Energy Expenditure

the way you have not thought about it
Energy expenditure and energy intake are two major contributors that dictate your weight loss or weight gain.
When we talk about energy expenditure, first thing that comes to your mind is probably physical activity. If you are well versed in the subject and you think for a few moments, non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) comes to your mind. In the end, every little movement counts.
Have you ever wondered how much energy you can actually burn by mental work? I always have.
When I started monitoring my hunger levels more closely, I found out that during the times when I coach, write and create content, I get much more hungry than when I have a physically active day. (I also tend to have very active legs, moving them back and forth while sitting, which can add up to 350-500kcal /a day, an equivalent of a 60 minutes of walking/running).
This is where this study on a grand-master chess player comes into play. It says that chess players often burn three times the calories of an average person! That is about 6000 kcal! An equivalent of a triathlete training for Ironman!
“Concentration alone isn’t enough to hyper-charge your metabolism. You also have to care… if you and I have thirty minutes to learn a list of words…
…I’ll probably be a sweaty mess after the thirty minutes are up. 
I hate to lose. So yeah, I’ll be into it. Even though I’ll just be sitting in a chair I’ll “work” my butt off to learn those words.”
21-year-old Russian grandmaster Mikhail Antipov had burned 560 calories in two hours of sitting and playing chess — or roughly what Roger Federer would burn in an hour of singles tennis.
Think about kids playing computer games. They are not moving much but they certainly do care! Probably more than an adult that plays.
I remember that throughout the high school I spent 4-8 hours a day playing, living on what is now popular as “bulletproof coffee”. After coming home from school, I would eat 200g of fried cheese with fries and a ton of ketchup. Then I would follow it up with three of those coffees, each coming at about 300kcal. That is besides breakfast, snacks, lunch and dinner. Just thinking about it makes me sweat dairy! But I was not fat.
As mentioned above, I would spend hours sitting and playing games and I would care about it. I played to win, I brainstormed, strategized, refined and tested stuff. I was invested.
Now it makes sense to me that despite not being active physically, I fidgeted a lot and  I was burning a lot of energy by mental work.
You might be underestimating your calorie expenditure
Nowadays I face this issue from a different perspective. I have clients coming to me, especially women, who don’t eat much food in order to lose weight. They function on 1500ish kcal a day and they want to cut that down, often by another 500 kcal because this is what they are told and what they read.
“If you want to lose weight, cut your calories by 500.”
That advice makes sense if the person in question was inactive both mentally and physically and clearly overeating. This is never the case with my clients, who are active people.
I am not going to describe strategies for fat loss here, but where I start with those people is to increase their energy intake at first. It is amazing how they start feeling better and sometimes even initially lose some fat – despite eating more.
My main message is what I observed many times. People who are already active and have problems losing some extra fat are already under-eating. They are active in their jobs and taking care of their family and work out on top of that. When they estimate how much they should eat they tend to focus on their basal metabolism alone!
But that number only represents your body’s needs to work properly! You move, you care, you think, you have problems at work or in your life, you work out so you need the energy to handle it well!

Energy expenditure hypothesis

Here is my hypothesis when it comes to energy expenditure.

We know several things about energy expenditure as it relates to our energy availability:

  • Our body adapts to state of low and high calorie availability by expending less/more calories;
  • Our body adapts to activities we do regularly such as walking, running or lifting by getting more efficient and using less energy to do these movements.
  • Our body also reacts energy availability by regulating our NEAT, temperature, choices like willingness to move, hunger and even heart rate.

Based on these facts and the aforementioned article about the chess player grandmaster, I made a hypothesis. To use the most amount of energy you want to train like an athlete. Combine endurance, explosiveness such as sudden direction changes, strength, be quick on your feet literary and figuratively speaking.

Combining different intensities, movements and thinking/keeping attention on what’s going on like during combat sports or team sports, you provide your body with a variety of signals.

Anybody mentioned chess boxing?

You might be underestimating your calorie expenditure
Nowadays I face this issue from a different perspective. I have clients coming to me, especially women, who don’t eat much food in order to lose weight. They function on 1500ish kcal a day and they want to cut that down, often by another 500 kcal because this is what they are told and what they read.
“If you want to lose weight, cut your calories by 500.”
That advice makes sense if the person in question was inactive both mentally and physically and clearly overeating. This is never the case with my clients, who are active people.
I am not going to describe strategies for fat loss here, but where I start with those people is to increase their energy intake at first. It is amazing how they start feeling better and sometimes even initially lose some fat – despite eating more.
My main message is what I observed many times. People who are already active and have problems losing some extra fat are already under-eating. They are active in their jobs and taking care of their family and work out on top of that. When they estimate how much they should eat they tend to focus on their basal metabolism alone!
But that number only represents your body’s needs to work properly! You move, you care, you think, you have problems at work or in your life, you work out so you need the energy to handle it well!

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