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Extra NEAT: How to Burn More Calories Through Easy Energy Expenditure
A trick for easier body recomposition and weight loss
The Highlander helps strength athletes and enthusiasts live stronger for longer. Join fellow Highlanders on our journey:
NEAT is Neat
NEAT stands non-exercise activity thermogenesis. In other words, its activity you perform that isn’t specifically exercise but does burn calories. Walking, yard work, and bouncing your knee while sitting are all examples of NEAT. Ideally, NEATa should be something mindless and automatic.
Increasing NEAT is a great tool to use during weight loss phases. Part of being a Highlander is maintaining a good body composition. For men, this is generally 15% body fat or less; for women, low 20% or less.
To lose weight, you need to create a caloric deficit. You can only do that two ways: take in less calories by eating less or burn more calories via more activity. Most of us use both when we’re working on body comp.
The easiest thing to do when starting a weight loss program is to eat less. Not eating a pizza is easier than doing two hours of cardio to work it off. But eating less gets a lot harder when you’re pushing the limits of body fat reduction. When you get to single digit body fat, and you’re counting the minutes to your next meal and you don’t want to get up off the couch, the last thing you want to do is eat less.
That’s where NEAT can help burn a little more energy.
A NEAT Secret Weapon
I’ve started using an under desk elliptical on my current weight cutting journey. It helps me burn an extra 100-200 calories a day without interfering with my training. That’s up to about 1/2 pound a week. I do it while I work, answer email, do calls.
It’s not the sexiest thing in the world, but it gets the job done.
If you use one of these NEAT tools, there are a few important things to keep in mind:
Go slow. NEAT isn’t meant to be exercise. It’s meant to be mindless movement that burns calories. You’re not trying to take your heart rate anywhere near zone 2. It’s just a tool to move around a little to burn some calories. At a slow pace, I think I realistically burn about 100 calories an hour on my under desk elliptical.
Use low tension. You don’t want to crank up the tension on your under desk NEAT tool. Again, don’t make it a workout. I keep the tension at 3-4 of 8 on my under desk elliptical so that it doesn’t add any meaningful fatigue to my legs. The goal is to keep my legs fresh for strength work in my main training sessions.
Be sensible about how much you burn. Most of us can lose 1-1.5 lb per week without too much muscle loss provided we eat adequate protein and continue to weight train. Manage how much NEAT you add relative to your weight loss goals and calorie expenditure. Don’t crank your NEAT up on the under desk bike to 700 calories a day and expect to do cardio and expect to weight train. You’ll overshoot what you can reasonably burn and end up losing muscle along with fat. Not ideal for a Highlander.
Add some NEAT when you need it. Don’t worry about it when you’re maintaining or gaining weight. Stay stronger for longer.
The Highlander helps strength athletes and enthusiasts live stronger for longer by combining strength + longevity.