You may not know this but when you sit, sleep, talk, laugh, or even use Whatsapp, you are constantly using energy and producing heat! Your metabolism is at play even when you rest, and all that means is that your body’s machinery is constantly at work. And you can use it to shed your baby weight.
In this resting metabolic state, even when a person is asleep, breathing, digesting food or even thinking, energy is consumed all the time! This accounts for your metabolism or BMR (basal metabolic rate).
And now it’s time to introduce you to a concept in nutrition called NEAT. NEAT is an acronym for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. In a nutshell, it is the ‘heat produced in your body not because of targeted exercise’. Your metabolism comprises 70% of your calories burnt, whereas workout uses only a meagre 15%. The remaining 15% goes into your day-to-day activities.
How about accelerating your metabolism while doing chores?
So, if you are chatting on the phone with that office colleague or friend, make sure you don’t lie down and talk. Instead, walk around and make conversation. If you live in a two-storied house, don’t ask your house help to get your stuff from the other floor. Instead, make some effort and get it yourself.
And now the problem of most people today: if you have a desk job at an IT firm or otherwise that requires you to stay glued to your screens for hours, take a standing break every hour and balance your body on your tippy toes for just two minutes! Sounds doable, isn’t it?
We spend so much money on weight loss programmes, and barely get ourselves to stick to it. Instead, why not use this cash to get an activity tracker and count your steps. Not a fan of buying gadgets? Fret not, there are a ton of apps that you can download on your phone to track your activity. And if you’re like me and you hate apps and gadgets both, then it’s time to motivate yourself, and consciously keep moving all day!
Fat is not just burnt by exercise; fat can be burnt even post exercise
This is called ‘Post exercise oxygen consumption’. If someone asks me whether he should workout in the morning before office, or not exercise and take NEAT breaks throughout the day (even during office hours, I would definitely recommend the latter.
NEAT is all about increasing your metabolic rate and activity levels to accelerate weight loss. Focused activities are great, but of limited value, especially in the case of a mother who juggles both personal and professional responsibilities, day after day!
Lack of motivation or time, or any other reason that prevents you from exercising should not stop you from losing weight.
Take ‘NEAT breaks’ to step away from your work and get moving for five minutes. Watching a movie? Get up and do fifteen squats and two planks (lasting one-minute each) and then go back to watching it. This takes just three minutes of your time, but what you have effectively done is jump-started your metabolism, got the muscles pumping and raised your blood pressure transiently.
Interestingly, only this much activity can encourage efficient fat burning for the next few hours. Enough women in my practice have lost sleep over not completing their sacred 10,000 steps or a one-hour yoga session, as part of their weight loss journey. Go easy on yourself mama, 5-6 NEAT breaks during the day is good enough!
There is a mechanism due to which NEAT works wonderfully to burn fat. It stimulates the enzyme HSL, which opposes the fat storing action of insulin and is released when muscles are active. So, if you stand when you could be sitting, you are increasing the action of this enzyme and promoting fat burning in your body.
If you do a set of 20 jumping jacks while watching a movie, you can boost your heart rate and trigger adrenaline production through this sudden spurt of activity. The adrenaline released promotes the action of HSL and so do the activated muscles. This spurt of activity boosts your metabolism, prolongs fat burning and post-activity oxygen consumption.
Here are some examples of NEAT breaks:
1. Every time you enter your bedroom, do a plank lasting a minute. Do at least four planks spread out through the day.
2. Do one set of 30 jumping jacks fifteen minutes before your meal times, or whenever you find time. Aim for three such sets in a day.
3. Dance vigorously to a three-minute song, twice a day. Just play a song and break into an impromptu routine.
4. Three sets of 20 squats during the day is a must.
5. If you like to jump rope, then you could do one set of fifty as well.
6. A two minute stepping dance holding your baby is also good fun (make sure you do this only when the baby has achieved full neck control). It’s a great bonding activity and will make you and your baby super happy by the end of it!
Remember that these little bursts of activity can have a BIG impact! Yes, they help you keep your weight in check, even if you don’t do a rigorous workout in the gym. Yes, even if you have a perfect gym routine, the metabolism will be up and alive only for a few hours, and will slow down when you spend your time sitting throughout the day.
You don’t have to do all the exercises I mentioned — just try to aim for 5-6 such sets throughout the day. Just remember, don’t sit at a stretch for more than two hours.