Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure Explained

In order to lose weight, and by extension fat, one must understand how their body works.


Tai Colodny

3 years ago | 3 min read

Weight loss, and by extension fat loss, is far more difficult than I could have ever imagined when I started my weight loss journey. I’ve been trying to build my “dream body” for a decade now, and at 25 years old, I still have some ways to go. So, believe me when I say that a lack of substantial short term results had me pining for any shortcut I could find. What I never would have guessed would be that there are so many little things that add up to create the deficit I sorely needed.

Your Total Daily Energy Expenditure, or TDEE, is divided into four main sections:

  • Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)
  • Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
  • Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT)
  • Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash
Photo by bruce mars on Unsplash

Accounting for nearly 60% of all the energy burned every day, the BMR is what the body expends to keep itself alive. In other words, like how much one would burn if they lied in their bed motionless for an entire day. In regards to fitness, the BMR is why it is recommended to gain muscle for fat loss. Muscle cells require energy, and so if one were to increase the number of muscle cells in their body, their BMR would increase. If you ever wondered why strength training is constantly recommended over pure cardio, this is why. Burning more calories at rest? What’s not to like?

Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)

Photo by Mark DeYoung on Unsplash
Photo by Mark DeYoung on Unsplash

When we eat, the body must break down the food we consume to be usable by our cells. This requires energy. Of the three main macronutrients, each of them has a different amount of energy required to complete the task. Fats require little to no energy. Carbohydrates also require little but are estimated to be more than fats. Finally, we have protein, which has a decently large TEF, requiring around 20 to 35% of the energy taken in by any protein source.

Even though TEF is a small contributing factor to the TDEE (10% of total), it still is something to consider. In regards to fitness, protein should be a high percentage of total calories because of its TEF. If you are already doing so because of the high protein requirement for muscle gain, then great, you’re already pretty much doing this step. However, if you aren’t actively working toward muscle gain, consider eating more protein for the calorie deficit boost it provides. It’s not much, but the small things add up.

Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (EAT)

Photo by Fitsum Admasu on Unsplash
Photo by Fitsum Admasu on Unsplash

The most straightforward of the four types. One can increase the amount of energy they burn per day by doing moderate to vigorous exercise. What you might not expect to hear is that it is the smallest contributing factor to the TDEE (5%).

“You can’t outrun a bad diet.”

If you’ve ever heard of this fitness advice before, it is highly relevant to EAT. Someone working out for 1 hour of a 24 hour day doesn’t seem like a lot when put into perspective. It is hard to imagine that single hour accounting for a large percentage of daily caloric burn when you are eating to fuel that entire 24-hour span. Exercise machines and calorie counters in general are mistaken in their calorie burn counts.

But don’t think this means it is pointless to exercise. Far from it! Traditional exercise provides a host of benefits, like muscle gain, mood improvement, cardiovascular improvement, etc. It also simply adds to the deficit. Like the TEF, everything adds up.

Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)

Photo by Kate Kalvach on Unsplash
Photo by Kate Kalvach on Unsplash

When you aren’t exercising or sleeping, it isn’t like you’re doing nothing for the rest of the 24-hour span. Doing the little things every day takes energy too. Activities like walking to school, standing, talking, vacuuming, and so on. These activities don’t seem like much on their own, but doing the little things over the course of the entire day adds up (25% of TDEE).

In regards to fitness, the best way to take full advantage of your NEAT is to never stay in one place for too long. Have a desk job? Stand up more often, or take more walks. Find things to do that aren’t sedentary if you can.


In order to take full advantage of what you’ve got, you should do the following:

  • Build muscle to create a larger BMR.
  • If not already doing so, eat more protein to create a larger TEF.
  • Keep exercising! Despite not being a large contributing factor, EAT provides many benefits that improve health and fitness in general.
  • Try not to be sedentary during daily activities. The little things add up.
This was originally published on Medium by Tai Colodny.


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Tai Colodny

I am someone who loves to write about all things from fitness to dragons. I have a Youtube channel:







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