It is widely acknowledged that a practical approach to weight loss involves creating a caloric deficit; this can be accomplished by burning more calories than you consume. Engaging in a caloric deficit is a sound approach for those looking to reduce their body weight.
Maintaining a healthy weight is more complex than doing a few calculations. Various elements may influence caloric consumption and physical activity levels and confuse calculating one’s numbers accurately.
A Registered Dietitian can provide valuable assistance when creating a healthy meal plan to facilitate weight loss. Utilizing a numbers-based program and understanding how exercise affects calories can help develop a comprehensive plan to reach desired health-related goals.
Do You Need To Count Exercise Calories?
This proposed method for managing weight may be beneficial for specific individuals.
To achieve a weight loss of 1-2 pounds per week, medical professionals recommend creating a caloric deficit of 500-750 calories per day. Monitoring your exercise calories can assist you in determining if you are hitting your desired objective for weight reduction.
Although the theory of weight loss may appear straightforward, its successful implementation is often difficult to achieve. The caloric intake and output model only sometimes yield the desired outcomes.
For some individuals, this may lead to unhealthy dietary or exercise routines.
Recent studies suggest that a potential link may exist between the utilization of fitness monitors and applications to track calorie intake and the development of eating disorders in college students.
For those overwhelmed by calorie counting, an intuitive approach to diet and exercise may be more suitable. Intuitive eating involves paying attention to one’s body cues rather than following external advice regarding what to eat or not to eat. Additionally, an intuitive approach can be applied to exercise.
It is important to note that no single strategy for weight loss applies to everyone. The most effective and sustainable plan for each individual depends on their wants, prior experience with nutrition, personal likes, and long-term objectives.
Impacts on Caloric Expenditure During Exercise
Body Weight Generally, an individual’s body weight calculates calories expended during physical activity. Calories can be thought of as a measure of energy; as such, more power is required to move a heavier body.
Individuals with larger frames typically possess larger internal organs, which is a significant factor in the number of calories burned during exercise and rest due to the energy required to power these organs and their processes.
One of the complexities of weight loss is the body’s decreased capacity to burn calories as the weight drops, which can cause a weight loss plateau or even a reversal in weight gain.
Weight loss can be attributed to more than one factor, including physiological adaptations such as increased fat oxidation and elevated hormone ghrelin levels, leading to increased hunger. Additionally, lower levels of the hormone leptin can reduce feelings of satiety.
One’s muscle mass can influence total calorie burn due to its higher energy expenditure rate than fat tissue. During exercise, having more muscle mass allows the body to burn more calories as it requires more energy to support the high muscle contractions.
Plus, increasing strength training adds muscle and burns more calories while resting.
Men generally burn more calories than women at rest and during exercise due to having a larger body size and greater muscle mass than women of similar age and weight.
Males typically have a higher resting metabolic rate than females, with this difference increasing during exercise. Women are genetically disposed to store a higher percentage of body fat to support functions such as hormonal production and childbearing.
Body fat serves several essential functions: energy storage, protecting internal organs, and supporting growth, immunity, hormone production, reproduction, and metabolism.
For optimal health, men and women must develop muscle strength and cardiovascular endurance through a comprehensive exercise regimen that includes cardiovascular and strength training components.
Research suggests that after age 30, an individual may experience a gradual decrease in muscle mass of up to 3 to 5 percent per decade. This loss in muscle mass can negatively impact metabolic rate, which is the rate at which calories are burned during rest and exercise.
Regular strength training can help maintain or even increase muscle mass, which boosts the resting metabolic rate and increases the number of calories burned while resting.
Regular exercise will make your body more accustomed to physical activity, making it easier to perform over time. Because you get more robust and efficient, the transformation translates to increased speed and endurance when running and increased strength when lifting weights with the proper training.
As physical fitness progresses, the body adjusts to the training, resulting in fewer calories burned from the same exercises. Enhanced efficiency is observed as fitness increases, so varying the workout routine can improve fitness and increase caloric expenditure.
Two people can burn varying amounts of calories while performing the same workout, as the intensity of the exercise may change between the two individuals.
Exercising at a high intensity can cause an individual to burn double the number of calories compared to exercising at a low intensity.
Achieving a weekly goal of 150 minutes of low-intensity activity can bring about numerous health benefits, such as reduced anxiety, better sleep, lowered blood pressure, improved cardiovascular fitness, and a decreased risk or slowed progression of certain chronic conditions.
Incorporating higher-intensity exercise into your routine can elevate your calorie expenditure, amplifying the advantages of regular physical activity.
6 Considerations for Counting Exercise Calories Accurately.
If you have opted to track exercise calories, an activity calculator can calculate the number of calories burned during various activities.
The accuracy of the numbers is contingent upon various factors, and it is essential to comprehend them to gain a more comprehensive perception of your energy expenditure during the day.
1) Net Calories vs. Gross Calories
Activity calculators generally estimate the total number of calories burned during exercise. This figure differs from the net amount of calories expended during the workout.
