If you want to take a fresh approach to losing weight, brace yourself. Because we’re going to dive right in here and hit you with some punchy science talk. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis, or NEAT for short, are the calories that we burn from activity other than intentional exercise. For most people, this is the largest part of their daily activity – and the easiest type of activity to increase.
In short, you can melt away fat and improve fitness and physique by shifting your attention away from exercise for a moment and focussing on all of the other stuff that burns calories during the day.
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“Your energy balance is the balance between the energy (calories) you consume and the energy (calories) you expend. Weight gain occurs when consumption exceeds expenditure. Weight loss occurs when expenditure exceeds consumption. It’s really that simple,” explains Don Graham, Head of Fitness Coaching at Goal Master Fitness.
Some people believe that an hour a day on a treadmill is the best way to lose weight. There is no doubt that an hour on a treadmill will burn calories - on average 500 to 750 calories depending primarily on your weight and the intensity of exercise. But, for most people, spending an hour on a treadmill is tedious, unpleasant, boring and difficult. And most people overestimate the number of calories they burn performing intentional exercise.
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“For most people, 70 per cent or more of the calories burned each day are the calories burned at rest, up to 10 per cent of the calories we burn is the thermic effect of food and people who exercise a lot typically do not burn more than 10 per cent of their daily calories performing intentional exercise. That leaves another 10 to 20 per cent of calories,” says Don.
“If you want to increase the energy you expend - or the calories you burn, in other words - it is physically and psychologically easier to increase NEAT than to jump on a treadmill. NEAT can add up quickly,” he says.
"But how on earth do you do this?" we hear you cry. Well, it is actually a lot easier than you would imagine.
So how do I lose fat with NEAT?
Just a few small adjustments to your daily routine can have a massive impact on the amount of calories you can burn in an average day. Of course, intentional exercise is still an excellent way to achieve the body of your dreams, but throw a few of these suggestions in and witness even faster results.
Take the stairs
You’ve heard this one before, but have you actually committed to it? Climbing just two flights of stairs burns between 5-10 calories depending on your weight, speed and the number of stairs per flight. Make this relatively tiny effort every day and, all things being equal (being at a steady weight, no increase or decrease in calorie intake or expenditure elsewhere), this could result in a pound of fat loss in a year’s time. Now imagine how much you could lose if you use stairs instead of lifts all the time.
A word on nutrition
"Growing any muscle group requires adequate stimulus plus adequate calories and protein," Frankie explains.
"To build muscle, your body needs to be in a calorie surplus, this means eating more calories than you burn. The average man needs around 2,500 calories per day to maintain the same weight, so you want to be in a calorie surplus of around 250 calories per day if training hard," he adds.
You'll also hear a lot said about protein, because it is essential to repairing and building muscle mass, so you'll need to inject more of this into your diet.
Introducing protein-rich healthy foods to the diet is the best way, but you can also supplement this with protein powders and we have a selection of the best here.
"Where protein is concerned, you want to aim for two grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight," says Frankie.
"For example, I weigh 90kg, and therefore I aim to eat 180g of protein per day. But also try and time your carbohydrate intake around training. Leg training requires a lot of energy, so you don’t want to be doing your heavy sets with depleted carb stores," he adds.
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Adjust the commute
Getting off public transport one stop earlier to walk the remaining distance may delay your commute but it’ll expedite your fitness journey. Yes, like taking the stairs, this is another old chestnut, but they both actually work. This is because, instead of requiring you to take up a completely new activity, they combine something you already do with something you don’t. This makes embedding a new habit much more likely to happen.
Start a Fantasy Footstep League
This is essentially Fantasy Football, only you’ll be doing the physical work, not relying on sportspeople to do it for you. FitBit and other wrist-worn activity trackers have the ability to create step challenges with colleagues, friends and family. By adding a healthy dose of competition, you can create interest where none previously existed. The accountability of others being able to see how many steps you’re clocking up will literally keep you on your toes. There can be prizes. There can be fundraising. Whatever you can do to make it fun and meaningful, the better. Studies have found that community-led intervention can be a highly effective method for creating habit change.