Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
Simply put, NEAT is the energy you use to do anything other than exercise. Cleaning the house, carrying your kids, walking to/from somewhere, etc. – these are all examples of NEAT.
While BMR generally makes up the largest portion of the metabolism (60-70% on average), NEAT is typically the second most significant area of energy expenditure in our daily lives. However, it’s hard to put a percentage to it because this can vary drastically from person to person. For example, NEAT will comprise a very small portion of the energy expenditure for a person that is sedentary and spends most of his/her time sitting at a desk. Whereas, someone that does manual labor for a living will burn a much larger percentage of his/her daily caloric expenditure through NEAT.
While it’s hard to measure NEAT exactly, a good place to start is by tracking your daily steps using a pedometer.
Here’s a quick example to show you how impactful this can be.
A person that is mostly desk bound and does not exercise could walk as little as 2,000 steps per day. Whereas, a UPS delivery driver will easily exceed 20,000 steps per day. If we calculate that the average person burns 40 calories per 1,000 steps walked (this varies depending on the size of the person, but for the sake of simplicity we will just use 40 cals/1,000 steps), then the difference between the calories burned by a desk worker and a UPS driver is 720 calories per day! Over time, this will have a huge effect.
Main takeaway: the treasure trove of un-burned calories is in NEAT, especially if your goal is related to fat loss. If you change nothing else other than increasing your step count 1,000-2,000 steps per day, you will likely start to make progress.