Heat, Work, & Storage

Remember our last post about the different energy balance scenarios; negative, positive, and neutral? (If you missed it don’t worry here it is.) Well, this time around we’re going to talk about where this energy in goes and how it will effect the energy out. This includes everything from our physical activity to our storage systems. Our goal is that by the time you’re done here you’ll have a better understanding of why losing weight isn’t just as simple as “eating less”.

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To kick things off, let’s talk about where the energy we take in goes. No matter what type of energy (calories) we take in they’ll be used for either; heat, energy needs (digestion, absorption, physical activity, & other metabolic needs), or stored for later use. These three factors all play hand-in-hand and changing one will affect the other.


So, what accounts for heat aka thermogenesis? This includes things such as physical activity, thermic effect of food, resting metabolic rate, and fat oxidation. In other words, anything that is increasing your body temperature or releasing heat. Have you ever noticed how some people are always hot, while others may always be cold? Well, just like some people like their house set at a constant 70 degrees while others may prefer 75 degrees; it just comes down to individual needs. *Fun fact about body temperature; the body burns more calories when it’s cold due to it having to work harder to keep warm. Now, i’m not saying to go waltzing around in your boxers or bikini the next time you go skiing, but a little chilly weather can give you a little more burn!


This part of the equation is pretty self-explanatory; work consists of just that…work. This is the energy your body uses when your taking the kids to school, cooking dinner, giving a presentation at work, or anything else requiring some form of movement. Have you ever heard of NEAT? NEAT stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis (there’s that word again). Wait…What?! Don’t get too stressed about this fancy sounding phrase because all it means is anytime you’re doing some type of movement that is producing HEAT and isn’t technically exercise; you’re producing NEAT. Again, everyones lives, schedules, and jobs are different and so pin-pointing the exact number is can be really tricky. If you’re interested in knowing how much you of your total calories come from neat; you can wear some type of hr/calorie tracker for a day. Don’t forget to minus your physical activity or calories burned while sitting around.


This is probably everyones least favorite part of the equation because when they hear “storage”, they automatically think fat. But did you know that the calories you take in can be stored as other things besides fat? For example, it can be stored as glycogen in your muscles and liver, which will help keep you alive and functioning when you have a 12-hour work day with no breaks for lunch. Have you ever noticed that when training on an empty stomach or in a state of “fasting” you can’t lift or go as hard? Or have you ever gotten “HANGRY”? Yep, this is all thanks to your storage system being depleted or empty. And if you couldn’t already guess, this varies from person-to-person; some people can store more than others or store it in a more efficient way.

To wrap everything up, we are all unique and have individual energy needs and our bodies have different variables that play into our total burn. This is what makes losing or gaining weight much more complicated than “eating more” or “eating less”. You need to have a good understanding of how your body works before you randomly go increasing/decreasing calories blindly.

looking for an easy way to find out how your body burns without all the guessing? Then let’s get you set-up for a resting metabolic assessment today!

Micah WorrellComment