I don’t doubt that you’re about to go a bit red around the gills when you find out that workouts don’t burn as many calories as you think. And unless you’re a professional athlete prepping for the Olympics, exercise won’t make much of a difference to your weekly calorie expenditure and thus, fat loss:

Exercise doesn't burn many calories

Don’t look at me like I’d just urinated all over your trousers. I just report science. 

But don’t worry—in a moment of boredom this morning, I solved all the world’s problems. A bold claim, I get it. But if my plan were implemented, there would be no more pandemics, jealousy, keto, stupid burpees, or obesity.

While you’re told to ‘hit the gym’ (which you definitely should because weight lifting is the best thing you can do for fat loss), around the corner lurks something that could provide a simple opportunity for improving fat loss—NEAT:

What is non exercise activity thermogenesis and how can it help you burn more calories and lose weight

Now, remember when I said exercise alone won’t make much of a difference to your weekly calorie expenditure and fat loss? Well, if you’re like most mortals, you probably train for an hour a day. That’s ~6% of your waking hours (assuming you sleep for 8 hours):

How many hours people workout versus non-exercise time per day

And if you train 4x per week, that’s only 4 hours working out versus 108 non-exercise hours:

How many hours people workout versus non-exercise time per week

And that’s where NEAT rolls in. 

You can’t wake up tomorrow and decide to increase the flying fuck out of your BMR and TEF because they are predisposed (pretty much). What you can do is consciously strive to increase your NEAT by moving as much as you can when not throwing weights around the gym:

Let’s put it into a hypothetical example of how much NEAT can impact fat loss in two individuals of the same sex, age, body weight, etc. Twins, basically. Like Tyrion & Jamie Lannisters (GOT!):

Image Inspired By: TheFitnessChef

Both individuals have an identical calorie expenditure of 2,100 kcal/day. The only difference is an additional 300 kcal burned through NEAT. This could result in 2,100 additional calories burned throughout the week and ~26 lbs (12 kg) of fat lost or gained per year

Oh-oh! And the best part is that losing those 26 extra pounds doesn’t require paying a ‘personal trainer’ 50$/hour to do an exercise for sadistic fucks which also rhymes with pointless—burpees.

And if you’re about to say “Pfff… These are all just hypothetical numbers schnumbers, Egis” then please know that… you’re wrong. Study1 after study2 after study3 shows that higher NEAT plays an important role in your energy expenditure and fat loss/gain:

The first study on non exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) and weight loss

And:

The second study on non exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) and weight loss

And it’s not just weight loss that NEAT affects. Sustaining it too. Ostendorf et al. (2019) found that successful weight loss maintainers have a significantly higher daily step count as compared to overweight individuals: 

The study on non exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) in obese and lean individuals

As a result, successful weight loss maintainers have higher levels of physical activity energy expenditure:

The study on non exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) in obese and lean individuals

When people say ‘Fuck it, enough is enough. Gotta lose that flab off my belly!’, their initial instinct may be to go to the gym and do some running on a treadmill as if they’re being chased by a wolverine severely intoxicated by the mix of meth and alcohol. However, working out a few times a week doesn’t mean they can ‘slowth around’ for the rest of the week. 

Maintaining an active lifestyle can burn significantly more calories than your average gym workout. So instead of blaming all of your weight loss woes on sugar or carbs, get 10k steps per day. Or 11k. Or 12. I don’t care. Anything counts.

A daily twenty-minute walk seems small but over time, those 20 minutes of movement compound into thousands of calories expended with minimal upheaval. So take the stairs, park in the farthest spot from the shop, put on headphones when taking a call, and go for a walk.

Unless you’re Frodo Baggins schlepping the Ring to Mordor with the fate of humankind on your shoulders, walking is easy peasy lemon squeezy.

There are millions of people who would donate a nut or two for a set of working legs. Don’t take yours for granted. Walk. Listen to a podcast. Take the stairs. Get your NEAT up.

It may be one of the catalysts to your fat loss success.


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This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Hey Egis,
    First, I must say I really enjoy your style of writing. It’s relatable, and burpees fucking blow. Second, I appreciate the fact that you’ve taken the hype out of all this and just report science. Science makes sense – and I know taking a pill or drinking some magical drink from Shark Tank won’t solve anything except making me have less money. I have tried many things – running, gym memberships – as well as programs like Weight Watchers and Beach Body. I currently use Les Mills; I’ve been tracking food for about 4 years, and I still have this pesky 10-15 lbs. to lose. I’m not obese. I’m squishy. But I am also pretty strong (farm girl in me). The best luck I’ve had is with Beach Body and I attribute that to the weight lifting as there was a lot of that. Running has also been pretty cool because I quit smoking and replaced it with running. And like you said – gotta appreciate being able to MOVE. I actually like to work out, I just get tired of feeling like an asshole when I miss a day. Anyway, I am going to incorporate you weight lifting suggestions with walking and running and Les Mills/burpees if I feel like it. And I have started really checking in with myself about WHY I am snacking. Re: NEAT, this makes total sense. My mom was a small, very active woman who never did a workout in her life. But she was fit because she was always moving. Like, always. Then her lungs quit working and her legs may has well have. So…thanks for your science and realistic approach, and for making it fucking funny. Kudos. I’ll keep reading.
    Appreciate your work,
    Karen

  2. Hey, Karen. You’re absolutely killing it. You might think differently because we’re our worst critiques but judging purely on your comment, you’re heading in the right direction. Now, here’s the deal about missing workouts: No matter how consistent you are with your habits, it is inevitable that life will interrupt you at some point. Perfection is not possible. Whenever this happens to me, I try to remind myself of a simple rule: Never miss twice. If I miss one day, I try to get back into it as quickly as possible. Missing one workout happens but I’m not going to miss two in a row. I can’t be perfect, but I can avoid a second lapse. As soon as one streak ends, I get started on the next one.

  3. I love reading your sarcasm about burpees tried them once I hated them. Im the same i started walking more for my excercises to start doing 5 k’s and i only walk or power walk those. It feels great . I did this walking alot back from 2005 to 2006 when i was 205 pounds. Took a year to get it off changed the way I ate becasue of me being hypoglycemia and it helped. I was 145 in a year still had 3 boys at home at that time. Im not 205 again but with lots of life tragedies from 2012 here and there im back up at 165. My calves like before get fatter it’s awful to look at. But I’ve been at my gym now since 2016 and try not to miss the gym no more then 2 days . But i do my own and don’t pay that money for burpees . love your funny articles!!

  4. Thank you, Misty! And as I said to Karen before, missing one workout will happen. It’s life. But I’m not going to miss two in a row. You can’t be ‘perfect’ (whatever that means), but you can avoid a second miss. Always get back on track whether it’s nutrition or training. Don’t restrict yourself even more. You can’t put out fire with more fire. Just go back to your normal eating or training.

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