Do you feel like you are doing all you can to lose the 20lbs that you’ve gained due to COVID and are still frustrated by how the scale is moving?
Recently my client, Jim, stated “I’ve gained weight during COVID despite continuing to train or keeping my diet the same. What should I do?”
Jim continues to strength train with me virtually twice per week, and like most people, he’s still working from home and rarely leaves his apartment.
If this sounds a lot like you, a big culprit might be the loss of NEAT and increasing daily movement can be the secret weapon in achieving your weight loss goals.
NEAT is roughly attributed to 15-20% of your total daily energy expenditure. NEAT (non-exercise activity thermogenesis) is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating, or purposeful exercise. It ranges from the energy expended walking to work, typing, performing yard work, household chores, and even fidgeting.
If you had a job that required you to be on your feet prior to COVID and now you are exiled to your home office, this can be why those pounds seem to be racking up despite still hitting your workouts.
Research by Shook et. al (2015) showed that a threshold for achieving energy balance occurred at an activity level corresponding to 7116 steps per day, an amount achievable by most adults. This research also showed that if that NEAT is low, you likely won’t be able to regulate your appetite and there’s a greater likelihood of storing fat. I hope this gives you closure knowing that there was always a deeper reason why you were diving headfirst into a pint of Ben and Jerry’s on a Sunday night. Blame it on the NEAT!
As part of a daily checklist for you, I’ll ask about your current daily activity and step count. Our goal is to slowly increase that over time. I understand everyone can’t do 10,000 steps daily and that’s okay! We work to find an amount that is better than what you have previously been doing. Better is better.
If you are a busy professional working from home, do walking meetings or perform 10 -minute walks. A 10 minute walk every 60-90 minutes is a simple way to increase NEAT.
Increasing NEAT and step count to around 7200 steps per day coupled with a caloric deficit and strength training will do wonders for helping you achieve your weight loss goals.
No matter how you choose to do it, my advice is the same: get up and get moving!
Hume, D. J., Yokum, S., & Stice, E. (2016). Low energy intake plus low energy expenditure (low energy flux), not energy surfeit, predicts future body fat gain. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 103(6), 1389-1396. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.127753
Shook, R. P., Hand, G. A., Drenowatz, C., Hebert, J. R., Paluch, A. E., Blundell, J. E., . . . Blair, S. N. (2015). Low levels of physical activity are associated with dysregulation of energy intake and fat mass gain over 1 year. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102(6), 1332-1338. doi:10.3945/ajcn.115.115360