How do we burn calories? Let me count the ways…

When you are looking to achieve a body composition change and loose fat the one key thing is a Calorie Deficit, which means burning more calories than you eat.
When we think calorie burn, most of us will immediately think “Exercise” but thats just a small part of the puzzle.

Here are all the ways our bodies burn calories:

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):
    This is the energy your body uses to maintain basic life functions while at rest, such as breathing, circulation, and cell production. It accounts for the majority of calories burned daily.
  2. Physical Activity:
    Any movement burns additional calories. This includes:
    • Exercise (e.g., running, swimming, weightlifting)
    • Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): daily activities like walking, cleaning, fidgeting
  3. Thermic Effect of Food (TEF):
    The energy used to digest, absorb, and metabolize food. It typically accounts for about 10% of total daily energy expenditure.
  4. Adaptive Thermogenesis:
    The body’s ability to generate heat in response to environmental changes or diet.
  5. Growth and Development:
    Children and adolescents burn extra calories for growth. Pregnant women also burn additional calories to support fetal development.

The component that contributes most to our daily calorie burn for most people is the Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR).

BMR typically accounts for 60-75% of total daily energy expenditure for sedentary individuals. This means that even if you were to lie in bed all day, your body would still burn a significant number of calories just to keep your basic life functions operating.

The exact percentage can vary based on factors such as:

  1. Age: BMR tends to decrease with age.
  2. Body composition: More muscle mass increases BMR.
  3. Gender: Men generally have a higher BMR than women due to greater muscle mass.
  4. Genetics: Some people naturally have a higher or lower BMR.
  5. Health conditions: Certain medical conditions can affect BMR.

It’s important to note that while BMR is the largest contributor to calorie burn for most people, physical activity can significantly increase total daily energy expenditure, especially for very active individuals. For athletes or people with physically demanding jobs, the calories burned through activity might approach or even exceed their BMR.

The one that generally gets overlooked but can actually end up having a BIG effect on your daily burn is NEAT – Non Exercise Activity Thermogenesis.

Tips for increasing NEAT in daily life:

  1. At Work
    Use a standing desk or treadmill and vary your position throughout the day.
    Take walking meetings instead of sitting in a conference room.
    Set a timer and stand up at least once every hour. Add in a stretch if possible, or a walk around the building.
    Use a smaller water bottle so it needs filling more often.
  2. At Home
    Do more vigorous versions of chores (scrub the floor rather than mop for example).
    Stand or pace while using your phone.
    Do simple exercises or stretching during tv commercials, or between episodes.
    Dance while listening to music.
  3. During Commutes / Errands:
    Park further away from entrances of buildings.
    Get off public transport one stop early and walk the rest of the way.
    Carry groceries instead of using trollies for small shops.
    Walk or bike instead of using your car wherever possible.
  4. Social Activities:
    Suggest active things to do; mini golf, bowling etc.
    Play active video games that require movement.
  5. Throughout the day:
    Fidget more; drum your fingers, tap your feet etc.
    Increase your daily step count wherever possible.
    Use a smaller water bottle so it needs filling more often.
  6. At Night:
    Do some light stretching or yoga before bed.
    Tidy your living spaces before going to bed.

Remember, the goal is to make movement a natural part of your day. Even small increases in activity can add up over time and contribute to higher overall calorie burn.

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