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Weight Loss during Isolation

Updated: Aug 5, 2020

So during lockdown/isolation I’ve come across a few people recently who have been exercising more but are not losing weight or are in fact gaining weight.

There are many contributing factors to weight loss and many people are fully aware of the energy balance model (eat less than you burn = lose weight / eat more than you burn = gain weight). Also, its very important to understand the following piece of information regarding TDEE (Total Daily Energy Expenditure) and what contributes to it.

To put it simply TDEE is the total amount of calories your body will burn in a day.

TDEE can then be broken down into 4 different areas.

BMR - Basal Metabolic Rate - The amount of calories/energy your body burns for life sustaining functions.

TEF - Thermic effect of food - The amount of calories/energy you body burns to digest food

NEAT - Non- Exercise Activity Thermogenesis - The amount of calories you burn in everyday life away from exercise

EAT - Exercise Activity Thermogenesis - The amount of calories you burn during exercise.

As you can see from the graph the body uses the most amount of energy keeping you alive and to be honest you don’t have much control over this so there’s no need to worry about it regarding weight loss (but its important to ensure you always consume more than this amount of calories).

TEF can however be manipulated. As mentioned above it’s the calories that you burn for eating. However, some foods are digested and burnt quicker than others. For example sugars can be broken down easily by saliva in your mouth and can be used as a quick energy supply for the body. Great if you want some energy quickly but not if you need to burn more calories. Protein rich foods such as nuts, seeds and meat take longer to digest and can help to increase you metabolism and TEF.

Now we come to the issue that some of us are having whilst in isolation. NEAT is the energy spend not exercising. On a normal working day this might be walking to and around work, picking up kids at school, walking to get some lunch at lunchtime etc. This is why you may find people focusing so heavily on their daily step count, its the amount of energy they are using away from exercise but measured in steps. For many people their NEAT makes up a surprisingly large percentage of their total daily energy expenditure especially if they are on their feet for most of their working day. However, if you suddenly take this away from someones lifestyle then they of course will have dropped their total calories burnt (TDEE) making it easier to gain weight. So unless we are eating less (much harder considering we are now living so close to our fridge at home) we will be unable to lose weight or we may have gained weight.

The final component of TDEE is EAT (Exercise Activity Thermogenesis) which is the amount of energy we burn during exercise. This could be going out for a run, training at home, online classes etc. Its more important than ever to really push ourselves to exercise everyday when it comes to losing weight or at least weight management and staying the same. However, take into consideration that its unlikely that exercising for just 30-60mins a day will make up for not moving out of the house all day and potentially eating more convenience food.

So to help achieve you fitness goals during lockdown be mindful of what you are eating, ensure that you exercise every day and try to keep your everyday activity levels up as much as possible such as gardening, walking up and down the stairs more often, home DIY or increased step count etc.

Good luck and stay healthy everyone


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