4 Ways Your Body Burns Fat
Stop Restricting Calories So You Don’t Miss Out On This Fat Burning Opportunity!
Don’t Underestimate the Power of TEF (Thermic Effect of Feeding).
Burn calories by eating calories?? You’re damn right! Sounds too good to be true? Well, if done properly, your body can keep that pilot light burning and you can capitalize on this physiological process… if done incorrectly, well, not so much. Stay with me and I’ll tell you how to avoid missing the mark with this fat loss opportunity.
The fundamental principle we all need to understand is that when we are eating food, we aren’t just eating calories, we are consuming energy. To keep our bodies healthy and lean, we also need to expend energy. This is what we call energy balance.
If our health objective is to lose fat, then we must put our bodies in a negative energy balance. This means we expend more energy (movement) than we consume (food). If our objective is to maintain our weight, then these two types of energy would need to be about equal. When we gain weight, whether intentionally or unintentionally, yep you guessed it, we have consumed more energy (calories from food) than we expended by living, moving and eating. “Wait, what??? Did she say eating??” You read that correctly. This is what we call our TEF. We’ll get to that in a bit.
Your body expends consumed calories in 4 ways. So there are 4 variables that may have room for improvement in your health journey. The majority of my clients only really focus on 1 of them. Let’s start with which one most people “think” is the #1 calorie burner.
Exercise Activity- It’s no secret that this is the most common course of action when people want to shed extra pounds. Not a bad thing, right? Gym memberships surge after the first of the year as people try to set the number one New Year’s resolution in motion by working out more. Of course, it’s a no-brainer, sweat! It’s good for the mind and body, but it only accounts for 10-30% of your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE), 30% being in very highly active individuals. So unless you are highly active with your intentional exercise, you’re probably considerably below the 30% with sedentary folks, obviously on the lower end. It’s definitely a great place to start when trying to lose fat.
So this next one isn’t so obvious but it’s a biggie!
Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)–
Your RMR is the amount of calories that are expended just by living and breathing at rest. This accounts for about 60% of your calories each day. Now as with anything, this varies based on body composition (the more muscle, the higher RMR), weight, gender, age, genetics, hormone status and so much more. Would you believe, the bacteria population in your gut may also affect this??
Other variables that increase your RMR include hot/cold ambient temperature, fever, hyperthyroidism, stress, caffeine, smoking, rapid growth, pregnancy, and lactation.
Genetics and some medications can either increase or decrease your RMR.
Some variables that decrease your RMR include aging, fasting/starvation (don’t do it!!!), hypothyroidism, and sleep.
Let’s move on to the next one…
This is old but wise advice. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Park your car farther away in the parking lot. Dance while you clean. All of these things add up and it leads us to our next way to burn calories.
Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)-
This is also factored into our metabolic rate. It’s the little things we do during the day that moves us through life. Giving the dog a bath, unloading the dishwasher, cooking dinner, line dancing with your daughter on a Saturday night (That’s my fav! #cupidshuffle), and a host of other unplanned movements. Although it is one of the smallest percentages of energy expenditure, the cumulative effect or lack thereof, is one of the most important factors that lead to weight loss or gain.
I’m a big fan of “Get up and get it yourself.” Not to be mean, but to be active. I practice this because a little activity can go a long way! Whenever my husband asks me or one of the kids to go grab him something, I’ve been telling him, “Get your NEAT on!” This a great habit to get into and he’s been a really NEAT guy lately. 😉 OK, enough with my lame jokes, let’s get back to how to burn calories by eating!
Thermic Effect of Feeding (TEF)-
The digestion and absorption of food and nutrients burns calories. This is called your TEF, also referred to as Thermic Effect of Food. This process accounts for about 10% of your total calorie expenditure. This can be one of the most underutilized opportunities in the fat loss game.
Sadly, most of my clients come from a background of calorie restriction. Bad advice from a wide range of sources has led women to believe that this is the way to go. Caloric restriction not only slows down your TEF, but if you remember from above, it actually also slows down your RMR! That is a HUGE double whammy many of my clients are faced with.
Interestingly enough, that’s not the only way to suppress this important opportunity. There is research that suggests that TEF is reduced in obese individuals and those who have irregular eating habits.
While our TEF can certainly help us in our quest to get lean and mean, focus on eating whole foods (especially lean proteins) with the appropriate portion sizes and your overall energy expenditure should also be in the forefront of your mind as you progress through your journey.
Curious which foods can help your journey? I have a free ebook waiting for you!
If you would like to learn more about my programs that have helped women break their yo-yo dieting cycle, you can learn more here.
Until next time…
Changing Lives Through Education, Accountability, And Support!
The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition, 2nd Edition. Berardi J. Andrews R. 2012.
Nutrition: Custom Edition, 4th Edition. Insel P, Ross D, McMahon K, Bernstein M. 2010. Jones & Bartlett Learning.