What is Energy Expenditure?

Hey everyone! Today I will be discussing a very, very important topic when it comes to fitness as a whole, whether you are trying to build muscle, lose fat or just maintain your current body composition.

The topic? Energy expenditure. With this being such an important topic, I will be answering the question, what is energy expenditure?

I will do this by providing an all-encompassing explanation and then breaking energy expenditure down into the 4 aspects that contribute to it! As with all of my articles, the goal is for this information to be applicable and easy to understand!

So What The Heck Is It?

Ok… ok, I have talked enough. Let’s figure out what energy expenditure is! At a basic level, it is the total amount of calories your body burns within a day. Just as the name suggests, it is the total amount of calories that your body expends throughout the day.

At the end of the day, you will have a number of calories that your body has burned. Each one of these calories comes from something, and the different areas that contribute to burning these calories are broken down into 4 distinct categories that I have listed below:

  1. Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
  2. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)
  3. Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
  4. Exercise Activity (EA)

Let’s take a closer look at these different categories!

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR):

Your BMR is the amount of calories your body requires within the day, “just to keep the lights on”. Think of it as the amount of calories your body burns throughout the day just to cover its basic functions that are required to stay alive.

This includes things like breathing, protein synthesis and so, so much more. It is the category of our total energy expenditure that burns the greatest amount of calories in a day.

The calories burned from BMR are typically between 60 and 75 percent of the total amount of calories we burn within a day. This is one reason why staying in good and health and maintaining a healthy body composition is important!

Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT):

NEAT is the calories burned that come from all of the actions we perform within a day that are not intentional exercise. This would include things like walking around the office, doing house chores or even fidgeting with your fingers.

Our body requires energy to do everything we do within a day. The more active we are in our daily activities, the more calories we will burn. This is why for those with the goal of fat loss, it is super beneficial to be active throughout the day. Of course, being active is great for overall health, no matter your goal!

This category of energy expenditure is responsible for roughly 15 to 30 percent of the total calories we burn throughout the day. This is a significant part of our daily calorie expenditure, which is why it can have such an impact with our overall health and for various goals, particularly fat loss.

The higher side of 30 percent of our total daily calories is typically achieved when people factor in intentional exercise, (which we will discuss later).

Thermic Effect of Food (TEF):

TEF is very interesting and one section of energy expenditure that many people don’t consider. This is because when we eat food, we think of it as only supplying our body with energy/fuel. However, the thermic effect of food is actually the calories that our body needs to expend to even digest and use the nutrients we give it!

The different macronutrients have varying amounts of calories that our body uses to metabolize them:

  1. Protein (20 to 30 percent)
  2. Carbohydrates (5 to 10 percent)
  3. Fats (2 to 3 percent)

What do the TEF percentages mean? These percentages refer to the portion of calories ingested respective to each macronutrient that are calories that our body expends to metabolize the nutrient. For example, if we ingested 100 calories of protein, our body would burn between 20 and 30 calories just so it can use that protein!

Fibre is not considered a macronutrient and doesn’t provide our body with much energy as we don’t actually metabolize it for fuel. However, it does still cost our body energy to process it. A fair amount actually!

The thermic effect of food category typically accounts for about 10 percent of the total daily calories that we expend.

Exercise Activity (EA):

Exercise activity is a fairly common and understood category of energy expenditure. It is the amount of calories that our body expends within a day for intentional activity.

When we hit the gym, this is considered exercise activity. When we go for a run, it is considered exercise activity. I would even consider taking your dog for a walk as exercise activity.

While exercise is great, it oftentimes doesn’t burn as many calories as people believe it to burn.

If you look at exercise activity alone and do NOT combine it with non-exercise activity thermogenesis, it typically accounts for around 5 to 10 percent of the calories that one burns in a day. If you combine all activity (intentional and not), it will typically end up around 25 to 30 percent of your total daily energy expenditure, as mentioned earlier.

This is why I believe many people over-value the benefit of cardio for the goal of fat loss as exercise activity alone doesn’t generally burn immense amounts of calories.

I look at the primary benefits of exercise being the results/effects they have on our body. This could be things like heart health, growing muscle or just getting in some activity and having it positively benefit your mind!

Why is This Information Beneficial?

Knowing where energy expenditure comes from and how calories are burned gives you a better perspective concerning the importance of different aspects of your daily life.

Additionally, knowing this information can help the process of achieving specific goals as they are largely controlled by the balance of calories one takes in throughout the day. An example of the impact of calories on goals would be eating less calories than you expend for the goal of fat loss or more calories than you expend for the goal of muscle growth.

Understanding where calories are expended can also help you tailor your life towards your goal. An example would be increasing daily activity for the goal of fat loss, or maybe reducing high-calorie burning activities like running if you are trying to grow muscle.

Also, it is great for overall knowledge about nutrition to help YOU make YOUR own informed decisions!

That’s All!

Well everyone, that’s the article! Did you enjoy and benefit from it? Give it a share so others can do the same! Thanks for reading and as always, if you have ANY questions, please do feel free to leave them in the comment section below and I will be sure to respond!

Here are some other articles that may be beneficial for your knowledge!

Fundamentals of Nutrition

Guidelines of Fat Loss

Muscle Gain How To

Until Next Time,

Kohl Johnson

Please refer to my liability disclaimer to ensure you know who is responsible for the use of this information after reading.



Support is much appreciated if you benefited from this:

Kohl Johnson

I am a 16-year-old fitness fanatic! I have learned nothing but quality training and nutrition information from the utmost well-respected individuals in the field. Now, my only focus is to share this knowledge with you for your benefit, in the most honest way possible. We are all in this together! LET'S GO!

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