You’ve heard it before: to lose weight you need to burn off more calories than your body takes in. But just how many calories do you need to burn per day to lose weight? The amount of calories burned varies depending on your sex (male or female), body size and metabolism. Understanding how many calories should you burn to lose weight can help you determine if you are likely to achieve your weight loss goals in a given time frame.
What is a calorie?
Most people think of calories as only having to do with food and weight loss. However, a calorie is a unit of heat energy. A calorie is the amount of energy that is needed to raise 1 gram (g) of water by 1°C.
This measurement can be applied to lots of different energy releasing mechanisms outside of the human body. For the human body, calories are a measure of how much energy the body needs to function.
Food contains calories. Different food has different calorie counts, meaning that each food has a different amount of potential energy.
There are three basic types of foods that make up all the food that humans eat: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. These three different types of food have varying amounts of potential energy per g.
The calorie breakdowns per g for each food type are as follows:
- Carbohydrates: 4 calories per g
- Proteins: 4 calories per g
- Fats: 9 calories per g
How Many Calories Does A Good Workout Burn?
Workouts and physical activity have become essential to our daily routine. With our increasingly static lifestyle, working out has become crucial to maintain our ideal weight, stay fit and prevent life-threatening diseases. However, many fail to get the desired results despite spending hours at the gym or doing freehand exercise.
Calories burned should be more than the calorie intake in a day to lose weight. The calorie deficit created by cutting calories through a controlled diet or working out eventually leads to weight loss.
It is important to note that as everyone burns a different amount of calories in the resting position, the calories needed per day to lose weight also differs.
How are calories burned?
Calories are the fuel that keeps our body functioning. We burn calories continuously, even when we are resting. However, the speed with which calories burn increases and decreases with the intensity of our physical activities.
Some of the best calorie-burning activities are aerobics, jogging, running, swimming, or gym workouts.
For example, low-impact aerobics performed for 30 minutes can burn around 160 to 200 calories depending on the body weight. A 10-minute run can burn about 114 calories; a 10-minute swim can help burn 55 calories, and 10 minutes of jogging at 5 miles per hour will burn 80 calories for a person weighing around 54-55kg.
How Many Calories Do I Need to Burn to Lose Fat?
As a general rule of thumb, you need to burn 3,500 calories to lose one pound of body fat. That equates to nearly 12 hours of walking or six hours of running, not accounting for meals.
To break this down into a more realistic figure, it can be divided into a one-week span. For example, if you consume 2,000 calories per day, you can lose one pound of body fat each week by burning 2,500 calories per day.
That is a lot easier said than done, though, as even burning 2,000 calories per day would require hours of cardio. Nonetheless, starving yourself is not the answer. After all, without a proper diet, the quality and safety of your workouts would greatly suffer.
What Burns Calories?
In a nutshell, everything burns calories. From going to the grocery store to taking a nap, you are always burning calories. The name of the game when it comes to losing or gaining weight isn’t so much about burning calories as it is in a calorie surplus or deficit.
That being said, exercise is vital to any healthy lifestyle. Therefore, you’ll want to know how many calories you’re burning before figuring out your diet. Per hour, here are some of the most calorie-burning activities out there (based on a 155-pound individual):
- Running – 808 calories
- Water polo – 703 calories
- Bicycling – 596 calories
- Calisthenics – 596 calories
- Circuit training – 596 calories
- Jump rope – 562 calories
- Stationary bicycling – 520 calories
- Rowing machine – 520 calories
- Aerobic dance – 492 calories
- Swimming (casual) – 492 calories
- Jogging – 492 calories
- Hiking – 421 calories
Calculating daily calorie burn
Being able to work out how many calories are burned each day is essential to any person looking to maintain, lose, or gain weight.
Knowing what factors contribute to calorie burning can help a person alter their diet or exercise program to accommodate the goal.
An accepted method to calculate how many calories a person burns each day is the Harris-Benedict Formula.
Originally developed in the early 20th century, it was revamped in 1984 and again in 1990 to help improve its accuracy.
The Harris-Benedict formula is a relatively simple process in which a person multiplies their basal metabolic rate (BMR) by their average daily activity level.
BMR is the number of calories a person burns by simply existing. BMR varies based on age, sex, size, and genetics. To calculate BMR, a person uses inches for height, pounds for weight, and years for age in the following formulas:
- For men: 66 + (6.2 x weight) + (12.7 x height) – (6.76 x age)
- For women: 655.1 + (4.35 x weight) + (4.7 x height) – (4.7 x age)
The results of the BMR calculation are then used to multiply against the average daily activity of the person. Points are awarded based on how active a person is.
