Energy Balance & Metabolism

On our Monday night Facebook live event we discussed metabolism and how we can change energy balance by influencing certain aspects.

Here is how it went down:

There are three aspects we need to consider:

BMR – Basel metabolic rate – an estimate of how much energy you would burn in 24hrs at complete rest

NEAT – Non-exercise activity thermogenesis – everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or gym/sport related

TEF – Thermic effect of food – the amount of energy used to process the foods we eat

All of this combined is what we refer to as our TDEE – Total Daily Energy Expenditure

So, now we have established where our energy expenditure comes from lets look at way to enhance it and ramp up metabolism:

BMR – Increase muscle quality through strength training. Muscle tissue is metabolic and requires energy to survive. Therefore burning more calories at rest. If we have a higher muscle mass to fat mass ratio our BMR will be higher.

This is why yoyo dieting has negative effects and long-term causes increased weight gain. Incase you are unsure what yoyo dieting is, this is when you follow a diet and lose weight. As with any “diet” it can’t be sustained over the long term so normal eating habits are resumed. However the weight returns… with extra friends. So again another diet begins, only this time you find it much harder to lose weight. Again it can’t be sustained, normal eating habits resume and even more weight is gained. So in essence every time you stop dieting you gain more weight.

So what gives, why does all this weight (and more) come back quicker than you lost it?

This is down to your BMR. When you significantly restrict calories and neglect other factors such as protein intake and resistance training, you are essentially sacrificing muscle tissue. Muscle is heavier than fat… remember that first diet you started and lost a ton of weight in a short space of time?… yeah that was predominantly muscle mass.

If we lose muscle mass than our BMR will be lower. If we increase muscle mass then our BMR will be higher.


Our NEAT is energy that is expended from our daily living. It is one of the most significant factors that is very commonly overlooked, especially from a fat loss perspective. The issue we have is that in our modern world things are designed for ease. There’s a car parked outside so it’s easier to drive down the road than walk. There’s a lift so it’s easier to press a button than take the stairs.

Convenience is always favored over benefit because it’s easier. It’s easier to order a takeaway from an app than cooking a better quality meal from scratch. Guess what, if you had of made a meal from scratch you will improve your NEAT for the day. Not only have you eaten better food but you have also burned more calories, surly that’s a win win?

If you improved you daily activity and walked places, took the stairs and done a few jobs around the house instead of watching TV and ordering takeaways you could improve your NEAT by another 500+ calories per day, easily.


The foods we eat are not only important for health but will also ramp up our daily energy expenditure. When we consume food it causes a thermal effect. The degree of this effect is determined by the food type (macronutrient).

It would be impossible to state exact parameters as values are varied from study to study but we can consider the following as a simple example:

Lets consider we consume 100 calories of the following macronutrients. The percentages are based on the energy cost of digestion for each:

Protein = 20-35%

Carbohydrates – 5-15%

Fat – 0-5%

Out of 100 calories it would require 20-35 calories to digest protein. By looking at these numbers we can say with confidence protein has the higher thermic effect. This doesn’t imply we should simply consume only proteins as we need balance but it does offer the importance of consuming adequate amounts. From experience and observations, protein is nearly always the under consumed macronutrient in peoples diet.

Lets also consider carbohydrates and I can offer a simple example in the hope it could instill mindfulness to the chosen choice.

Dietary fibre is part of the carbohydrate macronutrient group and is essential for health and regularity (bowel movement). It also has a higher TEF than non-fibrous carbohydrates.

White bread holds very little dietary fibre and when consumed is processed very quickly, therefore having a lower thermic effect. Wholegrain on the other hand contain high levels of dietary fibre and holds a much higher thermic effect.

If you ate two slices of white bread it would be digested rather quickly and you wouldn’t feel particularly satiated.

On the other hand, consuming more fibrous sources of carbohydrates such as wholegrain you would feel much fuller (for longer) and be adequately satiated.

To increase our overall TEF it would make sense to have higher fibrous foods in our diet.

Of course our equation isn’t complete without EAT (exercise activity thermogenesis). This is planned exercise through gym/sport related activities. I purposely left this variable for last due to the fact this is choice and we can plan this according to our specific goals.

Increasing our BMR through strength training would bring EAT in to our equation but we can cover more on this through our training articles.

So there you have it, three fundamentally important factors to consider for optimising metabolism and burning more calories.

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