Tip: Burn More Calories Outside of the Gym

Here's how to boost your energy expenditure and track it.

Increase your NEAT

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) is the energy expended for everything we do that isn't sleeping, eating, or exercise. Think walking, shopping, cooking, cleaning, fidgeting, and maintaining posture. Because of the wide variety of activities NEAT encompasses, it can be hard to define. But it's extremely significant and can make up anywhere from 15-50% of your total energy expenditure.

If you're someone who already trains and eats "mostly" right, this will be a game changer. Think about your naturally lean friends. The ones that seem to get away with eating a ton of food but always look in shape. Chances are, these people are more active in their daily lives, not just blessed with a racehorse metabolism that burns through everything they eat.

They'll tend to fidget more, always be on the go and have active jobs, while your sole activity in the day may only be a 45-60 minute weight training session... which might not burn as much as you think it does.

Track Your Steps

The only real way we can gauge NEAT is through tracking our daily step count. When adding a step target to your routine, the first thing to do is check what you've been averaging on a daily basis. If you have an iPhone or Android, you should have a built-in step counter in the "health" or "heart" section.

Typically, most people average between 3000-5000 steps a day when they're not aware of it. Sometimes even less. If you fall into this bracket, the first goal is to bump up to around 8000. From here, slowly ramp it up over the course of weeks and months. For most people, around 10-15K tends to work great.

In order to make this sustainable, think about how you can build movement into your daily routine, without it affecting work and life in general:

  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Take phone calls while walking.
  • Get off a few stops earlier on your commute.
  • During your breaks at work, go for a walk.
  • Have walking meetings.
  • Go for a walk in the evening with your partner instead of watching TV.

If in doubt, move more.