Summer is coming, so you know what that means – time to get shredded! Who doesn’t want to look great on the beach? You do all the things you’re supposed to do, according to the Gram: You carefully make your grocery list, meticulously prep your meals, and attack your workouts with the fury of 1,000 suns. The weight check-ins drive you crazy, so to save yourself the trouble and heartache you wait a couple of weeks to check your weight; surely it will change after two weeks anyway. The anticipation is killing you as everything has been on point the last two weeks. Anxiously, you step on the scale. The needle moves…then moves again…and then finally settles. The result? Nothing. Not a pound lost or gained. Dejected, you step off the scale. How could this be? What happened? Could it be a slow metabolism? Or maybe bad genes, you can always blame those. The internet made it seem so simple, you just have to burn more calories than you eat. How can you tip the scales?
What is Energy Balance?
First, we must understand the energy balance. The First Law of Thermodynamics states that the total energy of an isolated system is constant; energy can be transformed from one form to another, but can be neither created nor destroyed. When it comes to energy, we have three options: gain, lose, or store. We ingest energy (food) to transform it into usable energy (in the form of Adenosine Triphosphate, ATP). Unfortunately we cannot store ATP, so excess food energy is stored as body fat for later conversion and utilization. Being in energy balance means that energy intake matches energy output. When you are in energy balance, body weight neither increases nor decreases. When your intake is lower than output, your body weight decreases. If intake is greater than output, bodyweight increases (Hill et al., 2010).
Energy is in all the food we consume, measured in the form of calories. Our overall caloric expenditure is heavily based on our total daily energy expenditure (TEE). Of your TEE, a sizable portion comes from your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR), which is the number of calories needed to run your body when you are awake, but at rest. Think of this as the energy you burn just by existing and going about your day. A second piece of your TEE is the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF), which are the calories burned eating and digesting your meals. Picture everything that happens when you eat: you have to prepare food, cut it into bites, chew it, move it through the digestive tract, break the chemical bonds, and finally absorb the food. This process lasts hours, and requires energy to occur; after all, you gotta spend money to make money. Lastly, good old fashioned exercise and physical activity rounds out the last part of your TEE (Dunford & Doyle, 2019).
Now that you have an understanding of energy balance and TEE, it’s time to learn how to use these to your advantage. You may not have realized it, but there are several tools in your toolbox that will allow you manipulate your TEE and crank the dial up to 11, making it easier to affect your energy balance.
6 Ways to increase your TEE
- Add muscle. Bigger bodies have higher metabolic rates. Having more fat-free mass (aka muscle) means a bigger metabolic advantage. Lifting big weights creates damage to the muscle, which get repaired, consumes oxygen, and generates heat. All these factors contribute to more metabolic action. It does not take energy to maintain stored body fat, as it’s metabolically inactive. Unsure how to add more muscle? Check out the variety Power Athlete’s programs available on TrainHeroic, all designed to build massive amounts of metabolically active muscle!
- Avoid starvation. Starvation decreases your RMR. Extreme caloric restriction and starvation reduces results in an extreme reduction of your RMR. The thing about your metabolic rate is that adapts to reduced energy intake, and will subsequently reduce your energy output from 10% to 25% in extreme cases. This is known as adaptive thermogenesis; your body slows down its metabolism to protect itself from severe starvation. And, this process can last for up to 12 weeks after refeeding begins (Dulloo, 2021). So, like I said: AVOID STARVATION.
- Increase exercise/physical activity. Physical activity is the most easily modifiable part of TEE. It’s completely under your control. Make the conscious decision to move more outside of just the gym. 90 minutes of training, even on hard charging program like Field Strong, isn’t quite enough to move the needle if you’re sedentary the rest of the time. Increase your step count, and find other ways to just move throughout the day. Despite 5 or 6 days of workouts, people are sedentary most of the time, especially if you have an office job. So get up and MOVE!
- Eat Protein. While TEF is 10% of TEE, eating adequate protein at every meal is associated with higher energy output (Johnston et al., 2002). Protein is more difficult to digest compared to carbohydrates and fats, which causes the body to burn more calories while processing them. Additionally, meal duration is associated with increased energy output, so take your time and chew your food completely (Calcagno et al., 2019). Our standard Power Athlete recommendation 1g per pound of bodyweight.
- Cold exposure. Climate temperature temporarily increases metabolism. Cold environments affect metabolism because of involuntary movements like shivering. Ice baths, cold showers, and cryotherapy chambers are options that you can explore to move this needle.
- Caffeine. Katada et al. (2019) found caffeine intake temporarily increases energy output. The findings were a significant increase. Choose healthier options such as coffee or tea rather than high-calorie energy drinks.
It might feel like you don’t have control over your metabolism. And there’s plenty of folks out there who will say it’s not your fault, you can’t control your how your body stores fat. Don’t fall for the BS. Yes, it’s true that you can’t control several factors such as age, gender, and genetics, but you can control your inputs and outputs. You can control what you put in your mouth; the Power Athlete Nutrition Team can help with that. You can control your physical activity, and Power Athlete’s catalog of programs can help you find the perfect one for your lifestyle to get you moving. Both things are major contributors to the energy balance equation. And yes, you can control your destiny by employing the steps above to help you tip the scales of energy balance in your favor and Empower Your Performance.
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Calcagno, M., Kahleova, H., Alwarith, J., Burgess, N. N., Flores, R. A., Busta, M. L., & Barnard, N. D. (2019). The thermic effect of Food: A Review. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 38(6), 547–551. https://doi.org/10.1080/07315724.2018.1552544 Dulloo, A. G. (2021). Physiology of weight regain: Lessons from the classic Minnesota Starvation Experiment on Human Body Composition Regulation. Obesity Reviews, 22(S2). https://doi.org/10.1111/obr.13189 Dunford, M., & Doyle, J. A. (2019). Nutrition for sport and exercise. Cengage. Hill, J. O., Wyatt, H. R., & Peters, J. C. (2010). The importance of Energy Balance. European Endocrinology, 9(2), 111. https://doi.org/10.17925/ee.2013.09.02.111 Katada, S., Yanagimoto, A., Matsui, Y., Hibi, M., Osaki, N., Kobayashi, S., & Katsuragi, Y. (2019). Effect of tea catechins with caffeine on energy expenditure in middle-aged men and women: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial. European Journal of Nutrition, 59(3), 1163–1170. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00394-019-01976-9
Rob has been in the fitness/strength and conditioning industry for 21+ years. For the last 12 years, he has owned and operated CrossFit West Houston. Through CrossFit, Rob found Power Athlete the methodology course and earning his Block One. Nutrition is a passion which lead him to currently pursuing a Masters program in Nutrition at Lamar University and Power Athlete Nutrition coach.
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