoiler right now. Walk more will be a general theme of today's episode, but there is more to it than that. We're also going to talk about just the way energy is expended. During the day in your body. So stay tuned because you'll be surprised how much of this part of your physical activity can impact your weight loss efforts, even more so than your formal exercise routine. All right, let's go. Welcome to Eat Well, Think Well, Live Well; the podcast for women who want to lose weight, but are tired of counting and calculating all the food. I'm your host, Lisa Salsbury. I'm a certified health and weight loss coach and life coach, and most importantly a recovered chronic dieter. I'll teach you to figure out why you are eating when you aren't hungry, instead of worrying so much about what you are eating. Hey everyone. Thanks for joining me today. I have had a slew of great guests lately, but interestingly, no one really specializes in today's topic. So I did my own research on top of what I learned in my certification programs. And we are going to thoroughly discuss neat and understand how you can increase it as well as why you would even want to do that. We are also going to learn about how energy is expended in the body. In my dieting days. I spent. an inordinate amount of time thinking about how to limit my energy, going into the body by limiting and counting my calories. And virtually no energy thinking about all the ways energy is expended or used in the body. I only paid attention to my formal exercise routine. And I thought that was the most important part of my energy output. And boy was I wrong? This is part of my movement, March series, where we are talking all about different movements and exercise to help you in that aspect of your fitness. Although I didn't really say much about that in the episode with Maverick last week, I did actually think through in my head that I was going to do a few episodes connected to exercise and movement this month. So this really is part of my live well pillar on the podcast. When you are thinking about movement and exercise, I always try to disassociate it with your food, with the nutrition going in your body. Diet industry has linked these two forever in your mind. And in my mind, diet and exercise, diet, and exercise, I've got to lose weight. So it's diet and exercise. But the truth is you actually could totally lose weight without exercise. But you can't really lose weight. If your nutrition is not dialed in. Well, I just mean that it's unlikely. You'll lose weight with exercise alone, unless you are already eating and a maintenance type amount, meaning you have not gained any weight in the last year. And then the only thing you change is your exercise routine. Then you could end up losing weight, especially if you were increasing your walking quite a bit. It's just not the most effective modality. four. Significant weight loss, as you'll see, as we go through the science today. And it's also unlikely you can dramatically increase your overall activity and not change anything about your nutrition. I was just asked to speak about nutrition for a girls group at my church. And they asked me to talk about simple things. They should learn about food, such as what food is made up of. Like, what are macronutrients, importance of water, just basic things like that. We aren't going to be talking about calories or amounts of macros. Just purely educational about what food is. When I do these, I've done it a couple times. I also like to play this game with the youth. When I teach these classes. And it's, it's the good, bad food game. And spoiler alert. The end of the game has all the foods listed under the good category, except things like all the food and food you're allergic to. So. Anyway, the leaders of the group said, oh yeah, we're also thinking about having some exercise or yoga class there as well on this evening. And I said, I would encourage you not to do that. I would really encourage you to have these on separate nights. The reason is because I don't want these young girls to associate exercise with what they eat. Because so many times it's been said things like you've got to work that off or graphics that show how far you need to run in order to work off a certain Halloween candy or times I've been in group exercise classes and the teachers or trainers were basically telling us they were punishing us for what we ate the day before. None of that nonsense is good for the brain. So I do want to make it clear that these movement episodes are separate from the eat well episodes, movement, and exercise. are essential to your overall health, but we want to separate it from our eating. So we don't end up punishing ourselves in the gym. Or celebrating a great workout with a huge meal. All things I used to do in my dieting days. So what happens when you exercise though, is you get the mental benefits. You are thinking better about yourself, about your efforts, about your body. And then you're feeling confident. And if you follow the model down from the thoughts, which is like, oh, I just did a great job on that workout. And then you feel amazing. You feel confident and then comes your actions, your actions then coming from that feeling of confidence are