Total Daily Energy Expenditure – What is it, and why should you care?

When it comes to managing your weight (loss, gain or maintenance) there are a lot of factors to consider, and one of those is your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE.

Your TDEE is a measure of how much energy (or how many calories) you burn throughout a day and is helpful to understand when it comes to weight management, and actually helps you to understand that when it comes to losing (or gaining) weight there are some things you can control, and others that unfortunately you can't. The good thing about knowing this is that you can eliminate things that are beyond your control, and instead focus on what matters.

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at what your TDEE is made up of.

First up is your Basal Metabolic Rate, or BMR. BMR is an estimate of how many calories you'd burn if you were to do nothing other than rest for 24 hours. It represents the minimum amount of energy that you need to keep your body functioning, which includes a few important things such as breathing and keeping your heart beating. You can’t change this much, so don’t spend much or any time focussing on it!

Secondly, we have Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or more simply known as NEAT. This is the energy expended for everything that you do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise. It ranges from the energy expended during tasks such as walking to work, typing, performing garden work, undertaking housework tasks, DIY and fidgeting amongst others. Now this is an area that you are in control of! It’s very easy to sit down at the laptop all day, especially if you’re in a home-based role where you barely have to leave your bed to get to work, but apart from the huge benefits of movement on your mental and physical health, increasing your NEAT is one sure fire way to contribute to an increased calorie burn. Take that lunchtime walk, do some ironing, take a break from your screen every hour, turn Zoom calls into walking meetings and give your NEAT a boost.

The third component of TDEE is the Thermic Effect of Food, or TEF. I bet you weren’t aware that the food you ate had a thermic effect, did you? Well, the TEF refers to the energy you expend during the digestion of food. Every bodily function, including digestion, requires energy which means that every time you eat something you’re going to be burning some calories in the process! TEF of course changes depending on what and how much you’re eating (for example, high protein foods will see a slightly higher TEF), but it really isn’t something that you can change in a significant way that would impact weight loss (or gain) so put this one to the back of the queue and don’t worry about it.

Finally, we have Exercise Activity Thermogenesis, or EAT. As you’ve probably already guessed by now, EAT refers to the energy you expend when you exercise. Whether it’s long distance cardio, a High Intensity Interval Training session or a resistance training workout, this is where you are really in control of your calorie expenditure. If weight loss is your primary goal, then you’re likely to benefit by adding more cardio exercise into your routine for a greater level of EAT, whilst adding muscle (or weight gain) will always benefit from a greater focus on resistance training. 

In summary, when it comes to weight management (weight loss in particular) and the impact of TDEE, place your focus on your NEAT and your EAT for maximal results.