If I had to assess everyone’s own nutritional and exercise strategy to help themselves lose body fat that I have ever dealt with (before they worked with me), it usually went something like this:
‘Do as much as I can, eat as little as I can and hopefully I have the will power (this time) to see it through’
Does this sound like you? Then please read on.
For some people, this will work to a certain extent or until they get to a certain point, then they have no idea on what to do next. They are stuck although they are ‘doing everything they can’.
Everyone knows, or should know, or at least try to learn that what drives fat loss is ‘Energy In Vs Energy Out’... Meaning, we must be burning more calories than we are eating.
In this blog post, I am mostly going to focus on the ‘Energy Out’ part of the equation. I will try to explain it in the easiest terms that I can, so be aware, this is over simplified.
If you can’t be bothered reading it all, then go straight to the NEAT section...
Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) – The Amount Of Calories You Burn Per Day
Energy out/calories burned isn’t just about how much calories you are burning through exercise, that’s just part of it. We burn calories just my being alive, for our hearts to beat, our lungs to function etc and all of this costs energy, which is known as our Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).
Then there’s the calories we burn through exercise, this is called Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT).
Then we have the calories we burn while digesting and absorbing our food, Thermic Effect Of Food (TEF).
Last but certainly not the least, is the calories we burn doing everything else that isn’t exercise or all the other stuff i just mentioned, called Non Exercise Activity Thermogenisis (NEAT).
Let’s go into each one of these categories and hopefully explain why they matter to you.
Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
Basal metabolic rate represents the minimal amount of energy expended for all of the body’s homeostatic processes. BMR is predicted to be responsible for about 60%, the biggest percentage, of your TDEE. There’s not much in terms of telling you what to do in order to increase your BMR apart from perhaps one thing... Build some more muscle. Muscle burns more calories than fat, so increasing your muscle mass will help you burn more calories at rest, than having more fat would.
Let’s really focus on the next 3 things that make up our TDEE. These are things that you really are in control of and will really help you in your quest for Fat Loss.
Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT)
This is the amount of calories we burn through exercise; the percentage on this can vary greatly (10-20%). We all know we burn quite a bit of calories when we exercise, right? So more is always better, right? Well, no...
You will likely be reading this and will likely be thinking, ‘well, what type of exercise is it that I should be doing?’
The answers to that being, well, what do you enjoy?
What do you feel you could sustain?
How much time do you have?
But if you are reading this, then I am going to assume that you are currently exercising, otherwise you wouldn’t have clicked on this post, so exercise for you usually isn’t the issue is it? So let’s not worry about this too much. Maybe another topic for another day..
So, the takeaway from this section; if you aren’t currently exercising, then please do so. Do anything. Anything is always better than nothing. But also, don’t do too much. That’s another issue.
* I may make recommendations in a future post, on how I would suggest someone puts together a plan.
Thermic Effect Of Food (TEF)
The Thermic Effect Of Food is the energy required for digestion, absorption, and disposal of ingested nutrients. This means that when we consume food, we need energy to do all the stuff listed. Another way to put this is that we burn calories by eating calories (5% of TDEE, roughly). Crazy, right?
How much calories we burn, depends on which macronutrient we consume, so here is what it can look like (roughly speaking):
Carbohydrates: 5 to 15% - So if we ate 200 calories,10-30 calories could be burned
Protein: 20 to 35% - So if we ate 200 calories, 40-70 calories could be burned
Fats: at most 5 to 15% - So if we ate 200 calories,10-30 calories could be burned
Now, I am going to pick on women a little bit here. In all my years when doing consultations with them, I would so most under eat protein. I mean, if I asked all the men AND women how much protein they ate, most would undershoot the requirements, especially in a dieting phase, but men roughly usually eat more than woman because, you know, ‘proteinz good n that’.
So, the take away from this section; eating more protein is not only good for you in the sense of building lean tissue (therefore increasing your BMR), maintaining your lean tissue in dieting phases (stopping your BMR from decreasing) but by eating a diet higher in protein, you will also burn a little bit more calories by default by doing so. Review your diet as it currently is, and see if you are eating enough protein. Aiming for 2g per kg of bodyweight is fine. Focus on whole foods too. As the thermic effect is typically higher.
*The myth about too much protein being bad for your kidneys is a little unfounded. If you currently have any kidney issues, then it MAY BE an issue. If you are ever in doubt, consult your doctor.
Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, undertaking agricultural tasks and fidgeting. It account for roughly 15 % of TDEE. Here is why this section matters if you have skipped here.
I was one of the people who never really thought about this category. I was one of the people who ‘trained balls to the wall’ but also had to diet on ‘lower calories’ and at the time, it didn’t make a massive amount of sense to me as to why.
‘I am not losing as much weight as I think I should be’ was something I often said, based on how I was training at the time. Other than training though, I was doing absolutely nothing. I went to work and sat on my arse, drove everywhere, used the nearest toilet, avoided stairs, all because I was ‘too tired’ from training (which I wasn’t, I was just being a pie).
So when I looked at it, I had 1-2 hours of activity per day and the rest of it was sitting around. Which as you can imagine required little to no energy at all. So when I paid attention to making small lifestyle changes, it made a HUGE difference in my effectiveness in losing weight that it was mind blowing to me.
I see the same issue with all the people who come into the gym every day. They feel completely unjustified for their efforts when really, they were doing all the same things I did (as well as have a poor diet, but let’s not get into that here).
People often roll their eyes when you make lifestyle changing suggestions to them such as, take the stairs, park further away to the super market, walk to the gym, walk to work, use the toilet that’s furthest away from you, 10k steps per day, do a hand stand while peeing (just kidding, just seeing if you are paying attention).
All those little actions though add up, they all require energy, they all burn calories and it could absolutely kick start your progress again without having to focus too much.
So, the takeaway from this section; don’t think you are burning an insane amount of calories per day just because you ‘go a hard run,’ or ‘have had an insane session’ when all that you do other than that, is sit on your big arse (like I did).
Focus on being a little more active and remember that all the small things you do, add up over time.
Now, It’s Down To You
Based on what you have just read, where can you make improvements? We all know if you are aiming to lose fat, we need to be eating a little better, we can always improve there. But was there anything in this short post that made you think were else you could improve? Then let me know!! Remember, implement some of the things discussed here, I promise you, it will make a difference.
Build muscle via resistance training
Eat more whole foods
Consume More Protein
Be more active through the day doing things other than the gym