We are back at it with another blog diving into our hierarchy of a healthy lifestyle! Today’s topic… The benefits of Resistance training and Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT). We know there can be alot of confusing information out there, but dont worry, we will break down these topics so that you can understand their benefits in a simple, applicable way! 

First things first, let’s do a little recap! 

In the hierarchy, do you notice that energy balance comes BEFORE resistance training and NEAT… why is this?

When striving for our goals, whether it be fat loss, muscle gain, or athletic performance, our energy balance must match our goal! If we are trying to lose fat, we must be in a state of negative energy balance (less calories in than out). If we are trying to build muscle, we must be in either energy balance (same calories in as out) OR a slight energy surplus (more calories in than out).  To review this further and understand why this matters, checkout our blog on energy balance https://yqlnutrition.com/all-about-energy-balance-2/

 Once we know what energy balance we need to hit our goals, let’s look at how we achieve that! Checkout this image showing all of the factors that impact energy OUT!

We discussed all of these factors in our energy balance blog, but today we will be diving into two specific factors that impact energy out –  Exercise activity Thermogenesis (EAT) and Non- Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT)… When working with our clients we often refer to these two categories as your workouts (EAT) and your movement (NEAT).

What is NEAT? Check out what is classified as NEAT below (9)

 As you saw from the pie graph, NEAT is a large part of energy output! NEAT is how movement truly becomes part of your lifestyle and also gives us an opportunity to make memories – are you someone who takes the stairs? Goes for walks with their dog? Plays with their kids? Cleans the house? Does yard work? 

In addition to increasing metabolic rate, other benefits of NEAT include(5):

  • Improved joint health, cardiovascular health, and bone health
  • Optimal digestion
  • An opportunity to connect with others
  • Mental Health improvements, including decreased rates of anxiety and depression (2)
  • Slows age-related mental decline

How can you increase your NEAT?

The biggest thing to remember is to be INTENTIONAL. With a little bit of intention, you can dramatically increase your NEAT. A few specific strategies include:

  • Go for a 10 minute walk after every meal
  • Take the stairs instead of using the elevator/escalator
  • Do your own grocery shopping instead of using delivery services
  • If you enjoy golfing, opt to walk rather than using a cart
  • Park your car far away from entrances
  • Purchase a standing/walking desk
  • “Stroll while you scroll”- when browsing social media, get up and WALK
  • When on the phone, pace around the room

If you have a step counter device like an apple watch, fitbit, or oura ring, assess where your steps are currently at. Based on this, slowly aim to increase your steps if currently below 8-10,000 steps per day until you reach this goal! 

  Movement is a privilege, and we should do it daily to honour what our bodies can do. For example, paddle boarding with your kids, going sledding, walking while traveling rather than taking a taxi. We don’t make promises often, but here is one promise we make: If you increase your NEAT and use it as an opportunity to create memories, not only will your physical health benefit, but also your quality of life. 

Now that we understand NEAT, let’s look at purposeful exercise, or what defines EAT (9):

So, as you can see, exercise does increase energy output but only by approximately 5% of daily energy output (1). You may be asking… does type of exercise matter? Does cardio burn more calories than other forms? 

The answer? It is A- Your metabolic rate will be elevated for 15 minutes post run (9). 

ISN’T THAT SHOCKING?

In this study by Wilkin, Cheryl, and Haddock (2012), they had male and females run 1 mile at a pace of 6 miles per hour (time of 10 minutes) and compared it to having the same group walk 1 mile at a pace of 3.2 miles per hour (time of 19 minutes). Metabolic activity (calories being burned) was increased for only 15 minutes afterwards in the running group, and 10 minutes in the walking group. Individuals burned on average 115 calories in the running group, and 90 calories in the walking group. The number of calories burned in this study involved complex equipment, much more complex than your apple watch or fitbit. Hate to break it to you guys, but wearable activity monitors are HIGHLY inaccurate, with inaccuracy rates as high as 50% over-estimation of calories burned (1). 

So if exercising doesn’t burn a significant amount of calories… Why should I exercise?

Because of all of the other benefits that exercising, specifically resistance training provides us. Time to change our perspective here… what if next time you went to exercise, you exercised to build your body- your muscles, your brain, your bones- rather than to burn calories?

 If you do that, you are taking a step in the right direction to becoming the version of yourself that is the healthiest! When we chase health, when we honour what our body can do through movement, THAT is often when we achieve the body composition we are after!

When looking at exercise, there are two common types- resistance training and cardiovascular exercise (running, swimming, etc). 

 We LOVE cardio, especially if YOU love cardio. If running, swimming, and biking are things you genuinely enjoy, please continue to do them! However, as the study above depicted, the metabolic effect of cardio is very short (remember, only 15 minutes!!). So, if you think you must do hours of cardio to achieve body composition changes and create that “toned” look you are after… keep reading. 

