Energy Expenditure

An Industry Full of Gibberish

‘Learn form my experiences, mistakes and wins’

#35 – Energy Expenditure 

Hi Team,

Today I want to talk about energy expenditure. It may be worthwhile looking at the picture below before reading on.

As you can see there are four main elements that make up energy expenditure:

– Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
– Thermic Effect of Food/Meals
– NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)
– Exercise or EAT (Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)

BMR – Basal Metabolic Rate is the sum of calories we burn a day without moving, like when we are hungover or have a good old duvet day. For most people this will sit somewhere between 1000-2500 calories, however this is totally dependent on a persons weight, age, height and body composition (muscle to fat ratio). This is an important figure for many reasons. Mainly, as we SHOULD NEVER eat under this number as we would be malnourishing our body, putting it in a very stressed state and our body would at some point start having to break down muscle to utilise as fuel/energy which could cause lots of metabolic and health issues.

As previously stated, eating under your BMR will result in a high percentage of muscle breakdown/wastage which in turn will:

1 – Decrease a persons BMR significantly (muscle burns more calories than fat at rest – roughly 6kcal per pound of muscle per day)
2 – Result in someone looking skinny-fat (skinny but unhealthy due to muscle wastage – we all know someone who falls into this category)
3 – Result in the individual becoming extremely tired, fatigued, and eventually very unwell whether it be physically, mentally or both.

Below is the Harris-Benedict equation which you can use to work our your BMR. Our Tanita Boditrax machine thankfully does this equation for us. £10,000 well spent! BMR accounts for the largest amount of our daily energy expenditure.

Men BMR = 88.362 + (13.397 × weight in kg) + (4.799 × height in cm) – (5.677 × age in years)
Women BMR = 447.593 + (9.247 × weight in kg) + (3.098 × height in cm) – (4.330 × age in years)

Thermic Effect of Food – The thermic effect of food (TEF) also known as diet-induced thermogenesis or postprandial thermogenesis, is a reference to the increase in metabolic rate (i.e. the rate at which your body burns calories) that occurs after ingestion of food. Our body, more specifically our digestive system uses energy/calories to digest, absorb and store nutrients from food.

Evidence suggest that the thermic effect of food accounts for roughly 5 to 10% of the energy content of the food ingested. This would mean, for example, that if you eat a 400 calorie meal, you can reasonably expect somewhere between 20 to 40 calories to be burned in the process of digesting, absorbing, and storing the nutrients from the meal.

There are many factors that effect TEF such as age, meal size, meal frequency, meal composition, etc. Arguably the most important being meal composition, IE, the ratio of macronutrients (fats, protein and carbohydrates within a meal). Without a doubt, protein is the macronutrient that induces the largest thermic effect of food response. Roughly 25-30% of the calories in pure protein will be burned after consumption due to the thermic effect of food. So, if you eat 100 calories worth of protein, 25-30 calories of that 100 will be utilised to digest, absorb and store the nutrients. Fat and carbohydrates, on the other hand, each induce a burn of roughly 5% of the calories consumed due to the thermic effect of food. Another pro of a high protein diet.

As you can see on the daily energy expenditure chart, TEF burns the smallest percentage of calories/energy, therefore it is really not worthwhile to make modifications to your eating habits with the sole intent of optimising the thermic effect of food. The effects would be so minimal, however I am a huge advocate of a high protein diet for many reasosn and the TEF is another.

EAT (Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) – Interestingly and often surprisingly to many you can see here that exercise only actually accounts for roughly 10-15% of total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). When we exercise its generally for 30-90 minutes, therefore it isn’t a particularly large part of our day, therefore although extremely important it isn’t the be all and end all in relation to TDEE. Not like people perceive anyway.

Hence, why I am a huge advocate of resistance/weight training as your main training method with some cardiovascular exercise and a lot of general activity (NEAT – we will come on to this).

It often makes me chuckle when people obsess over how many calories they burn in an hours circuit class, spinning class, treadmill run or weights session because although they all count its all about your daily/weekly total. Not the amount you can burn in an hour of the day. Additionally, people total themselves to burn 500kcal in a spin class and then laze around all day? How counterproductive…

Heres an example:

Client 1 – 500kcal burned in an exercise class – Feels fatigued – Barely moves for the rest of the day = 2000 calorie output

Client 2 – 350kcal burned in an exercise class – Feels productive and fresh – Does a lot of daily activity = 2200 calorie output

People start exercising and use it as an excuse to not be active in their everyday life which unfortunately is usually counterproductive and ends in them having a negative relationship towards exercise as they don’t see one of the benefits they desired which was weight/fat loss.

NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) – The second daily highest energy output source and the one YOU can effect the most is NEAT.

You can’t change your BMR that much. Even if you put on a few kilograms of muscle your BMR will only increase by 20+ calories per day or so, however increasing your NEAT can increase your daily energy output by hundreds if not thousands of calories per day/week.

NEAT includes anything which isn’t exercise/training but burns calories. Walking, a casual cycle ride, gardening, playing in the park with the kids, housework, DIY, and that thing we sometimes do in the bedroom… (Christmas and birthdays – I’m married now remember)

NEAT is often the difference between someone losing body-fat or not. Period. Over the last 7.5 years of working as a fitness professional I have studies people and their lifestyles. EVERY person I train who is in good/great shape does an average to high amount of NEAT on a daily/weekly basis. Keep busy and active it really is as simple as that.

Training/exercise is extremely important in terms of body composition and body weight, however NEAT trumps pretty much every other factor other than energy input (calorie intake). If your NEAT is high you can afford to eat more calories and still lose or maintain your weight.

A good example of this is myself. I can eat 3500-4000 calories a day and maintain my weight because my lifestyle is so active, therefore my levels of NEAT are incredibly high. I don’t count my steps momentarily, but when I used to they would sit between 15,000-25,000 per day.

A study I found showed that if you walk between 5,000 and 7,000 steps per day, you are an average American. If thats not motivation to walk more than 7,000 steps per day I don’t know what is!

Another study done in the UK found that 52% of the adults tested walked only 2,000 steps per day which is abysmal and unfortunately fells us a lot about the way our country is going.

One of the biggest barriers of completing a lot of NEAT per day/week is our job. If your job isn’t very active then you have a problem, and one that is getting worse across the UK as the weekly average working hours are ever on the rise!

Hopefully this email has taught you a lot about energy expenditure and the four components that make up energy expenditure.

To conclude:

– BMR is important as a baseline and we can only affect slightly though body composition (muscle mass to fat ratio)
– TEF is not hugely important as it has such a marginal affect on overall energy expenditure, but its another bonus of a high protein diet
– EAT is important of course, but not as important as people place it in the priority list. Exercise/training has huge health benefits, and energy expenditure is just one of them
– NEAT is very important and often the difference between someone being in shape and not being in shape. Its something in the UK we need to massively improve, otherwise the health of our country is going to decrease rapidly!


The last week two months have been… ONCE IN A LIFETIME! 


Myself and Kimberley went on our honeymoon for pretty much all of September. We spend four nights in Cape Town where we climbed Table Top, watched the sunset at Camps Bay and Signal Hill, ate and drunk at V&A and Kloof Street. We then picked up our SUV and drove the garden route stopping at a few destinations along the way over a period of five nights. We then flew to Kruger for our Safari at Thornybush Waterside Game Reserve which was the highlight of our holiday. We saw the big 5 and generally had the time of our lives! We then flew to Mauritius for six nights  and enjoyed chilling out… We weren’t very good at that so we ended up swimming with dolphins, riding horses on the beach, playing tennis, doing sunrise yoga, and more. We were so fortunate to have such an amazing honeymoon and I would recommend SA, Mauritius and in particular a Safari in Kruger to anyone!


Thankfully the boys took such good care of the HQ, our various programmes and all my 1-to-1 PT clients when we were away which I am extremely grateful for. I love the fact that when I go away everything carries on the same without me. Everyones replaceable, and no one is bigger than FCF! Additionally, I was worried about going away for three weeks and my 1-to-1 clients not progressing and getting their sessions complete. I always worry about this, as I feel guilty for going away if they struggle when Im on holiday, so this was a great bonus. Well done in particular to Jack and Ryan who worked A LOT of hours when we were away to cover my classes and clients. Additionally, they covered my HQ gym shifts, completed my cleaning jobs, etc. Mesha took charge of a lot of the administrative jobs and I did some work when away (couldn’t help it!). We are a strong team here at FCF.

I hope everyone is well and please respond to my email to say hello, and let me know if you’ve enjoyed this series.

Quote of the week

“If you can’t handle stress, you won’t manage success

Have a great week everyone! 

Kind Regards