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The best way to estimate TDEE and NEAT

There has been a bit of talk about how best to determine your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure) and/or your NEAT (non exercise associated thermogenesis - what you need for everything except intentional exercise). Some formulae are better than others, but all use certain population averages. Obviously, the best way to get an accurate estimate for an individual is is to accumulate a bunch of data for yourself and use that.

I wrote a blog post today describing how I did it. Using 8 weeks of data I was able to get a very close estimate of TDEE and NEAT. Having such estimates increases my confidence - previously I was under-doing it a bit to account for margins of error, but with so much personal data I'm pretty confident now about exactly how much I should be eating each day to reach my goals. The result is that I've gone back to a net calorie method rather than a total calorie method, and I've increased my net calorie goal from what MFP has estimated for me. Turns out my actual NEAT is quite a bit higher than MFP's estimate - my daily activity level is higher than I thought.

Here is a link to my blog post if anybody is interested:

(hopefully it is open to all members: if not perhaps someone could tell me how to make it so)


  • Cherimoose
    Cherimoose Posts: 5,208 Member
    The best way i know of outside of a lab to measure calories burned is to wear an accurate movement tracker, like BodyMedia or BodyBugg. Both are over 90% accurate.
  • walleymama
    walleymama Posts: 174 Member
    But those movement trackers are again using constants that are population estimates, aren't they? Aren't they just basing their estimate on number of steps? What if those steps are up a flight of stairs? Some use heart rate, but isn't a fit person able to maintain a lower heart rate to do the same exercise as an unfit person?

    I don't think you can argue with real life results.
  • Cherimoose
    Cherimoose Posts: 5,208 Member
    Aren't they just basing their estimate on number of steps?

    No, the 2 units i mentioned measure multiple variables, which are explained here:

    They do tend to under-report calories on an elliptical machine, and over-report on a bumpy motorcycle.. although you can manually override those values.

    The nice thing is they eliminate a lot of the subjective guessing about the intensity and duration of one's daily activities.. so they're useful for bad guessers.

    Personally i prefer to skip the armbands and calculations, and just use hunger as my guide. I realize that doesn't work for everyone..
  • Mr_Knight
    Mr_Knight Posts: 9,532 Member
    BodyBugg, FitBit, etc, are all using population averages to estimate activity, all their math is optimized for specific types of "cardio", and they each have entire classes of exercise where they completely suck. Fitbit and BodyBugg are both a catastrophe, for example, for cyclists.

    Outside of extensive lab testing, the only way to get an accurate reading is to maintain a consistent log and calculate the number on an individual basis.

    Devices like that are great, but they don't replace subjectivity at all. They just replace the user's subjectivity with the manufacturers subjectivity.
  • endoftheside
    endoftheside Posts: 568 Member
    I calculate my own TDEE and my NEAT is much higher than MFP calculates as well...coincidentally(?) like you I am in my 40s and weigh in the 140s and my real NEAT is also 300 calories higher than MFP estimated (I wondered why the "you will weight x in 5 weeks" were always way off). I am really curious (and hopeful) about what my maintenance will end up being, I wouldn't complain if it stayed a few hundred higher than I was originally expecting!