Since a fast metabolism equals more energy and an easier time maintaining a healthy weight, it’s no wonder everyone is looking for an “edge” or secret for speeding it up. One quick Google search brings up dozens of articles with metabolism-boosting “hacks,” foods and products promising you fast results. As you might expect, most of these hacks have little to no impact on our metabolism. The good news for you is that by putting in the work in The 131 Method, you are already way ahead of the game when it comes to metabolic rate and flexibility. However, there is one commonly overlooked way to boost your metabolic rate, and it’s called: NEAT. NEAT stands for Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis and refers to the heat produced/calories burned from any activity outside of formal exercise. Before we get into the action items for boosting NEAT, let’s first look at what goes into your metabolic rate:
TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) = BMR + PA (exercise + NEAT) + TEF
- BMR: Basal metabolic rate. This is the amount of calories your body burns at rest to maintain normal bodily functions.
- PA: Physical activity. This includes calories burned from formal exercise as well as NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis.
- TEF: Thermic effect of food. This is the amount of energy it takes to break down, digest and absorb the food we eat.
As you can see from the equation above, there are 3 main categories that influence our daily calorie burn. Our BMR is determined by our height, weight, gender, body composition, age and genetics. Aside from building and maintaining lean muscle mass, we don’t have a ton of control over our BMR. The TEF is the energy we burn through breaking down and digesting the food we eat. We can influence TEF to some extent by ensuring adequate hydration and including high quality protein at meals, but overall, TEF accounts for a very small percentage of our total daily burn.
The category that we have the most control over is Physical Activity. Formal exercise is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and a robust metabolism, but due to time constraints, this will only account for anywhere from two to seven hours of your week, on average. You want to focus on what you do with the remaining hours of the week, and that is where NEAT comes in. NEAT includes all forms of movement that aren’t formal exercise: walking or climbing stairs during the work day, carrying groceries, household chores, running errands and even fidgeting or laughing. Essentially, any time you are not sitting still, you are contributing to NEAT.
While the activities that fall under the category of NEAT might sound insignificant, studies show that NEAT can account for 100-800 calories burned per day (3). That could literally tip the scale in favor of weight loss and be a hugely important tool for maintaining weight. Studies have also shown that lean individuals perform much more spontaneous activity than their obese counterparts, helping them to prevent weight gain and maintain weight lost. What this means for you is that you can contribute significantly to your daily calorie burn just by intentionally adding in some simple, non-exercise activities. Pretty neat, huh? (I couldn’t resist).
Simple ways to increase your NEAT:
- Add in a walk either before or after work or during your lunch break
- Park farther away from the store or office
- Take the stairs
- Wear a pedometer and set a daily step goal for yourself
- Walk and talk next time you’re on a long phone call
- Resist the urge to haul your groceries inside in one trip and take multiple trips
- Set an hourly alert to buzz on your phone to remind you to get up and stretch your legs or walk to the water fountain/restroom
- Consider investing in a standing desk
- Fidget when sitting
- Play outside with pets or kids
- Laugh more
1.Levine JA, Schleusner SJ, Jensen MD. Energy expenditure of nonexercise activity.Am J Clin Nutr. 2000; 72: 1451–1454.
2.Levine, J. A. (2002). Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). Best Practice & Research Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism, 16(4), 679-702. doi:10.1053/beem.2002.0227
3.Ravussin, E., Lillioja, S., Anderson, T. E., Christin, L., & Bogardus, C. (1986). Determinants of 24-hour energy expenditure in man. Methods and results using a respiratory chamber. Journal of Clinical Investigation, 78(6), 1568-1578. doi:10.1172/jci112749
4.Schmidt, S. L., Harmon, K. A., Sharp, T. A., Kealey, E. H., & Bessesen, D. H. (2012). The Effects of Overfeeding on Spontaneous Physical Activity in Obesity Prone and Obesity Resistant Humans. Obesity, 20(11), 2186-2193. doi:10.1038/oby.2012.103