very likely to be something like sticking with your 24 hour plan choosing to feel your cravings and processing rather than rewarding them. Eating more fruits and vegetables, drinking more water, all those kinds of behaviors that you're trying to implement. So in that way, what you are eating is linked to exercise because of your thoughts about yourself. When you participate in exercise, it's kind of like I can do anything type mentality. Okay. So let's get a little more into the topic today of going beyond our formal exercise, both. Um, my last episode, when I spoke with Maverick Willett about weight training and resistance training, and then next week, you're going to be hearing from a yoga instructor. Those are more formal exercise times in your schedule. But what about the other 23 plus hours in the day? That's where your neat comes in. So if you, if you didn't know before neat stands for non-exercise activity, thermogenesis. So this calls for a lesson on how energy is expended in the body. You may have seen these graphs. But hopefully you can picture this in your mind as I'm describing it. If you aren't familiar with this. So your total daily energy expenditure. Okay, wait, let me just warn you. There are tons of acronyms in this world. Of energy expenditure. So I'm going to give you the acronyms and I'm also going to give you what they stand for. So your total daily energy expenditure or your TDEE. Is the amount of energy you expend in the day. So on a typical day for a typical ambulatory human, about 70% of your total daily energy expenditure or TDEE comes from your B M R, which is your basal metabolic rate. This is all the energy it takes to keep you alive, except from digesting food. So, this is also considered your resting energy expenditure. That's another way. You'll see it. R E. This is the energy for your brain and your liver and your muscles and your tissues and all the things that make you, you to keep all of that going. It's the amount of energy it would take to lay on the couch all day and not move and not eat. 70%. Of your total daily energy. Is this BMR? It's it's a huge majority. And like I said, this is just your resting energy. So the next piece, then the remaining 30% of your TDEE is your. N R E E or your Non resting energy expenditure. So you have 70% of your T D E is your BMR, which is your basal metabolic rate or your resting energy expenditure. And then the 30% is your non resting energy expenditure. So this is, this category then is broken down into T E F, which is the thermal effect of food. So this is where the digestion comes in. Your N E a T your neat, your non-exercise activity, thermogenesis. And EAT, which is your exercise activity. Thermogenesis, not to be confused with eating, which comes under the thermal effect of food or your TEF. Now I purposely didn't give you the percentages of these three things here, because I want you to think about this and decide of those three. In my non resting energy expenditure, the things that I'm doing to move my body around, which do you think contributes the most to your N R E. I think most of us would assume that it would come from your EAT, your exercise activity, thermogenesis. But. We would be wrong. Neat NEA T actually makes up 15%. Of your total energy expenditure in the day. Which means then it makes up 50, 5, 0 that's, half 50%. Of your N R E E or your non resting energy expenditure. So, if you think of the total chart, the total TDEE, NEAT makes up 15% of your total. But if you're looking just at the energy, that is not your basal metabolic rate, not the energy that you're just keeping alive. 50% of that comes from your non exercise activity, thermogenesis. The neat. Next in that section of your non resting energy expenditure comes the T E F the TEF, the thermal effect of food at 10%. Of the total energy expenditure or one third. Of the non resting energy expenditure. And then we have just a measly 5% left. 5% of our total energy expenditure from the day comes from our exercise activity. Thermogenesis. This means that digesting food, the thermal effect of food. And that includes everything from the chewing all the way down to the digestion and all of it. Actually uses more energy. Then your workout this morning. I know that sounds completely crazy and hard to believe, but that really is the science. Our bodies need a lot of energy to stay alive with digesting food, being a huge factor. Now this doesn't mean we don't need to continue. Doing regular exercise, because like I said, at the beginning, The energy expenditure that exercise gives us is not actually the biggest benefit. We don't actually work off our food by doing that one cycling class. Because also I said in the beginning of breaking down these numbers, this is for a typical individual. So if you are a professional or college athlete doing four to six hour workouts per day, Obviously your percentages are going to be different, but I am assuming that none of my listeners fall into that category. I'm assuming most of you are typical exercisers getting 30 to 60 minutes, hopefully several times a week. So we aren't focusing here. On the mental benefits of exercise and cardiovascular benefits of high intensity training and all of those other things for the