What is TDEE?

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Coach Lindsay here! Two questions the SFM coaches often receive from our clients are:

“I won’t be able to work out this week due to injury/illness, should we adjust my macros?” 


“I went on a 3-hour bike ride with my family today and my FitBit told me I burned 3,462 calories! Should I eat more today?”

It’s fairly common to equate exercise and calories burned, and to worry that your body needs less calories when you’re sick and injured, not making it to your regular workout class, etc. 

We see best results when clients hit same set of numbers consistently.

Exercise isn’t a large percentage of your Total Daily Calories burned.

Your total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) is determined by four factors:


TDEE Explained

Components of total daily energy expenditure (TDEE). BMR = basal metabolic rate; NEAT = non-exercise activity thermogenesis; TEF = thermic effect of food; EAT = exercise activity thermogenesis; REE = resting energy expenditure; NREE = non-resting energy expenditure. Adapted from Maclean et al., 2011.

  • BMR: Your basal metabolic rate, which is the amount of energy you burn just by existing. BMR is determined by your height, your weight, your age, your sex, and your ratio of lean mass to body fat.
  • NEAT: Non-exercise energy thermogenesis, which accounts for all the calories you burn outside of exercise (aka the other 23 hours during your day)…walking, fidgeting…Read more about NEAT here! People with more active and physical jobs typically have a higher NEAT. 
  • TEF: Thermal Effect of Food. Our body burns calories just by eating! Eating, digesting and metabolizing foods account for TEF. Protein and fiber-rich foods have a high TEF. 
  • EAT: Exercise Activity Thermogenesis. These are the calories burned during exercise. 

When you look at the four components that make up your TDEE, you can see that exercise is the smallest component. This is why in SFM, we always stress the importance of NEAT and getting your daily steps


Your activity tracker is probably wrong. Various studies have been published showing the inaccuracy of these devices and overestimation of calories burned. That doesn’t mean there are no benefits to wearing your FitBit or AppleWatch. They encourage healthy habits by tracking steps and can even send movement reminders throughout the day. They can track sleep patterns, and monitor heart rate. An activity tracker can be a great tool to keep yourself consistent, whether it’s consistently burning a certain amount of calories per workout or a certain amount of steps. 

We don’t need to build an unhealthy relationship between food & movement.

This point may be the most important one to discuss. Diet culture has led us to believe that we need to “burn off” the “bad foods” we overindulged on, and that the secret equation for weight loss is to eat less and exercise more. One of the main pillars of SFM coaching is to help foster a positive relationship with nutrition and our bodies. Believing that we earn calories by exercise or punishing ourselves by burning off the “bad foods” we overindulge on places an unhealthy relationship between exercise & our daily nutrition.  

Exercise is so much more important than calories burned

  • It’s fun and can be an opportunity to socialize with friends.
  • Improves memory and brain function
  • Protects against many chronic diseases
  • Reduces the risk of heart attacks
  • Lowers blood pressure and improves heart health
  • Improves quality of sleep
  • Weightlifting helps prevent osteoporosis, strengthens bones and joints and builds muscle
  • Improves mood and decrease feelings of depression, anxiety, and stress 
  • …and it’s fun and enjoyable!

Do not worry…The SFM Coaches have this covered! 

The SFM coaches take into account individual activity level when setting up our client’s macro prescriptions. Adjustments are made based on client biofeedback — energy during workouts, recovery from workouts, overall energy/mood, sleep, hunger, stress and digestion. 

So after you’ve completed a hard workout, please remember that we’re not earning food and we’re not burning off food. We’re exercising for all of the amazing benefits that it provides our body. Enjoy your workout, lift a little heavier than last week, run a little farther, push for an extra 1,000 steps, and make note of your biofeedback for your coach!​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​  ​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​Bottom line: Your nutrtion should be steady even when your exercise can’t be​​​​​​​.

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