Yes, you ready that correctly 🙂
Now I don’t mean to say that if your goal is weight loss, that you should stop exercising altogether. I mean to say is that if the sole reason for your exercise is to burn calories with the intention of weight loss, you might be just wasting your time.
I’ve had a few clients ask me recently, “How many calories should I burn during a workout?”
My answer depends a little on why you are asking. If you’re asking because you want to make sure you’re pushing yourself hard enough, that’s okay.
But if you’re asking because you want to know how to “burn off” that bag of chips or slice of pizza, you’re headed straight into a dead end.
In the grand scheme of life, the calories you burn via exercise don’t have that much effect on your success with weight loss/ maintenance.
Sure, they are a part of the equation (above) but certainly not the most important part.
The part you should be paying the absolute most attention to is the left side: Calories Consumed. That part is pretty straight forward and simple to monitor, track and adjust.
The right part of the equation is much more complicated.
- Basal Metabolic Rate: This represents the calories that your body burns just to keep you alive. Breathing, regulating temperature, circulating blood, repairing muscles, etc. All the things that your body does involuntarily (without you having to think about them). This makes up the largest part of your metabolism and it’s something you can’t change that much. Slowly changing your body composition to have more muscle and less fat would increase this slightly.
- Thermic Effect of Food or TEF: This is the calories that you burn via digesting, absorbing and getting rid of food. Not all foods take the same energy to burn. Protein, for example, take the most energy (burns the most calories to digest). While fats and carbs often take less than half the energy of protein to digest (burns less calories).
- Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis (NEAT): This represents the energy you burn from activity that is not strictly exercise. For example, the number of steps you get in a day, fidgeting, moving around or taking the stairs. You usually only exercise for 1 hour per day, which means there are 23 other hours in the day where you could try to be a little more active to increase your NEAT.
- Physical Activity: This is your workout and the calories you burn during it. For something like cardio (elliptical, jogging) you pretty much stop burning calories once your heart rate returns to normal. For HIIT (interval training) or strength training you do enough work/damage to your muscles that they have to continue repairing (this uses energy/calories) even for hours after your done. So prioritizing interval or strength training will have a biggest impact on your overall metabolism that 45 minutes on the elliptical at a steady pace.
Now that’s I’ve filled you in on the factors that make up the right side of the equation, bring you attention back to the left side: Calories Consumed. This is going to be the number one thing that makes or break you. So if figuring out how to control the calories you consume is very difficult for you, hire a coach because learning how to consume an appropriate amount of calories in a way that is healthy, sustainable and enjoyable is key for life-long success. I promise it will be well worth the investment.