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What is my total daily energy expenditure?

Total daily energy expenditure is often shortened to TDEE and is a measure of how much energy you burn on a daily basis.  There are multiple calculators out there that will help you roughly work out what yours is, but this one is our favourite place to start with when we start working with nutrition clients.

Your TDEE is made up of four things (some of which have cool acronyms too!):

Your BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)

This is how many calories / how much energy your body uses just to survive.  This includes energy used to make hormones, digest food, power your brain and grow your hair.  If you were in a medically induced coma then your body would still need this amount of energy to survive.  The more lean tissue you have and the larger your frame is, the higher this will be.

Your EAT (Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)

This is how much extra energy your body needs to do voluntary exercise throughout the day.  This is things like going for a run, lifting weights or doing a spin class.  Things that you add to your day rather than things that are part and parcel of your day.  This is usually a small percentage of your TDEE as it only last for a short amount of time relative to the whole day.

Your NEAT (Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)

This is the energy that you need to do all the things that are part of your daily routine.  Playing with your kids, walking the dog, your regular job related tasks, doing chores, gardening and cooking all fall into this category.  This actually makes up a huge percentage of your daily calorie burn because you can be active for hours without even thinking about it.

The TEF (Thermic Effect of Food)

This is how much energy it takes to digest the food that you eat and how much heat is consequently produced.  Protein has a higher thermic effect that fats or carbohydrates – think of the meat sweats on Christmas Day after your third portion of turkey…

So there you have – that’s TDEE explained.

Hopefully this helps explain things like:

  • Why studies on farming populations like Amish people tend to report incredibly low bodyfat percentages despite rich diets and a complete lack of gym usage because their NEAT is so high with manual jobs
  • How you can’t out train a bad diet because your EAT is much lower than you think
  • Why eating large portions of meat makes you feel sluggish as your body diverts energy to digest it
  • How some lean people seem to be able to eat whatever they want and not get fat as their BMR is higher than other people’s 

It’s worth noting that any online calculator will not be 100% accurate for you and your circumstances but will provide a useful starting point for any kind of intervention you’d like to make.

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