What Does Energy Expenditure Mean?

When the goal is to increase energy expenditure, it's a good idea to perform strength exercises to modify body composition. More muscle mass translates into more daily expenditure.
What Does Energy Expenditure Mean?

Last update: 18 March, 2021

Energy expenditure can be a determining factor in weight loss. It’s a modifiable metabolic parameter, which varies naturally over time. It’s also possible to take on certain lifestyle habits to influence it.

Many people become obsessed with this parameter when they start a weight loss routine. However, although it’s important, it’s not the only element to keep an eye on. You need to modulate other variables to ensure an improvement in body composition.

What’s energy expenditure?

Energy expenditure is the energy the body consumes during the course of a day to carry out all activities. This includes the calories the body requires to maintain organ function at rest and all the calories it needs to cope with the activities it carries out.

When the objective’s to lose weight, experts recommend caloric expenditure be higher than caloric intake in order to produce a deficit. You achieve this by establishing a hypocaloric diet in relation to needs, which has proven to be effective in a recent study in the journal Nutrition.

However, food isn’t the only way to influence this parameter. It’s possible to keep your diet unchanged and to focus on the amount of physical activity. In this way, the daily energy expenditure will increase and the deficit situation will occur, leading to a progressive weight loss.

A woman tugging on a rope in a gym.


Alternatives to increase energy expenditure

There are different methods to increase total energy expenditure throughout the day. One of them is to increase activity, as we mentioned above. If physical efforts are made, the energy consumed increases.

However, acting on body composition can also be very effective. We should keep in mind that fat is a much less metabolically active tissue than muscle. Therefore, increasing the amount of lean body mass can significantly increase energy expenditure at rest.

According to a study that appeared in the journal Obesity, the opposite situation, i.e. an increase in fat mass, usually leads to a reduction in the basal metabolic rate. This is even greater when there’s parallel catabolism of lean tissue. Reversing this scenario can be costly.

Don’t obsess over the deficit

Although establishing a caloric deficit is important to promote weight loss, it’s not the only factor involved. It’s also important to take care of the biodiversity of the intestinal microbiota, as this has an impact on the absorption of nutrients and their utilization.

Similarly, the organs involved in metabolism can experience certain inefficiencies if we fail to care for them properly. For example, regular ingestion of simple sugars can affect the functioning of the pancreas, leading to insulin resistance and hindering subsequent weight loss and nutrient utilization.


For this reason, it’s not only necessary to focus on calories; we must go a step further and include fresh foods with high nutritional density and quality in our diets. As much as possible, we should avoid the intake of additives whose safety isn’t guaranteed in the medium term. Some of them, such as sweeteners, could have a negative impact on the composition of the microbiota.

Energy expenditure, a modifiable variable

As you’ve seen, energy expenditure is one of the variables involved in weight loss, but not the only one. However, the advantage is that it can be modified by influencing diet and lifestyle habits. Therefore, it’s best to increase physical activity and take care of your diet.

In this regard, don’t forget the importance of prioritizing the consumption of fresh food over ultra-processed products. These often contain low-quality additives or elements that are harmful to health in the medium term, such as simple sugars and trans fats.

Ultimately, it also ensures a good night’s rest and avoids alcohol intake as much as possible, as this substance is toxic for the body.

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  • Dellis D, Tsilingiris D, Eleftheriadou I, Tentolouris A, Sfikakis PP Jr, Dellis G, Karanasiou M, Meimari A, Dimosthenopoulos C, Lazarou S, Tentolouris N. Carbohydrate restriction in the morning increases weight loss effect of a hypocaloric Mediterranean type diet: a randomized, parallel group dietary intervention in overweight and obese subjects. Nutrition. 2020
  • Hwaung P, Bosy-Westphal A, Muller MJ, Geisler C, Heo M, Thomas DM, Kennedy S, Heymsfield SB. Obesity Tissue: Composition, Energy Expenditure, and Energy Content in Adult Humans. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2019 Sep;27(9):1472-1481