You’ve probably heard of buzz phrases like “Boost your metabolism.” You’ve also probably come across the TDEE acronym. But, what is the TDEE meaning? More importantly, what does that mean for you and your weight loss journey?
If you’re like most people, you’ve probably wondered what a lot of these acronyms related to diet and fitness even mean. And more importantly, are they relevant to your life and your fit journey.
To help you gain a better understanding, we’ve put together this post. Below, you’ll learn everything there is to know about TDEE, what it means, and why you should know your TDEE.
Table of Contents
What is the TDEE Meaning And What Does It Stand For?
TDEE stands for Total Daily Energy Expenditure and represents the total number of calories we burn every day. Things like non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT), exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT), and basal metabolic rate (BMR) are components of TDEE. So TDEE is a large bucket, and includes all of these other calorie-related items.
The thermic effect of foods (TEF) is also part of TDEE, as the body actively expends calories to digest food and absorb its nutrients. (1)
As you can imagine, our TDEE can be highly variable. In other words, we might expend a lot of calories one day and very few the next. So, in the context of fitness and physique development, it’s better to look at our average TDEE over time.
What Factors Affect Our TDEE?
Four key factors affect our TDEE:
1. Basal metabolic rate (BMR)
2. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)
3. Exercise activity thermogenesis (EAT)
4. Thermic effect of food (TEF)
BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate)
BMR is more or less constant and mostly depends on the amount of muscle we have and how much we weigh. But it’s still a good overall measuring stick, and if you know your BMR you’ll be light years ahead of most adults!
BMR, or Basal Metabolic Rate, is the number of calories that we burn in a day when we are at rest. So if you did no physical activity to speak of on a given day, the number of calories that you burn would be your BMR.
NEAT (Non-exercise Activity Thermogenesis)
NEAT can vary drastically from day to day. For example, if you go hiking on Saturday, your NEAT will go through the roof. But, if you take Sunday off and watch Netflix instead, it will plummet.
EAT (Exercise Activity Thermogenesis)
EAT is the number of calories (energy) that your burn when exercising, be it resistance training or cardio workouts.
TEF (Thermic Effect of Food)
TEF can also vary depending on our food choices. Protein has the highest thermic effect: between 20 to 35 percent. Meaning, for every 100 calories you get from protein, the body burns between 20 and 35 calories to break it down and absorb the nutrients.
On the other hand, carbs and fats have a much lower thermic effect: between 5 and 15 percent. So your body burns much fewer calories to break down carbs and fats.
So, a diet rich in protein will naturally bring a higher TEF.
The TDEE Meaning vs. BMR – How Do The Two Differ?
Because TDEE depends on several factors, it can fluctuate significantly from day to day. One day, it might be 3,500, and then on the very next – barely 2,500 calories.
On the other hand, BMR is a much more constant value because it represents the number of calories your body burns at rest. Meaning, no matter what you do in a day – be it a hike in the mountains or lying in bed all day – your BMR will remain the same. (2)
BMR is a good baseline number to use. It gives you a general baseline of your caloric burn relative to other people of different gender and size. But of course you rarely are “at rest” all day, so that’s why it’s just a baseline.
Your activity and exercise level has a substantial impact on your daily burn, as well it should!
How to Boost Our TDEE
There are a few things we can do to boost our TDEE. Namely:
- Build more lean muscle – the metabolically-costly tissue will force the body to expend calories every day to sustain it. This is especially true when compared to the mostly inert fat tissue.
- Do cardio every day – this will help boost your exercise activity thermogenesis. Once you make it part of your daily routine, it becomes built-in and you don’t have to think about it. Here are some top cardio routines, as well as some lower intensity workouts that are easy on your joints.
- Increase your NEAT – go hiking, take the stairs when possible, walk after dinner, and just increasing your daily activity. There are many things that you can do, like parking in the back of the grocery store parking lot to increase your steps.
- Eat more protein – thanks to the high thermic effect, you can burn a bit more calories and increase your TDEE.
Check some other tools for weight management:
- Body Fat Calculator
- Basal Metabolic Rate
- BMI Calculator
- Calories Burned Calculator
- Macro Calculator
- Knowing Your Body Type
- Hill, J. O., & Reed, G. W. (n.d.). Measuring the thermic effect of food. The American journal of clinical nutrition. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8561055/.
- Frothingham, S. (2018). What Is Basal Metabolic Rate? Healthline.