Understanding Calorie Burn


Where does your calorie burn come from?

Well, to talk about it we need to first define a few terms!

Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE)

The combination of all metabolic and movement activities make up our TDEE.

Basal metabolic rate (BMR)

The minimum level of energy we need to use to maintain vital functions of the body (does not include digesting or physical movement).

Our BMR accounts for 60-75% of the daily energy we expend!

(Keeping us alive is hard work)

Literally the only thing we can do to increase our BMR is to gain lean muscle mass!

We will never shut up about gaining lean muscle mass.

#cantstop #wontstop

Truth be told however, gaining a bunch of muscle will only slightly increase your BMR.

Thermic effect of feeding (TEF)

Digestion, absorption and assimilation of ingested food/ nutrients is an active process: it takes energy.

The very act of eating food increases the metabolism.

How much it goes up depends on which macros we eat (often referred to as “the thermic effect”).

The best way to optimize your TEF is to hit your macro numbers and chew your food thoroughly!

Additionally, chewing your food well is one of the best things you can do to improve your digestion!

Proteins have the highest thermic effect, it takes the body more energy to process them, while fats tend to have the lowest thermic response.

Keep in mind though, that TEF has a fairly minor impact - usually around 5-10% of total daily energy expended.

Exercise activity (EA)

The energy used to perform purposeful exercise. 

For sedentary people, this can make up to 10-15% (or less) of TDEE.

The technical definition of sedentary is less than 5,000 steps a day.  

For highly physically active people, it can be 30% or more.

High intensity exercise not only creates a demand for energy during the actual activity, it also creates a higher demand after the activity due to excess post-exercise consumption (known as EPOC).

Best way to optimize your EA: lift weights 3-5 times a week, do cardio 3-4 times a week!

Use the following links for more info on:

Workout Intensity

High Intesnity Interval Training (HIIT)

"What weight should I lift?"

Beginners Weight Lifting Program


Non exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)

This is all the daily-life movement that isn’t deliberate exercise, such as:

Moving around our homes or workplaces.

Fidgeting and pacing, wiggling or tapping our feet.

Housework or yard work.

Playing with our kids or pets.

Carrying groceries.


This is an important part of weight loss or gain and unlike the rest of the factors: it is quite changeable!

So let’s explore it a little further, shall we?

Just like calories are king when it comes to energy consumption...overall activity is king when it comes to energy output.

If you do not workout and are sedentary for the most part…get started with 5-10 minutes of walking everyday and refer to our list below for more activity ideas!

If you DO workout but are mostly sedentary outside of that…take note of this little tidbit: Recent studies have found that sedentary people who exercised were at just as high risk for cancer, diabetes & heart disease as those who DID NOT exercise regularly.

There's no way to get around it: sitting for long periods is problematic.

Long periods of sitting will have a negative impact on your TDEE and increases muscle breakdown (a.k.a. catabolism).

And an hour a day at the gym just isn't enough to counteract that.

So what is the key to eliminating these negative health consequences and increasing the effect of NEAT on your TDEE?

(can you believe you just understood that sentence?)

The key is moving regularly and consistently throughout the day.


Some ideas to tidy up your NEAT:


Possibly the most underrated thing you can do to increase your level of activity!!

The amount of calories can vary quite a bit, but statistics show a good average is about 100 calories per mile.

One mile is about 2000 steps.

So 10,000 steps a day would burn approx 500 calories per day.

Do that every day and you've added an additional 3500 calorie burn! (Roughly equivalent to 1 lb of fat!)


Any age or fitness level can do it.

It’s free (no equipment needed).

It minimizes stress and anxiety.

Increases mood/ happiness.

Low risk for injury.

Stand up! 

While standing around isn’t exactly exercise, research shows it’s got more than a leg up on sitting.

By comparison, standing significantly increases your daily caloric expenditure!

Take the stairs

Get a fitness watch or pedometer

Even the best activity trackers can be miscalculating your daily calorie burn by as much as 27%...

BUT..they can still be incredibly helpful in tracking your steps and monitoring your heart rate!

It's a great tool to remind and motivate you to get up and move!

Jog in place!

Pace around while you are on phone calls!

Do toe touches or knee raises while you're watching tv!

Set an alarm

Put a reminder in your phone to get up and move around!

Mandatory 3-5 minutes for every 30 minutes of sitting.

Add in some stretching!

Bike to work

Go chair-less! 

Use this as an alternative to sitting round a table for meetings or lunches!

Standing or walking meetings may have other benefits such as increased alertness and creative thinking due to the change in scenery!

Toe taps

Speedily tap your toes on the floor

(you can do this seated--under your desk for example).

Or graduate to this harder (and less inconspicuous) move:

Stand in front of a step or small trash can and lift up those legs to tap the toes on its edge, alternating feet, in soccer-drill fashion.

Butt squeeze

Simply squeeze the buttocks, hold for 5-10 seconds & release.

Repeat until glutes tire!

The results will be uplifting in more ways than one :)