 What if you chose a type of exercise that required your body to grow, to rebuild, become STRONGER not only during the exercise, but up to 48 hours after you finished doing it?

 Say hello to resistance training!

 Did you know that the process of repairing and building muscle (muscle protein synthesis) is elevated even after working out? In a study by Philips et al., (1997), the authors found that there was a 112% increase in muscle protein synthesis at 3 hours post exercise, a 65% increase at 24 hours post exercise, and a 34% increase at 48 hours post exercise. What this means is that up to 48 hours after a resistance training session, your body is still repairing and rebuilding from that strength session. This process of rebuilding requires energy, and therefore energy taken in is allocated to this activity meaning energy in is less likely to be stored as fat (2)! 

So now that we have covered that strength training is more beneficial for prolonged metabolic activity (calories being utilized), let’s talk about all the other benefits of resistance training as shown below (2). 

 

As you can see, incorporating strength training into your everyday life will bring with it many positive factors: Lowers the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, it promotes muscle growth and retention, and counters the age-related decrease in muscle mass/muscle strength and bone density (2). Resistance training also helps to prevent age-related illness, such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, and helps lower the risk and the severity of depression and anxiety (2).

Did you know that without the implementation of resistance training, we lose muscle (muscle atrophy) naturally as we age(6)? I know it’s cruel, but it’s true. Why should we care if we lose muscle mass? Skeletal muscle mass is an important predictor of health in adult life with a reduction of muscle mass being linked to poor quality of life and increased morbidity (7). After the age of 40, the body progressively loses muscle each year unless combated by resistance training and a high protein diet with sufficient calorie intake (see our macronutrient blog for more details!) (2). This is often more detrimental for women due to the hormonal changes that occur with menopause- without the implementation of a resistance training program women lose 3% of their muscle mass per decade after age 30(6). 

As you can see It is NOT just about body composition- I know we all want to look fit as we age, but strength training provides so many other benefits, specifically to our brain! 

 Regular strength training has been shown to increase levels of neurotrophins, factors that regulate the development and the maintenance of nerve cells or neurons (2). These factors have positive effects on neurogenesis and neuroplasticity-our brain’s ability to build new connections and pathways (2). What does this mean? It means that strength training cannot only transform your body, but your MIND as it continues to grow rather than decay with age. Who wants to be crushing crosswords and the sharpness of throwing witty comebacks to your grandkids when you’re older? I know we do! 

 Now that we know how important muscle is for our bodies, and the many benefits of resistance training… let’s look at what a good resistance training program has! 

 A good strength training program focuses on:

  1. Progressive overload 
  2. Balance of muscle groups 
  3. Adequate recovery 
  4. Movement that you enjoy and do consistently

 Let’s dive deeper into these! 

Muscle hypertrophy (the process of building muscle) is accomplished through mechanical tension or stress on a muscle (2). When you contract your muscles against resistance, you create mechanical tension via the force placed on your muscles (2). When your muscles detect such tension, a cascade of chemical reactions leading to muscle growth begins. Our bodies are incredibly adaptative, so the tension that was placed on the muscle and created growth when you first start training may not be enough to create positive adaptations (aka muscle growth) 6 weeks into training. Therefore, we must progressively overload our training. This means, each time you train you want to make your workout the TINIEST bit harder so that your body is forced to continue adapting and growing. 

 Checkout this image showing different ways we can achieve progressive overload (2)!

Remember, these increases are over time! A great way to measure progress is to track your training, including how much weight you can lift with different exercises! By tracking your training, you can assess if your strength is increasing in each lift over time. 

What do we mean by a “balance of muscle groups”?

 Have you ever looked at someone and thought “woah that guys muscular… but something doesn’t look right…”? This may be because they are biasing one area in their training over others, to the point where it has created asymmetry. Asymmetry isn’t only displeasing aesthetically; it can also cause injury (2)! We want to take our joints through all their functions to promote overall health (2). For example, balancing pushing movements (bench press, push ups, shoulder press) with pulling movements (rows, pull ups, bicep curls). 

 By balancing out these movements, your body will function more optimally and allow you to progress faster than if you bias one exercise or movement pattern (2). If this all sounds complicated and like something you don’t want to worry about… join a gym that does programming for you! This is one of the many benefits of joining CrossFit Framework- you will be provided with intelligent programming that will allow you to move optimally and build overall strength! If you are local to Lethbridge and would like to book a no sweat intro, click this link here: https://crossfitframework.com/book-now/

Time to debunk some myths here…

 MYTH 1:

“Since I am a female, I should lift lighter weights for more reps to “tone and sculpt”. 

 Women do NOT need to lift lighter weights for more reps to achieve a “toned” look (3). There is no “toning” rep range. It does not exist. What gives you the “toned” look you are after is building MUSCLE, because without muscle, you are just trying to be a smaller version of yourself, rather than a toned, more sculpted, and more functional version.

