The NEAT Way To Lose Fat

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NEAT ways to lose fat: Sweat less lose more

What is the easiest way to lose body fat? Obviously a trick question right? There is no easy way otherwise it wouldn’t be such a damn struggle. It is about as easy as your first day on the surgical service with an attending that loves to play darts with scalpels and the staff is the dart board.

The easiest way to lose body fat is the method that creates the most straightforward process for you to consistently follow day in and day out. For most people that means making changes that are not radically different than their current lifestyle. Adding exercise is one way to help with aesthetic body changes along with creating a more healthy lifestyle.

One major problem with exercise; it is hard. Exercise not only is hard to do with intensity but it makes you tired and sore afterward. Many people fall into the psychological pitfall of rewarding themselves for exercise which at best will completely negate their training effort, and at worst will actually have them eating more than they burned off.

When you think of fat loss you think of hard, sweaty, vomit-inducing workouts don't you? That is what the main media loves to push. It looks so motivational. Plus you can say bullshit statements like sweat is your fat cells crying or pain is weakness leaving the body.

If anything makes me nauseous, it is pseudo-inspirational shit like that. Of course, that is frequently slapped across the sweating 90% naked body of a very fit female or male which just adds to my frustration.

When you fall into the close minded pit of darkness and think a workout is only helpful if you risk passing out from exertion then you will miss out benefits of different types of exercises and might just quit because that shit sucks.

My favorite type of “exercise” is strength training, but after that, it is walking. I have always been the type of person that has two speeds: walking or sprinting and I tend to carry that through into all areas in life.

Walking may or may not be exercise depending on how fast you are walking and if you are walking up hills so let’s just lump walking into NEAT, nonexercise activity thermogenesis.

Big walking day

NEAT incorporates physical activity that occurs outside the gym and your workouts. Since I do a lot of walking in the gym on a treadmill some people call it a workout and some people wouldn’t. Personally, I don’t care what people want to call it. It is activity, and it can really add up if you consciously work on increasing it.

NEAT is also highly adaptable in some individuals. Their NEAT levels will vary depending on how many calories they are eating. Some people will enhance their NEAT levels as their calories increase IE hardgainers. And others find their NEAT drops off as their calories decrease making it hard for continual weight loss.

Why does NEAT matter?

If you are extremely motivated, obsessed, you might spend up to 14 hours in the gym a week. That is a significant chunk of time for a physician who also puts in 60-100hrs into work. It is much more likely to spend half of that time or less in the gym. That means you are spending 4.17-8.3% of your week in the gym being active. The other 154-161 hours of your week are spent doing other things like sleep, working, eating, and watching Netflix. That comes close to summing up my life activities.

Hopefully, this underscores how little your work in the gym really is in the big picture. The only way you are going to make your gym activity truly add would be to make it a full-time job which I don’t recommend.

Your energy expenditure in a day comes from 3 principle areas: basal metabolic rate (BMR), thermic effect of food (TEF), and activity. Activity can then be further divided into exercise and non-exercise components. Nonexercise encompasses fidgeting, walking, posture, standing, singing, etc.

A month of steps

NEAT can vary from just a few hundred calories or ~15% of energy expenditure in sedentary individuals all the way up to 1000 calories or 60% of someone's daily energy output. That is basically the difference between being able to just sniff a brownie to eating half a pan and remaining weight neutral.

As a society, we have become desk bound and lazy. We fight for parking places that are the closest to the entrance to our desired store. We take escalators for just one flight of stairs. Our ingenuity has been turned into a device to assist us with being lazier.

But, that shit is just trivial, right? Why would I bother to walk a little bit further or just take one flight of stairs? That cannot add up to much energy expenditure. I didn’t break a sweat, and I am not even breathing hard.

Again, these thoughts bring to light flawed ideas surrounding exercise. Just standing up and walking at 1.2mph. Honestly, that is barely perceivable movement, doubles the number of calories you burn vs. sitting down.

These small, seemingly insignificant actions can lead to significant changes over time. If you can burn an extra 100 calories a day (if you were around maintenance before) in a year, you could drop close to 10lbs, as long as your diet didn't change. This is slightly incorrect, but it still represents the idea that you need to expand your vision and don’t get caught looking in the short term only.

Which populations have some of the lowest obesity rates? I promise you it isn’t the traditional American. The Amish population has some of the lowest obesity rates only hitting ~4% whereas regular Americans are creeping up above 30% and still rising. The traditional American might walk 5000 steps a day. A typical Amish person walks around 18000 steps. This creates a difference of around 400-600 calories.

A video made while walking on walking

What to do?

So, now that I have destroyed your idea of how to lose weight and keep it off what can we do about getting your ass out of the chair (mine too)? As a doctor, much of my work is done in an office or in front of a computer. I need to make a conscious decision to move more otherwise left to my normal environment I walk 5-6000 steps.

I now carry a pedometer, an app on my phone, that allows me to track my steps. A pedometer doesn’t have to be exact, but it does give you a nice ballpark for your activity level throughout the day.

Your goal should be at least 10000 steps a day. More is better but 10000 is an excellent start, and it has some scientific backing that people averaging 10k steps are healthier and leaner.

Set aside some time during your day to move whether that is a morning stroll, lunchtime walk or an evening escapade. Get up from your desk every hour and stretch, move, walk to the bathroom or around the building for a few minutes. You will notice your mental energy and focus will also improve with this technique.

Stop using lazy devices, like elevators and escalators all the time. It isn’t always practical. For a while, I worked out of the 14th floor of the hospital, and I could take the stairs, but I would need to shower each time which is unreasonable. In other words, be reasonable about what you set out to do.

Recap

  • Exercise for fat loss and health does not always mean pouring sweat feeling like you are about to lose your last three meals.
  • Exercise can mean very low-intensity activity so low that in fact is not really exercise it is Nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT).
  • The number of calories we burn is mostly from our basal metabolic rate and from NEAT.
  • NEAT levels can range from minimal caloric burn to a significant amount depending on your activity level.
  • Shooting for 10000 steps is a good start to increasing your NEAT levels.
  • NEAT is adaptable and can change your output of calories without you noticing.
  • Consciously chose activities that will allow you to increase your NEAT, park farther from doors, take the stairs, take walks during the day.
  • Enjoy the increased health and increased caloric output by increasing your NEAT levels

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