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Optimizing Weight Loss: Understanding and Utilizing Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

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Optimizing Weight Loss: Understanding and Utilizing Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)

Losing weight is a challenging journey. 

Understanding and utilizing your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) can greatly enhance your weight loss efforts. TDEE is a key concept that takes into account your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and activity level, providing valuable insights into how many calories you burn in a day. By aligning your caloric intake with your TDEE, you can create a sustainable and effective weight loss plan. 

In this article, I will explain what exactly the TDEE measure is, how to calculate it and how to practically use it to lose weight successfully and sustainably. I will also go over some resulting weight loss strategies. 

What Is Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE)?

Total daily energy expenditure (TDEE) estimates how many calories your body burns daily by accounting for three major contributing factors: 

  • Your basal metabolic rate (BMR)
  • Your activity level
  • Your thermic effect on food metabolism

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

Basal metabolic rate is the essential component that is considered during the TDEE calculation. The BMR expresses the energy needs by a person on a daily basis just to be alive. It is the energy needed to maintain a person's vital organs. 

Activity Level

Activity level is another factor that is necessary to be considered in the total daily energy expenditure calculation. It describes the energy needed for certain activities of a person throughout the day. This also includes exercise. 

The Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT) is part of your activity level. This is the energy you consume just by executing normal daily life activities (like walking, shopping etc, i.e., when you are not actively exercising). 

Thermic Effect of Food

The final factor is the thermic effect of food (TEF). This is summarised as the amount of energy it takes for your body to digest, absorb, and metabolise the food you eat. TEF represents about 10% of the caloric intake of healthy adults eating a balanced diet. However, this strongly depends on the diet composition. Protein, for instance, has far larger thermic effect than dietary fat.

Calculating Your TDEE

To begin, you need to calculate your TDEE. Several online calculators can help you estimate this value by considering factors such as age, gender, weight, height, and activity level. Once you have determined your TDEE, you will have a baseline for the number of calories your body requires to maintain its current weight.

Below is an explanation about how to use such an online TDEE calculator. This calculator requires the following inputs:

  • Insert your age.
  • Select your gender from the field .
  • Configure body weight in kg or lbs.
  • Configure body height in cm or ft/in.
  • Select the activity level that best describes your current lifestyle.
  • Press on the “calculate” button

The interface looks like this:


After you press the “calculate” button, you will be presented with your result.


This result screen includes the following information:

  • Your Total Daily Exercise Expenditure (TDEE) value in calories/day
  • Your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) value in calories/day
  • Four additional sections to inform you about daily calorie limits to lose a certain amount of body weight per week

The last point is a recommendation that you can use to inform a diet and exercise plan. Be very careful with these especially with the more aggressive calorie restriction as this could easily become unhealthy. Weight loss and heath gain is a long-term game. There are no shortcuts to health. Please always try and work with a nutritionist expert to devise a plan to be on the safe side. 

In the next section, I will go over some of the underlying theory that is used to calculate the TDEE values. After that i will share some practical weight loss strategies that you can execute after you know your TDEE and your goals. 

Different Total Daily Energy Expenditure Formulas

Lots of research went into developing the TDEE theory and corresponding formulas. I am listing the most popular here. You can manually use these formulas (you may see some differing results) or you could use one of many free online calculators to do the same but more conveniently. The following formulas calculate the resting metabolic rate (RMR), which is the total number of calories burned when your body is completely at rest. RMR supports breathing, circulating blood, organ functions, and basic neurological functions. It is proportional to lean body mass.

Mifflin-St Jeor Formula

  • Men: (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) + 5
  • Women: (10 × weight in kg) + (6.25 × height in cm) - (5 × age in years) - 161

Revised Harris-Benedict Formula

  • Men: 88.362 + (13.397 × weight in kg) + (4.799 × height in cm) - (5.677 × age in years)
  • Women: 447.593 + (9.247 × weight in kg) + (3.098 × height in cm) - (4.330 × age in years)

Katch-McArdle Formula

  • Men/women: 370 + (21.6 * Lean Body Mass)

Lean Body Mass (LBM):

  • Men: (0.407 × weight in kg) + (0.267 × height in cm) - 19.2
  • Women: (0.252 × weight in kg) + (0.473 × height in cm) - 48.3


Weight Loss Strategies Using TDEE

In this section, I am sharing with you several practical weight loss strategies that you can deploy after you calculated your TDEE. Bear in mind that weight loss is a long term game. You won’t see results over night -- not even in days or weeks. It will take you months and years but it is worth it. Adapt slightly but stick to it consistently long-term. Ideally you can form sustainable healthy habits for life

Creating a Calorie Deficit

Weight loss occurs when you consume fewer calories than you expend. To shed pounds in a healthy and sustainable manner, aim for a moderate calorie deficit of 500 to 1,000 calories per day. This deficit allows for a slight but steady weight loss over time. By reducing your caloric intake slightly below your TDEE, you create an environment that will create to weight loss.

Monitoring Caloric Intake

Keeping track of your daily caloric intake is essential in optimizing weight loss. Several apps and websites can assist you in tracking your meals and snacks, making it easier to stay within your target calorie range. I personally like YAZIO a lot. Be mindful of portion sizes, read food labels, and opt for whole, nutrient-dense foods. Balancing macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, and fats) in relation to your goals is crucial for providing your body with the necessary energy while promoting satiety. In case of doubt, consult a nutritionist

Prioritizing Protein

When aiming for weight loss, I recommend to prioritize protein-rich foods. Protein plays a crucial role in preserving muscle mass, which is essential for maintaining a healthy metabolism. It also helps you feel full and satisfied, reducing cravings and overeating (like on junk foods). Include lean meats, fish, poultry, legumes, nuts, and seeds in your diet to ensure an adequate protein intake.

Incorporating Physical Activity

Physical activity and exercise not only contributes to calorie expenditure but also offers numerous health benefits. Engage in a mix of cardiovascular exercises (such as brisk walking, jogging, or cycling) and strength training to promote fat loss while preserving muscle mass. Think about activities you like doing and include these into your lifestyle. This will make exercising more sustainable and enjoyable.

Adjusting Your Approach

As you progress in your weight loss journey, it's essential to measure and evaluate your TDEE periodically, and adapt your strategies accordingly. As your body composition changes, your metabolic rate will change too. Recalculate your TDEE and adjust your caloric intake to avoid hitting a weight loss plateau. Gradual adjustments, such as reducing caloric intake by 100-200 calories and/or changing your macro split, can help you continue making progress towards your goal.

Patience and Consistency

Weight loss is a gradual process that requires patience and consistency. Remember that sustainable weight loss is not about drastic measures but rather making long-term lifestyle changes. Drastic measures only lead to the yo-yo effect and eventually you are worse off than without any drastic diet in the first place. Understand the essential principles of achieving health goals, take it slowly, listen to your body, focus on progress rather than perfection, and celebrate each milestone achieved.

Utilizing Total Daily Energy Expenditure To Lose Weight

Understanding and utilizing your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) is a powerful tool in optimizing weight loss. By calculating your TDEE accurately, creating a calorie deficit, monitoring your caloric intake, prioritizing protein, incorporating physical activity, and adjusting your approach as needed, you can achieve sustainable and effective weight loss. 

Remember, the key lies in making healthy choices, maintaining consistency, and embracing a balanced lifestyle that supports your long-term goals. Start harnessing the power of TDEE today and embark on your successful weight loss journey.

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