 MYTH 2:

“If my muscles aren’t sore, I didn’t get a good workout in”

 Muscle soreness is NOT a great indicator of whether a training session was effective (2,3). Although muscle soreness is a sign you placed tension in the target muscles, large amounts of muscle damage limit your ability to improve over time (2,3). It is when we take time away from training and focus on recovery that our muscles actually begin to rebuild and grow. If you do not take time to recover, your body does not have enough time to repair the muscle and REBUILD it to be stronger. So, when you think of training, think: Train hard, recover harder.

MYTH 3:

“If my training and nutrition are good, I can ignore other lifestyle factors”. 

Building muscle and recovering is not just about taking time away from the gym, but also focusing on SLEEP! When we sleep is when we recover, and if you are looking to build more muscle, look at your sleep! 

 A study by Wang et al. (2018)  looked at the effects of decreasing sleep on weight loss outcomes. In this study, participants entered a calorie deficit (took in less calories than burning) for 8 weeks. Half of the participants slept normally, while the other half were restricted on sleep (90 minutes less than norm) 5 days of the week. 

 What do you think happened? Do you think the sleep restricted group lost the same amount of weight? 

 Both groups lost similar amounts of weight (7-8 lbs), HOWEVER, there was a huge difference in where the weight they lost came from! 

 When we lose weight, we want to preserve as much muscle as possible so that when we reach our goal weight we achieve that “toned” look rather than just a smaller version of ourselves.

 In this study, the non-sleep restricted group lost 83% of weight from fat mass and 17% from lean mass (such as muscle) while the sleep restricted group lost 58.5% from fat mass and 38.5% of weight from lean mass! This means that the group who was restricted from their normal sleeping patterns lost about the same weight as the other group, but also lost almost half this weight from muscle!! 

Now that we’ve busted some myths, let’s discuss what strength training should be… 

ENJOYABLE

Ultimately, with training if we approach it from the mindset of wanting to honour what our bodies can do, we LISTEN to our bodies. When we are listening to our bodies, we are better able to know when to push weights, when to pull back, and when to rest and recover. 

Have you ever asked yourself
“Did I enjoy that form of exercise and did it benefit me”? 

Sometimes we may not want to workout. We may not “be in the mood”. When this happens, it is time to REFLECT… are you burnt out from other stressors in your life? Do you enjoy your current program? Would changing to a gym that provides more community improve your adherence? 

By asking these questions, you will be able to identify the barriers that are holding you back from training, and you can put strategies in place to improve your consistency! 

In summary… 

 The benefits of movement and strength training have changed both of our lives, and can change yours too! Daily movement can allow you to be more FUNCTIONAL in your day to day life. When you are able to function to your body’s full extent,  you are able to be present in your life and not miss out on opportunities because of your body’s inability to move. Moreover, you can change your mindset from focusing on calories burned to how you can grow through strength training… This mindset shift  can transcend into different areas of your life as you no longer chase being small, but rather STRONG. 

We hope from reading this blog you have become more aware of the many benefits that moving your body can create for you in your life, and are more open to incorporating strength training into your life. If you have any questions about how to do this, please reach out to us- we understand starting a new training program can be intimidating and we want to guide you in this journey! 

Here’s to you, and your quality life! 

With love, 

Robyn and Megan.

References

  1. Chung, N., Park, M. Y., Kim, J., Park, H. Y., Hwang, H., Lee, C. H., … & Lim, K. (2018). Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): a component of total daily energy expenditure. Journal of exercise nutrition & biochemistry, 22(2), 23.
  2. Current, Austin. Science of Strength Training. DK Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  3. Nukols, Greg (2018). Strength Training for Women, Setting the Record Straight. Retrieved from: https://www.strongerbyscience.com/strength-training-women/
  4. Phillips SM, Tipton KD, Aarsland A, Wolf SE, Wolfe RR. Mixed muscle protein synthesis and breakdown after resistance exercise in humans. Am J Physiol. 1997 Jul;273(1 Pt 1):E99-107. doi: 10.1152/ajpendo.1997.273.1.E99. PMID: 9252485.
  5. Scott-Dixon, Krista (2021). The real (and surprising) reason healthy movement matters. Precision Nutrition. Retrieved from: https://www.precisionnutrition.com/healthy-movement
  6. Sims, Stacy T.; Selene Yeager. ROAR. Harmony/Rodale. Kindle Edition.
  7. Stefanaki, C., Pervanidou, P., Boschiero, D., & Chrousos, G. P. (2018). Chronic stress and body composition disorders: implications for health and disease. Hormones, 17(1), 33-43.
  8. Wang X, Sparks JR, Bowyer KP, Youngstedt SD. Influence of sleep restriction on weight loss outcomes associated with caloric restriction. Sleep. 2018 May 1;41(5). doi: 10.1093/sleep/zsy027. PMID: 29438540.
  9. Nutritional Coaching Institute (nd).  Nutritional Coaching Specialist Level One Certification.Chapter 1, Calories.