body, the muscular building, all of that, there are tons and tons of benefits of exercise. And also just as a side note to that, be sure to listen to last week's episode with Maverick Willett, for some of the benefits and how to, as a, for resistance training in women, it was so good. So I don't want you to take away from this episode, the exercise doesn't burn that many calories. So why bother. And that's because of my dieting days when I was wholly consumed with calories in versus calories out. If I had found out that exercise, wasn't making as much of a difference in what I could eat. And I put that in air quotes, right. What I could eat. I probably would have stopped doing it. But I'm giving you these percentages mostly so that we can talk about the importance of that neat portion. The non-exercise part of the T D E as well as the TEF, the TEF thermal effect of food. We actually can also make a difference in our T F percentage by including protein. In every meal. Of the macronutrients that food is made up of protein requires the most energy to get it digested. So a quick breakdown on this. I know I've been talking a lot of numbers and percentages and acronyms, but as a side note, I do offer transcripts on my website of all my podcasts. If you're interested in seeing this in writing, it is done by AI. So it's not a hundred percent accurate all the time, but I'll make sure to go in and correct the numbers if they aren't. Right. So at least those are going to be right and all the acronyms to. But you certainly don't need to memorize all these numbers. I just think it's impactful to hear them just so you get an idea of the differences between these. Um, between these ways, energy is expended as well as what I'm going to go over now, which is the macros, the TEF of our food. so, you know, macro nutrients make up all food. Those are their three are fat carbohydrates and protein, alcohol as a separate category, which we won't address today. Fat provides nine calories per gram calories as a measure of energy here. Not that we need to track or count them, but, um, calories are a measure of energy, so, and it's uh, so okay. So here we go. Again, fat provides nine calories per gram and it's TEF. It's thermal effect of food is zero to 3%. So it's calculated as a percentage of the energy provided. By the macronutrient. So zero to 3% of the calories that were ingested will be used to digest that food. Okay. So carbohydrates provide four calories per gram. And it's T E F is five to 10%. Protein provides four calories per gram as well. And its TEF is 20 to 30%. So, this is just one benefit when it comes to weight loss to include plenty of protein with each and every meal. I do not count macros with my clients, but I do make sure that they are prioritizing protein in their meals. Honestly, most women have dieted so many times in their lives that they know what a serving of protein looks like. You get three to four servings of protein per day. You'll be doing just fine. One thing you can do and you're planning to make sure you are getting enough protein is to make it a priority when you're creating your go-to meals. If you don't have my go-to meal guide, be sure to grab that the link is in the show notes. This is a guide to help you create meals that are your go-tos or things that are always on plan for you. So that means you enjoy eating them. They're easy for you to make, and you know, they keep you on track with your goals. So when you are creating those, think about making sure that there is a good source of protein with each of those meals. You'll notice when you see my go-to meals, that are an example in that guide, that a vast majority are pretty protein dominant. When we are eating primarily carbs and fat, without any protein, you can see that the thermal effect of your food will be quite lower with fat only being zero to three and carbohydrates being five to 10. It's going to be a lot lower and this doesn't even take into account the muscle building benefits of getting protein in as well. But you can also see why we say that protein has more staying power, or it just keeps you fuller longer. It takes a lot longer to digest, which is why it uses so much more energy. Okay, so let's move on to neat that non-exercise activity thermogenesis. What makes up neat. This is all the activity. Or all the ways you move your body, that is not part of your regular exercise routine. So this is cooking, walking up and down the stairs at home, pulling laundry out of the washer, gardening, gentle walks with the dog around the block. Fidgeting washing your hair, getting up and down from the floor with your kids, walking to your coworker's desk, getting up to go to the bathroom. Knitting. Although my apple watch does sometimes think that that nitty movement is somehow walking because it often records steps. When I knit for some reason, I don't know. Anyway, this also includes any work related activities. Such as if you are a server at a restaurant or a retail worker and you are on your feet all day, or if you work construction or massage therapist or you cut hair, all that work-related activity contributes to this neat number. So I think you get the idea when a questionnaire like from a doctor's office asks, if