Is “NEAT”? The Hidden Key To Fat Loss?
What if I told you there was something simple and you could do, every day, all year round, which would skyrocket your rate of fat loss? Which has big heart-health benefits, and would make it easier to keep weight off?
I imagine you’d jump at the chance of using this wonderful new technique…
Well, it’s nothing new and you don’t need to buy it, install it, or go anywhere to do it.
This amazing thing is NEAT – and here’s how you can do more of it.
What Is “NEAT”?
NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
There’s a lot of science behind it (I’ve added some links at the bottom of this article).
But in simple terms, it means the energy (calories) your body uses doing all activity that isn’t official exercise.
An obvious example of NEAT is walking.
But NEAT can also be DIY, mowing the lawn, a busy day on your feet, cleaning the house or car… anything that keeps you active and out of your seat!
How Does NEAT Help Weight Loss?
The more you move, the more energy you burn.
Someone with higher NEAT levels will burn more calories (pound for pound) than someone who is less active.
Where is gets really interesting is when you compare NEAT calories to exercise calories.
One hour of cycling or running might burn around 600-800 calories.
30 minutes of lifting weights might burn 100 calories or so.
20 minutes of HIIT (the kind of training I tend to do with clients) could burn 200-300 calories.
Person A commutes to work, sits at their desk almost all day, and goes to the gym after work.
They lift weights for 45 minutes and then do 15 minutes cardio.
That might have burned 300 calories.
They go home, satisfied with their workout, and sit on the sofa for the rest of the evening.
Depending on the weight and BMR (basal metabolic rate) of Person A, they may only have burned 2400 calories.
Person B walks to the train station in the morning and makes an effort to get up and walk around at work.
He goes for a walk at lunchtime, and then walks home from the train station in the evening.
Before dinner, he does a 15-minute HIIT workout at home.
Then after dinner, he walks the dog with his wife and kids, and has a bit of a kick-about in the field with his eldest.
Person B has probably burned 2800+ calories – without spending an hour at the gym.
On top of that, he will have spent more time doing cardiovascular exercise (great for the heart), more time outside walking, and less time sitting.
His stress levels are likely to be lower and his general wellbeing better than his sedentary alter-ego.
The lesson here is that NEAT calories actually matter more than exercise calories.
Focus first on being a generally active person.
Then add exercise on top.
Bonus points if your choice of exercise is short and intense, leaving you more time to get on with your (active) day!
The Triad Of Fat Loss
We all know that diet and exercise are important factors in losing weight.
But even if you exercise every single day, that still leaves you with around 15 hours of non-exercise and non-sleep time.
Those hours could be sedentary, or they could be active.
What you do with that non-exercise time will dictate your NEAT levels.
Experts think NEAT can contribute up to 15% of your total daily energy expenditure.
NEAT, diet, and formal exercise all play a role in fat loss.
7 Ways To Raise Your NEAT
– Use a standing desk
– Walk to work or to the station
– Walk at lunchtime
– Wash your car instead of using a car wash
– Do a grocery shop instead of online or click & collect
– Embrace DIY and garden chores!
– Think “how can I be more active”
How Much Of A Difference Do NEAT Levels Really Make?
The human body burns 50-100 calories per hour when we are awake (this will depend on your body weight).
If NEAT could add just 20 calories an hour to that, that’s 320 extra calories per 16-hour day. And that’s not an ambitious target!
There have been lots of studies into NEAT, including its impact on health and long-term weight management.
I’ve added some below.
Get in touch if you want to get more active and lose weight without hours in the gym.
This long-term study into the positive impact of activity (via fidgeting) on mortality risk https://www.ajpmonline.org/article/S0749-3797(15)00345-1/fulltext
The role of NEAT on obesity https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279077/
NEAT: a component of total daily energy expenditure https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6058072/