Points for activity levels are as follows:
- 1.2 points for a person who does little to no exercise
- 1.37 points for a slightly active person who does light exercise 1–3 days a week
- 1.55 points for a moderately active person who performs moderate exercise 3–5 days a week
- 1.725 points for a very active person who exercises hard 6–7 days a week
- 1.9 points for an extra active person who either has a physically demanding job or has a particularly challenging exercise routine
When the BMR is calculated and the activities points are determined, the two scores are multiplied. The total is the number of calories burned on an average day.
For example, to calculate how many calories a 37-year-old, 6-foot-tall, and 170-pound man who is moderately active burns, the formula would look like:
(66 + (6.2 x 170) + (12.7 x 72) – (6.76 x 37)) x 1.55 = 2,766 calories/day
This figure shows that a man of this age, height, weight, and activity level can consume 2,766 calories and maintain his current weight. He could increase or decrease weight by consuming more or less than this amount over the course of several days.
For those who do not wish to make the calculations themselves, there are a range of calorie calculators available online. Most use a similar formula to work out calories burned.
A doctor or nutritionist should also be able to help people work out how many calories they burn each day.
Factors affecting calorie burn
Many factors affect how many calories a person burns each day. Some of the factors that influence daily calorie burn are not in a person’s control while others can be changed.
These factors include:
- Age: the older a person is, the fewer calories burned per day.
- Sex: men burn more calories than women.
- Amount of daily activity: those who move more, burn more calories.
- Body composition: those with more muscle burn more calories than those who have less muscle.
- Body size: larger people burn more calories than smaller people, even at rest.
- Thermogenesis: this is the amount of energy the body uses to break down food.
- Pregnancy: pregnant women burn more calories than non-pregnant women.
- Breast-feeding: women who are breast-feeding also burn extra calories.
WAYS TO BURN MORE CALORIES THAN YOU’RE EATING
Burning more calories than you eat in a day is referred to as a “calorie deficit” and is the basis of many weight-loss equations. The idea is daily calories in minus daily calories out = caloric deficit.
The first thing you need to understand is that one pound of fat is made of about 3,500 of extra calories. To lose one pound of fat, you need to create a caloric deficit of 3,500 calories. For example if you wanted to lose one pound a week divide 3,500 calories by seven to get 500; that means negative 500 calories a day overall.
There are only 3 ways you can create a deficit of calories each day:
- Eat fewer calories than you burn each day. Keep in mind that your body burns calories all day long as part of your basal metabolic rate (BMR), because it takes energy (calories) for your body to perform basic functions that are necessary for life—breathing, digesting, circulating, thinking and more. It’s important for you to know what your BMR is so you can estimate how many calories you burn in an average day. In addition to that, you also burn some calories with normal daily activities like bathing, cleaning, walking, typing and exercising (which uses even more calories each day). So by simply taking in less calories each day, that means less excess calories you have to burn off. Easy ways to do this include: eat less fast food or junk food, eat more fresh vegetables and fruits, eat lean protein, reduce the amount of bad fats, and drink more water.
- Burn more calories than you consume by increasing your physical activity. If you eat enough calories to support your BMR, but add more exercise, you’ll create a caloric deficit simply by burning extra calories. This only works if you’re not overeating to begin with. Example: If you exercise more to burn an extra 500 calories each day, you’ll lose about one pound of fat in a week (500 calories x 7 days = 3,500 calories). You can workout more or just add more movement into your daily lifestyle. Some ideas: ride your bike walk rather than driving places, always take the stairs, move around at work rather than sitting a desk, play with your kids or dog, do squats while watching TV. Get creative with your day, the possibilities are endless
- A combination of eating fewer calories and exercising to burn more calories. This is the most effective way to lose weight and keep it off. It’s much easier to create a substantial calorie deficit when you combine eating less with exercise because you don’t have to deprive yourself so much, or exercise in crazy amounts. Studies show that the combination of diet and exercise are compounded to increase weight loss more than the equivalent of one method alone. One theory is that the exercise increases metabolism which rev’s the fat burning even more. Example: If you cut 200 calories a day from your diet and burned 300 calories a day by exercising, you’d lose about one pound per week. Compare that to the other examples above—so you’re losing weight at about the same rate without making such extreme changes to your diet or exercise routine.
How to track calorie burn when you exercise?
Various calculators available online and mobile apps can help you determine the number of calories you are burning with running, swimming, or cycling.
A well-known formula establishes the calories burned to be the workout duration in minutes multiplied with MET*3.5*weight in kg divided by 200. Here, MET stands for metabolic equivalents, also called the resting metabolic rate.
All physical activities listed above help in burning calories. These activities also contribute to your mental and physical well-being. Do keep in mind that the number of calories burned also depends on the individual’s body weight, age, muscle mass, metabolism rate, and the intensity of the workout.
A safe and sustainable approach to maintaining your ideal body weight and health is to engage in enough physical activity while consuming a balanced diet.