you have an active lifestyle. This is all the stuff it's talking about. Not specifically that 30 minute exercise routine. Because if you are an office worker say, and you work out for 30 or 40 minutes in the morning, and then you sit the rest of the day, your neat will be very low And your total NREE or that non resting energy expenditure. We'll be quite low then. Again, if you are an office worker or you work from home at a desk, like I do you really have to make the effort to increase your activity as opposed to someone. Who say maybe cleans houses for a living and is constantly moving around Holly in a vacuum up and down the stairs. I can think of a lot of jobs that are highly active and just as many that are more sedentary like mine. So there are several industrial and urbanization affects on neat as well. So if you live in a city and walk most places, as opposed to those of us, like me who live in the suburbs and drive everywhere I go, I went to drop something off at a neighbors the other day, and I got in my car. I pulled out of the driveway and I realized, oh, hold on. She literally lives around the corner. What am I doing? It's literally like less than a quarter mile. And I thought I needed to drive because I drive everywhere. Right. So we have these habits built in. So just FYI, I did pull the car back in and I walked. So. And you know what it felt good. I was like, yeah, I can walk places. It's it's fine. So there are seasonal effects also on neat that we want to be aware of. So we tend to be less active in the winter months for various reasons. But naturally if it's cold, we tend to walk outside less. I was just looking at my step count over time. And on average, I'm walking about a thousand less steps in the winter months than I am in the summer months. And that's a thousand. Less steps per day, not for the entire month. I tend to want to run errands less when it's cold and rainy. I also get more steps in the summer from when I'm hiking. So that brings up the monthly totals. So then it brings up my, my daily average when I have those like big hike days. I think I'm also just more hunkered down in the winter. I don't want to move around as much even in the house when I'm cold or maybe cuddled under a blanket. So we want to be aware during the winter too, even more so, you know, walk around the house, take a walk around the office, whatever you need to do to keep that step count up, to keep active, even in the winter. There's a lot of scientific factors that go into your NEAT. Like how much muscle you have and how efficient you are at burning calories, which is a function of your biology, your DNA, mostly as well as the amount of skeletal muscle that you have. So basically the more efficient you get cardiovascular wise and the more muscle you have, the less NEAT has, uh, has that thermal effect. So. The thing is this is going to be very, very small. So even if you see these kinds of articles or headlines, I wouldn't encourage you to dwell on any of that. Mostly, what we want to do is figure out ways to increase our neat are non-exercise activity thermogenesis, as much as we possibly can. Basically, it typically makes up half of that non resting energy expenditure. So any increase we can make to get our neat to atypical or above average, making sure that we are at that 50% of that in our E E. That is going to make a big difference and our overall energy expenditure for the day. I always used to think in my dieting days that the advice to park farther away or take the stairs was so dumb. I just wanted to get in the gym and sweat. And I thought that I was all I needed to do. How much difference could walking a few extra steps make really, but I just didn't know this science. It really does make a difference. Any time you can walk more. Do it. Sometimes I try to get everything in from the car in one trip. And if I'm in a hurry, but mostly I just make several trips and take advantage of needing to carry stuff in. Or make several trips up your own stairs when you were doing laundry, if it's up and down the stairs, like just do that. Be glad be like, oh, here I go up and down the stairs again. When you're cooking, don't hesitate to really move around the kitchen. Maybe put your cutting board on your farthest counter from the refrigerator. Um, as I'm saying that I'm like, that's a terrible idea because I want to put my cutting board next to my stove. So I'm not spilling stuff on the way to the pot, but maybe, you know, that's not the best idea, but the thing is our, in our effort to be more efficient and all of the ways. We have just lost some of this daily movement. The energy, our ancestors expended on washing clothes and hand washing dishes and agriculture and farming and building things by hand. It's just not part of our lives today. They got so much meat, the non-exercise activity, thermogenesis that there probably wasn't really need for that. Eat that exercise activity, thermogenesis. They. Aren't really w when we're talking about very distant ancestors, there, wasn't such a thing as working out. They their lives were this way. So they didn't really have the same breakdowns. We really have to work at it to get the, all that in with our sedentary lifestyle that we are in, in this