Are you getting confused between burning calories and losing weight?
Let’s discuss the common misconceptions when it comes to losing weight.
A 30-minute workout session, five days a week, is enough to burn calories and lose weight.
Fact: This is just part of the whole weight control process. You still need to consider your diet and other activities. You might burn 200 calories from a 30-minute workout, and then eat a 500-calorie cronut on your way home.
Leisure walking, moving while standing and doing household chores will not really contribute to weight control because you don’t exert much effort.
Fact: Studies show that aside from your actual workout, you can burn 300-500 calories or more per day if you move, walk and stand the rest of the day. This is almost equivalent to a one-hour cardio workout.
It is better to diet first and lose a significant amount of weight before you engage in physical activity.
Fact: To maximize calorie burn and achieve long-term weight control, you need to combine both—but you need to eat sensibly. If you exercise, you build more muscle, so you have a faster metabolism and more energy.
Most people are only aware of the calories burned from exercising in the gym. But the fact is, the total amount of calories you burn per day is the combination of calories your burn while resting, during your actual exercise session, after exercise, during the extra activities during the day, and even when you eat.
Resting energy expenditure (REE) is the non-exercise energy that your body needs to survive. This accounts for 60-70 percent of your total body expenditure in 24 hours. Heavier individuals and those with more muscle mass burn more calories. A 120-pound woman burns 1,200 calories per day from REE. She needs at least 1,200 calories worth of food a day to survive.
Surprisingly, we burn additional calories for processing and digesting foods. But this thermic effect of food (TEF) only accounts for 10 percent of the total body expenditure, less than 200 calories a day.
Some 15-30 percent of the calories that we burn per day comes from activity energy expenditure (AEE), both structured and non-structured. If you just sit at your desk or stay in bed all day, you don’t really burn much from AEE.
Your formal workout might burn from 200 to 1,000 calories in one hour, depending on the exercise type and intensity, and your weight and gender. More calories are burned by heavier people, those with higher heart rates during exercise, male exercisers and individuals with more muscle mass.
After the workout, you still burn six to 15 percent of the total calories burned during the session, and we call this post-exercise energy consumption (Epoc). A high-intensity interval training session has higher EPOC.
This is called the non-exercise activity thermogenesis (Neat), the latest form of metabolic conditioning developed by the endocrinologist and researcher Dr. James Levine of Mayo Clinic. Neat is the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or formal exercise.
Professor and lecturer Len Kravitz mentioned this in his metabolic conditioning lecture during our Idea fitness convention. You get this by moving around the house or office, standing, walking a lot and fidgeting more often.
According to research on Neat, fidgeters expend an additional 352 calories per day. Walking a total of 10,000 steps throughout the day can help one burn 300-500. No wonder Neat gadgets like pedometers and Fitbit are getting more popular nowadays.
If your total calorie burn for the whole 24 hours (combining REE, AEE and TEF) is almost 2,000 calories, then eating 2,000 calories worth of food will just make up for all you’ve burned. The result: You will just maintain your weight.
One pound of fat is equivalent to 3,500 calories. If you eat 250 calories less per day (1,750 calories), you can gain half a pound of fat a week. If you eat 2,500 calories per day (500-calorie surplus), you can gain one pound of fat a week.
I move a lot during the day by doing household chores, and as a fitness coach, by giving instructions and demonstrations while standing six to eight hours a day. Combine this with my daily formal exercise session, and I burn approximately 600-800 calories (300-400 calories from Neat and 300-400 calories from my formal exercises: resistance training and cardio).
Considering everything in the equation, I burn approximately 1,800-2,000 calories a day. My usual diet on active days is equivalent to 1,800-2,000 calories a day, less on rest days when I don’t do a formal workout. Result: I have maintained my weight for many years.
So if you deprive yourself too much of nutrients, like getting 1,000 calories less than what you burn in 24 hours, you can slow down your metabolism and bring down your energy level so you lose the opportunity to move more. Your body will always rebel, and your mind will always tell you to binge after the deprivation.
Diet and exercise are just part of the whole weight control equation. Adequate rest for improved metabolism, proper nutrition for effective movement and recovery, formal exercise for improved body composition and fitness level, spontaneous or non-intentional movement throughout the day for extra calorie burn and a positive attitude for program consistency should always be considered to achieve long-term weight control.
How to burn more calories effectively:
Move and walk a lot. Avoid too many online activities (games, social media) where you sit and just use your hands.
Avoid sitting down. If you do so most of the time, take frequent walk breaks, move your legs or arms or fidget while working at your desk
Incorporate high-intensity interval training once or twice a week so you still burn additional calories even after the workout.
Feed your muscles the right quality and quantity of food.
Aside from weight loss, focus on fat loss or your body composition, so incorporate strength training at least twice a week.
Choose a complete and well-balanced workout program, something you can do long-term.
Sleep well so your body can effectively recover and you have enough energy to burn the next day.