Do we really know what factors contribute to our energy expenditure?

You have probably heard a fitness professional talk about being in a calorie deficit to lose weight, alternatively a calorie surplus to gain weight. But do we actually know what contributes to our daily calorie expenditure and how many calories we need to consume to attain our aim.

People often think (because of many low-calorie fad diets out there) that you should just not eat to lose weight or eat anything possible to put weight on. This isn’t the case, particularly when trying to lose weight. When you don’t eat enough, your metabolism naturally will slow down and your body will do its upmost to retain fat stores, keeping it as a reserve energy source. This is the complete opposite to what you want to achieve when trying to lower body composition. If your metabolism slows down, you then will be burning fewer calories daily – no one wants this!

Another huge misconception with the general population is that you can simply eat healthy and clean foods and you will lose weight. This is somewhat true, especially if you are converting from a diet that often contains junk and processed foods. Eliminating bad foods from your diet is great and is essential for health and longevity – but ultimately you still need to be in a calorie deficit to lose weight.

On a daily basis – do we know what actually contributes to our energy (calorie) expenditure?

One thing we all can do that can have a major influence on this is ‘Non-Exercise Physical Activity’, which is officially referred to as ‘Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis’, abbreviated as NEAT.

NEAT is energy we expend throughout the day that is not planned exercise; daily tasks that we do not even consider contribute to this. Things such as walking to work, walking up and down the stairs at home doing housework and even a marathon of ironing. These activities are hard to track, and it is hard to know exactly how many calories we are burning during these tasks, but we are burning them.

So, imagine if we were to consciously increase these tasks – walking into town to go shopping instead of driving or setting yourself a steps target and making that a new habit. Increasing NEAT, will in turn increase our base metabolism.

But the problem is that, particularly when people are trying to lose weight, they simply think they can cut calories and drop weight. This may work initially, but your body will then adapt to the minimal energy coming in and slow down the energy going out. A drastic negative energy balance will lead to a decline in your metabolism, decreases in bone mass, reduction in thyroid hormones, reduction in testosterone levels, an inability to concentrate and a reduction in overall physical performance.

Although a negative energy balance will lead to weight loss, because the body detects an energy deficit and fat reserves are called upon to make up the difference. But when your body adapts to the deficit, your body will actually want to hold on to the fat stores as a reserve energy source. The body doesn’t know the difference between a strict diet (monitored by a dietician) or simply running out of food, the body just knows that it isn’t getting enough energy (food), so it will begin to slow down all ‘non-survival’ functions.

Want to increase your NEAT?

  • How about taking the stairs when it is an option
  • Standing at your desk – as we know, a sedentary job is a huge contributor to lowering NEAT
  • Standing on the train instead of sitting down
  • Break up your day – go for a 10-15mins walk when possible or take the longer route to where you buy your lunch
  • Do your household chores – daily tasks such as ironing, cooking, hoovering and cleaning


Believe in the process and enjoy the journey.
Team 4D Fit
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Facebook: @4DFitUK

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