day and age. Also, we know now that exercise still is quite important to improve or maintain our overall fitness, cardiovascular fitness strength, the measurements. So neat. Doesn't have really have the capacity to do those things. So. Again, there's there's benefit to both neat and eat. I think what I really want to get across to you the most is that being active during the day can really make a difference in your overall energy expenditure. Increasing that activity is something you want to focus on. If you're currently pretty sedentary aside from that regular workout routine, or maybe you're needing to increase your neat as well as. You're eat. Think about ways this can be done. If you don't have a garden, say maybe you increase the amount of plants you have inside walking around the house to check on them, carry them to the sink for water, putting them away. Cleaning is also a great, neat activity. I personally do not love cleaning, but you know, the vacuuming has to get done. So if you want to think about it in terms of improving your neat in order to get it done, maybe you'll be more likely to want to do it. If you're on the phone, you can walk around or pace back and forth. He take that call outside, walk around the block. I mean, not if you're talking to your boss probably, but you know, if it's your sister, then by all means she won't care. Um, are you a fidgeter? I personally am not. I tend to sit very still when I'm watching TV or otherwise just talking to someone. if I'm nervous, I like a fidget toy in my hands, but other than that, I'm like, my body is very still. But fidgeting actually makes a huge difference in your neat. If you are a fidgeter. if you're a leg bouncer, a pencil, twirler, all of those kinds of things. Taking the stairs versus taking the elevators or escalators. If it's practical, obviously not with luggage or groceries, if you live on a top floor apartment, but if you have small things to carry and or nothing, then give the stairs ago. Park farther away when you can. I know I said it was dumb and I really did think that when I was, like I said, when I was in the throws of my dieting days, I just thought that is so dumb. I already worked out this morning. But all the steps add up. I was going to say, don't hesitate to walk around the store or be inefficient with your shopping so you can backtrack through the store. But that actually just goes against my character. I like to start with produce meat. Do my do my canned goods, very efficient, but. you know, there's, there's ways to get more walking in. I could go to the mall more in the winter when I don't want to get outside and walk through the mall and window shop. Ultimately any way that you can stand versus sit. That's a win. I honestly keep getting distracted in my research for this episode, because. I'm like, you know, what I need is a standing desk and a walking pad or one of those small treadmill things for under my desk. Honestly, I am pretty serious about getting one, but it also kind of takes me a while to make these kinds of decisions. So. When I do, I'll put it up on Instagram and show you how I've got it all set up. And if you have one that you love, definitely DM me on Instagram or send me an email like seriously. I would love to know. But if you have that option of a standing desk, even if you don't have the treadmill underneath, that is also great. Ask your company. If they're, if they are an option, if you work in an office, you can get converters that go on top of the regular desk as well. So it's not like you have to get an entirely new desk. I. I have to say, my brother set up a new office for his engineering firm and every desk in the office has the ability to stand. He's got like balls they can sit on. So they're like bouncing, if they're sitting or they can stand. It's I think really common in the new office world to be encouraging movement. And it helps with thinking, but also just with, with this neat. So I would really love to hear how you are getting more neat. In your lives. And if learning about your energy expenditure has been helpful. Again, be sure to check out that go-to meals. guide for. Great ideas on how you can create some go-to meals for yourself and be thinking about how to get more protein. In your daily life. If that's not something that you're already doing, then you want to create some of those go-to meals around some excellent protein sources that you enjoy. Okay. That's it for today. Be sure to tune in next week for our discussion about yoga and how to fit that into your life as well. hey, thanks for listening today. If you're ready to get some personalized coaching from me, I'd encourage you to schedule a free strategy session. Visit or it's easier just to find that link in the show notes. We'll talk about where you currently are with your weight loss goals. And I'll give you some actionable tools. You can start implementing right away. Before you go, make sure you subscribe to the podcast so you can receive new episodes, right when they're released. And if you're learning something new and enjoying the podcast, I'd love for you to leave me a five star rating and a review. Thanks again for joining me, Lisa Salisbury in this episode of Eat Well, Think Well, Live Well.