We know what you are thinking?
The only way to speed up your fat loss is by increasing the number of times you work out or your calorie deficit, right? Well, as it turns out, there’s an easier way to boost your metabolism! And to fully appreciate this, you need to understand something called ‘non-exercise activity thermogenesis’ (aka NEAT). In this article, learn everything you need about NEAT, and how you can make use of it in your daily life to experience fat loss – on the double.
What is NEAT?
You can think of NEAT as calories expended outside of exercise, eating, and sleeping. It includes all the movements – big and small – that you do throughout the day. So, for example, climbing the stairs, walking, and even fidgeting.
In essence, NEAT helps increase your metabolic rate and can result in substantial energy costs over time, which then widens your calorie deficit. And as you probably already know, the larger your calorie deficit, the more weight you'll lose.
Just so you have a complete understanding of your metabolism, understand that your daily total energy expenditure (TDEE) is made up of four components, with NEAT being one of them:
1. Resting metabolic rate (RMR) – Number of calories you burn at rest
2. Thermic effect of food (TEF) – Number of calories you burn while digesting your food
3. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) – Number of calories expended outside of exercise, eating, and sleeping
4. Exercise energy expenditure (ExEE) – Number of calories you burn during exercise
Why should I care about NEAT, anyway?
Now, you might be asking: ‘Why can’t I just work out really, really hard in the gym for one, two hours?’ Well, to answer your question, let’s take a look at recent movement findings discussed in the American Council on Exercise (ACE) webinar.
Research highlights that individuals who move throughout the day are more likely to reach or maintain weight-loss goals in comparison to those who are sedentary throughout the day and vigorously move through 1 exercise session.
Several studies have also found that adopting NEAT behaviors can help increase daily calorie expenditure by as much as 350 calories. That’s a significant amount! Just for reference, a 120-pound individual burns through 342 calories only after a 30-minute run!
Hopefully, you now see that what you do over a day plays a more significant role in your calorie output rather than during 1 vigorous exercise session. Not that this means you should stop going to the gym, of course. We’ll discuss why later on.
How to increase NEAT
So, how can you increase your NEAT levels, so you end up burning more calories and accelerating your fat loss journey?
Be mindful about moving more
Assuming that you work a sedentary job, where you’re deskbound pretty much the whole time you’re at work, you need to be more mindful about moving more.
According to a paper from the Journal of Obesity, even amongst people who are mostly sedentary, those who are leaner still tend to stand and move more in general outside the gym than those who’re overweight. And this helps them keep the weight off.
‘Moving more’ might seem challenging to you – especially since you’re used to (or you have to) staying at your desk a good portion of the day. But the truth is that it might be easier to achieve than you think. Any kind of movement will be useful.
Illustrating this point is a paper from the Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which compared the number of calories burned from 8 different conditions on an hourly basis. Take a look at the results:
1. Resting – 77.4 calories
2. Sitting motionless – 80.4 calories
3. Sitting while fidgeting – 117.6 calories
4. Standing motionless – 87.6 calories
5. Standing while fidgeting – 147.6 calories
6. Walking at 1MPH (mile per hour) – 196.2 calories
7. Walking at 2MPH – 235.2 calories
8. Walking at 3MPH – 305.4 calories
As you can see, simply switching it up from sitting motionless to sitting and fidgeting allows you to burn an extra 40 calories per hour! All you need to do is subtle movements like toe-tapping, flipping through papers, shifting items around your desk, etc.
If you want to bump it up, consider standing while fidgeting at your desk. You might need to invest in a standing desk, but the money spent may be well worth it.
You see, standing while fidgeting gives you an additional 67 calories burned hourly in comparison to sitting motionless at your desk. Assuming that you work at your standing desk for 6 hours, that’s 402 extra calories burned! Count me in.
How to further increase NEAT levels
On that note, you might also consider finding ways to accumulate more time spent walking, so you can further increase your total NEAT levels. Here are some suggestions:
1. Change your mode of transportation – If it's at all possible, consider walking to work instead of driving.
2. Implement walking meetings – Take that 2 pm meeting outside; who knows, the change in environment might spark a winning idea in your teammates.
3. Empty your garbage can – Give your eyes and body a break from the computer screen. Start by emptying the garbage can from under the deck.
4. Take the stairs – Skip the elevator and take the stairs whenever possible, especially if you’re moving between meeting rooms.
Make it a point to head to the gym
Remember how we mentioned that you shouldn't stop going to the gym – even though your NEAT levels are more indicative of your weight loss success? Well, that's because research has shown that a resistance training session can actually increase your NEAT levels for the rest of the day!
This is in stark comparison of cardio, which seems to do the opposite – it leads to you moving less after.
So, if you want to increase your NEAT levels in the long-term, regularly heading to the gym and performing weightlifting activities is crucial. And should also take priority over doing lots of cardio. But hey – you knew that already, right?
Now, what you might not know is that GymStreak has an AI-powered app that is capable of customizing an individualized fitness program based on your specific training goals. With our science-backed workout programming, you can be sure you’ll get stronger in the gym, and your NEAT levels will always be kept sky-high – ensuring that you’re experiencing the fastest fat loss results possible. Download the app today!
Di Blasio, A., Ripari, P., Bucci, I., Di Donato, F., Izzicupo, P., D’Angelo, E., Di Nenno, B., Taglieri, M., & Napolitano, G. (2012). Walking training in postmenopause: Effects on both spontaneous physical activity and training-induced body adaptations. Menopause (New York, N.Y.), 19(1), 23–32. https://doi.org/10.1097/gme.0b013e318223e6b3
Drenowatz, C., Grieve, G. L., & DeMello, M. M. (2015). Change in energy expenditure and physical activity in response to aerobic and resistance exercise programs. SpringerPlus, 4(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s40064-015-1594-2
Levine, J. A., Schleusner, S. J., & Jensen, M. D. (2000). Energy expenditure of non-exercise activity. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 72(6), 1451–1454. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/72.6.1451
Melanson, E. L. (2017). The effect of exercise on non-exercise physical activity and sedentary behavior in adults. Obesity Reviews : An Official Journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 18(Suppl 1), 40–49. https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.12507
The N.E.A.T. Way to Exercise. (n.d.). Retrieved February 22, 2020, from /education-and-resources/lifestyle/blog/3757/the-n-e-a-t-way-to-exercise