What Is NEAT & How Is It Important For Fat Loss?

WHAT IS NEAT & HOW IS IT IMPORTANT FOR FAT LOSS?

NEAT is the amount of Calories burned / energy expended during activity that is not sleeping, eating or intentional exercise e.g. hitting your daily step target, standing at your desk, gardening, walking to work, doing housework and fidgeting etc.

This definition of NEAT encompasses both conscious and subconscious activity. It is helpful to be aware of the differences between conscious and subconscious activity and how they influence energy balance. We can define both conscious and subconscious activity.

Non-Exercise Physical Activity Thermogenesis (NEPAT) = conscious

None-Exercise Non-Activity Thermogenesis (NENAT) = subconscious

Non-Exercise Physical Activity Thermogenesis (NEPAT) 

This is the amount of calories burned during conscious activity that is not sleeping, eating or intentional exercise e.g. hitting your daily step target, standing at your desk, gardening, walking to work, doing housework etc.

Non-Exercise Non-Activity Thermogenesis (NENAT):

This is the amount of calories burned during subconscious activity that is not sleeping, eating or daily activity/exercise. Some examples include fidgeting, facial tone and speed of speech. 

The amount of calories burned & contribution of each to TDEE is dependent on individual activity levels.

Both NEPAT and NENAT can change as a result of dieting and both can have a role in increasing calorie expenditure to help achieve a larger calorie deficit

NEPAT & NENAT can increase with overfeeding and decrease with underfeeding. For example, some people will subconsciously move and fidget less or even talk slower when in a calorie deficit to conserve energy. Some people will fidget and move more when in a calorie surplus to increase energy expenditure to try and reduce weight gain.

Thus, NEAT and its sub-categories are a critical component in determining if we will maintain, lose or gain fat. 

The importance of neat for fat loss & Body weight control

Individual differences in NEAT are related mostly to environmental and biological factors that are influenced by people’s different occupations, lifestyle habits and leisure-time activities. They can also be influenced by molecular and genetic factors.

Increasing NEAT can influence energy balance & increase TDEE a further 500-1500 calories per day. It is therefore an important consideration to help achieve a larger calorie deficit, especially if you have a sedentary job and do not exercise.

Differences in NEAT help explain why two identical people can eat the same total calories and one (who doesn’t consider NEAT) gains fat while the other, who is aware of increasing NEAT loses fat.

The graph below compares the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) / calories burned in one day of a hypothetical sedentary person with differing activity levels and someone with a more active occupation who exercises the same amount. Consider the difference between the groups in terms of weekly calories burned & how it would help fat loss efforts.

Using the example above we can consider the differences in total calories burned per week. By calculating weekly energy expenditure (daily calories burned x 7) we can see why increasing NEAT can have such a large impact on helping fat loss. 

If we compare the sedentary person that exercises to someone who has a sedentary job, exercises and increases NEAT there is a 2,800kcal increase in weekly energy expenditure. Considering that in 0.5kg of fat there is theoretically 3,850kcal, the sedentary person that exercises and does all they can to increase NEAT will have much more fat loss than one that only exercises.

All non-exercise activity helps to increase energy expenditure and create a larger caloric deficit to help you lose fat. Manipulation of caloric intake (from food consumption) will have the most significant effect on the energy balance equation and fat loss efforts BUT increasing NEAT is a great idea and will help immensely.

References

The Role of Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis in Human Obesity (2018) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279077/

Nonexercise activity thermogenesis in obesity management (2015) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25841254

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (2002) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12468415

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