How You Use Energy
When on a weight loss journey, it is necessary to be in an energy deficit. This can be a challenge for some people to maintain long term but there are a few things to consider that can make this easier.
First of all, let’s clarify the basics again.
24-hour Energy Balance
Your body uses energy throughout the day, including while you sleep. Using a predictive equation it’s easy to get an estimate of your daily energy expenditure. Multiply your weight in lbs by 10 (11 for males) to find your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) this number is the energy you are likely to use if you were to stay in bed for 24-hours.
After BMR is the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) and this is the bit that is most significant for this article. The foods you eat have a thermic effect, this means that some of the energy (calories) they yield are burned off during the digestion process. Protein has the highest and is closely followed by fibre. Carbs are next and then, bringing up the rear, are fats. Fats are high in energy density and have a very low thermic effect. This may due to their importance to your health but this can’t be ignored when trying to lose weight.
TEF of macronutrients (approximations based on averages):
• Protein = 25%
• Fibre = 15-20%
• Carbohydrates = 10%
• Fatty Acids = 5%
TEF accounts for about 10% of your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE). The more protein, fibre and other healthy whole foods you eat the better. The more processed fats and sugars you eat, the less of a thermic effect you get.
Activity and Exercise
There are some activity related considerations as well. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is all the activity you do from standing, to walking, to opening doors and dancing with the hoover, etc. The more NEAT you create the better, this ranges from about 15% for a sedentary person to 50% of your TDEE for a very active person. Then, lastly is Exercise which accounts for about 5%, an hour of intense exercise burns around 300kcal per 100lbs of bodyweight (roughly).
So, BMR, plus TEF, plus NEAT, plus exercise are all the things that affect your TDEE over a 24-hour period.
Here’s an example for a moderately active 70kg female:
70(kg) X 2.2 = 154lbs 154 X 10 = 1,540 kcal (BMR) multiply this by your perceived activity and you’ll have an estimation of your TDEE. In this case we’ll say 1,540 X 1.55 (moderate activity multiplier) = 2,387kcal TDEE.
The thermic effect of foods, NEAT (based on averages) and exercise activity are all included in that total. But, remember, it’s only an estimate so refer back to this video by GymCube nutritionist Ben Coomber to see how to work out your energy ‘ceiling’.
If you use the equation that we give you in the journey you’ll be able to work all this out for yourself and then, if you are consuming a decent amount of protein and mostly, single ingredient whole foods there’s a small chance that your energy system will be a bit more efficient and that you might actually burn a few extra calories than if you were to consume the same calories from processed foods.
How To Increase NEAT
So, what have you learned from this? That the quality of your food matters and that as important as exercise is for health and fitness, getting your 10,000 steps in per day is probably more important (or at least as much so) for fat loss.
What this actually means is that simply by making yourself get off your bum and doing a bit more habitual movement is going to make it easier to create an energy deficit. This is why physique competitors might get up and do an hour of fasted ‘cardio’ which for them is simply walking on a treadmill with a slight incline for an hour while listening to Ben Coomber’s podcast. That’s hella boring though, so I suggest that you take the dog for a walk instead and if you want to get really lean, get a border collie.
But, there are other ways to do this without having to specifically make more time for it.
• Take the stairs instead of the lift
• Walk to the gym instead of driving (if it’s possible)
• Park your car a block from work and walk the difference
• Get a standing desk if possible
• Go for a walk on your lunch break
• Get a fitness tracker and aim for 10,000 steps each day as a minimum (or double what you currently get if significantly lower than that)
• Get a bike on the cycle to work scheme and ride to work at least a couple of days a week
• Walk the kids to school instead of driving them (the world will be grateful of one less people carrier parking on the pavement outside the school)
• Plan walking/hiking/rambling/sight-seeing days out with the family
This whole calorie thing is so complicated, isn’t it? Don’t be overwhelmed, just take this on board, give it some thought and start to consider how you can practically find ways to increase your non-exercise activity. Remember, exercise is important for your health and your fitness, it will make you stronger, fitter, faster. It can improve your blood pressure, improve your insulin sensitivity and enable you to eat more while still being in a deficit. But, it’s all the other stuff that helps you to lose weight.
Here’s the weight loss priority list:
• Manage stress and sleep as best as you can - being stressed and tired will almost certainly make you want to eat more
• Be well hydrated - chronic dehydration can affect appetite, your energy levels and mood
• Get your nutrition right - if you aren't in an energy deficit you won't lose weight regardless of how much exercise you do
• Be more active - get your body used to burning energy rather than storing it
• Exercise hard but recover well - exercise has many health benefits and will improve your body composition
Remember this is a journey so take it one step at a time and enjoy it.