You have all heard the main rule of weight management:
ENERGY INTAKE vs. ENERGY NEEDS,
But how can you increase the energy expenditure of your body?
ENERGY EXPENDITURE = RMR + ACTIVITY + TEF
RMR=resting metabolic rate, or basal metabolism: the calories burned for your breathing, heart beating and other vital functions.
TEF = Thermic effect of food: The energy expended by your body when processing different foods.
ACTIVITY = movement, exercise.
So if you want to increase your energy expenditure you can manipulate your diet or you can increase your activity (increase exercise). Your resting metabolic rate is a lot harder to alter (that discussion is out of the scope of this article.)
Now I don’t want to make this article a math lesson but the following part is crucial so bear with me: The activity component in the equation above can be further divided into EXERCISE and something called NEAT (NON-EXERCISE ACTIVITY THERMOGENESIS).
The exercise component is the part you might alter when trying to increase the expenditure of your body: you are going to the gym, running, brisk walks, cycling, swimming and so forth. The NEAT is all the other movements you do during the day such as walking from your car to your desk, playing with your kids, tapping your knee while reading, having sex (unless you consider that planned exercise) moving around in your chair, shivering, and all other movements you do unconsciously .
So the equation for your energy needs actually ends up this way:
Now your body loves holding on to fat. That might sound strange but that’s why we get fat in the first place. We store energy for times when food is not available. When you lose weight you are not doing yourself a favor, at least not in the short term. And your body WILL try to fight it every way it can; holding on to that fat is crucial for the survival of the organism (or at least was when the closest McDonald’s wasn’t 50 feet away).
Besides reducing the basal metabolic burn (RMR) there is another interesting thing modern research have taught us:
NEAT decreases as we get leaner.
Truth is that the more weight you lose the more your activity decreases, and this might be out of your conscious control. You’ll stop tapping that knee, you won’t shiver as effectively when freezing, even lose the interest in being intimate with your partner.
Now every single of those activities might not burn many calories, but through the course of a whole day, those small movements contribute to decreasing your body’s energy expenditure. This way the body uses less energy even though you are doing the same amount of cardio and eating the same foods.
We know from experience and scientific studies that most people that lose weight will regain it back in a period of time. Studies have shown that people who exercise are better to retain the weight lost. The simple explanation to this is that as NEAT decreases you can only increase EXERCISE to keep the ACTIVITY parameter constant. Dieters only focusing on the intake portion of the equation are much more likely to maintain the weight loss when they increase their intake again since NEAT, and the total energy expenditure, will be much lower than when they first started their fat loss journey.
Next week I will talk about how we can use this knowledge to avoid weight regain after your weight loss goals are met.
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