Your body expends calories every minute of every hour of every day. You will be happy to know that you even burn calories as you sleep. In one study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, two groups of overweight non-smokers were followed for a two-week period. One group slept 8.5 hours a night and a second group slept 5.5 hours while both groups ate 1.450 calories a day. After two weeks, the people who slept more lost more fat than the group who slept less. Even more amazing was the fact that the subjects who slept less lost more muscle (60% more muscle was lost by the sleep-deprived group). Those three hours of lost sleep caused a shift in metabolism that made the body want to preserve fat at the expense of lean muscle. This same study showed that test subjects burned on average 400 more calories by sleeping 3 more hours – that’s an additional 2,800 calories burned for just one week. You can think of sleeping as your extra calorie burn bonus. Here are three additional ways your body can expend more calories each day:
The three points that are mentioned above are scientifically proven and will all work – you just need to make it happen! Regular strength training sessions (3x/wk) will overload your muscles and the stress or overload placed on your muscles will eventually result in an adaptation and your muscles will become stronger. As you become stronger you will be able to handle heavier loads (by increasing the intensity) and over time you will experience an increase in lean muscle, as longer as you’re receiving adequate sleep and nutrition. Research has demonstrated that for every three pounds of muscle you add your resting metabolic rate will increase by about 6-7%.
Supplementing high intensity strength and cardio sessions into your weekly exercise routine will not only expend more calories during the workout but post workout as well. This is commonly referred to as the after-burn or in scientific research circles as EPOC or excess post oxygen consumption. If the intensity is high enough you have the potential to expend a few hundred calories up to about 24 hours post workout. EPOC depends on the intensity and duration of the exercise session; as they increase so does EPOC.
A study published in Science by Dr. James Levine took 20 “couch potatoes” (10 lean and 10 mildly obese) and recorded their bodily movements every half second for 10 days. He discovered that leaner subjects burned about 350 more calories a day through NEAT or non-exercise activity thermogenesis or about 33 pounds a year.
In an earlier NEAT study, Levine recruited 16 volunteers and for 8 weeks had them eat 1,000 calories a day over what they needed to maintain their weight. You might expect that all of the subjects put on weight—with 1,000 extra calories a day. But at the end of the study, the gain per individual ranged from less than 1 pound to greater than 9 pounds. And the variation, according to Levine, was explained by the amount of NEAT. A highly active person can expend three times more calories than an inactive person and NEAT levels can vary up to 2000 calories between individuals.
If you’re not seeing changes in body composition with your current program, take a look first at how you’re fueling your body. Secondly, increase your intensity with your cardio sessions and start building more muscle and finally, increase your daily movement and some NEAT things will begin to happen.
Nedeltcheva AV, Kilkus JM, Imperial J, Schoeller DA, and Penev PD (2010). Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity. Annals of Internal Medicine 153(7):435-441.