- Net calories sometimes referred to as active calories, are the additional calories burned during physical activity beyond those expended for essential bodily functions. These factors include the basal metabolic rate (BMR) or resting metabolic rate (RMR), the energy needed to keep the body running normally. The total number of net calories burned during a workout is calculated by subtracting the basal metabolic rate from the total calories burned during the activity.
- Gross calories are the aggregate amount of calories expended over a certain period, such as during a physical activity session. This amount comprises the calories burned from one’s basal metabolic rate and the additional energy required to complete the exercise.
What You Can Do
Fitness trackers and smartwatches offer caloric information for both active and total calories burned during a workout. If you aim to burn additional calories for weight loss, utilize the active number instead of the total to ascertain whether you have achieved your goal.
2) Exercise Intensity
Let’s face it, some days you’re unstoppable, and others not so much, so it stands to reason intensity is a crucial component in calculating the number of calories burned. However, many activity calculators do not have an intensity factor.
Some calculators may offer the option to select different intensities; however, most trackers do not provide this feature.
For a more accurate estimate of calories burned, activity trackers with a heart rate monitor can be utilized to measure heart rate to understand the intensity of the workout.
To optimize consistency and self-confidence, select an appropriate level of intensity when planning your workout routine. Varying the intensity of your exercise program throughout the week can reduce the risk of burnout and injury.
Your efforts are likely to impact the number of calories you burn. Specific activity trackers consider the heart rate when calculating the total calories burned, thus making them more reliable than physical activity calorie calculators.
3) Workout Type
When considering different activities to engage in, it is essential to consider their various benefits. Focusing solely on caloric expenditure to create an energy deficit can mean missing out on other potential benefits that workouts can offer.
Weight Bearing vs. Non-Weight Bearing
Engaging in weight-bearing activities, such as running, jumping rope, or walking, can facilitate more significant caloric expenditure due to the increased effort necessitated by the force of gravity.
Furthermore, weight-bearing activities can help to improve bone health. However, non-weight-bearing activities like cycling or water jogging may suit individuals with joint issues.
Aerobic vs. Strength Training
Numerous studies have indicated that cardiovascular exercise is an effective means of burning calories and enabling weight loss. Additionally, evidence has demonstrated that strength or resistance training can facilitate weight loss and maintenance due to its capacity to help retain lean muscle mass.
When tracking exercise calories, weight-training workouts will likely burn fewer calories than cardio sessions. However, this should not be a deterrent to engaging in weight-training activities.
It is recommended that both aerobic and strength training exercises be incorporated into one’s routine to reap the full range of benefits they provide.
What You Can Do
For a comprehensive exercise plan, it is recommended to incorporate both aerobic and resistance training. Aerobic exercise typically aids in burning more calories, while resistance training is beneficial for maintaining lean muscle mass.
4) Mechanical Efficiency
Optimizing one’s mechanical efficiency during exercise can significantly influence the number of calories burned during a workout.
When starting a new exercise regime, it is common to experience an increased heart rate and caloric expenditure since the body is not yet accustomed to the activity.
As a metric to quantify, none of the changes in physical activity will be reflected in the calorie result displayed on the physical activity calculator. However, these changes may be visible on a fitness tracker if it incorporates a heart rate metric.
What You Can Do
To optimize weight loss, one can gradually increase their activity level as one becomes more skilled at different exercises. Utilizing a heart rate monitor (HRM) or fitness tracker with HRM can provide a more accurate estimation of calories burned as it considers heart rate.
5) Exercise Compensation
Exercise compensation may be the culprit if you do not see the desired results from your exercise regime, even though you are adhering to your calorie goals.
Studies have shown that physical activity affects one’s calorie expenditure for the rest of the day. For example, if a strenuous workout is performed, followed by a nap or the omission of an afternoon walk, fewer calories may be burned. Exercise can also increase an individual’s appetite, leading to a higher calorie intake. This occurrence is referred to as practice compensation.
For those looking to lose weight by counting exercise calories, we recommend tracking your Total Daily Energy Expenditure (TDEE) rather than just the calories burned during your workout. Adjusting your activity level and food intake may be more effective than solely relying on workout-related calorie-burning.
If this is the case, it is vital to assess the intensity of your workout program. You may need to work out more frequently, or the intensity of your workouts needs to be higher. Additionally, it may be necessary to consider whether your calorie intake is too high.
6) Genetics and Gender
Genetics plays a role in one’s resting metabolic rate, muscle fiber types, and responses to exercise; all these variables influence the body’s ability to burn calories and shed excess weight. Additionally, gender can also affect the number of calories burned, as women typically have higher body fat percentages than men, and their bodies may respond differently to exercise, resulting in a difference in the rate of fat loss.16
Activity calculators and trackers often factor in gender when calculating data; however, they cannot account for individual genetic makeup. As such, it is important to take the numbers generated when tracking exercise calories with a grain of salt.
It is important to remember that when tracking exercise calories as part of your weight loss journey, the numbers you obtain are only estimates. Calorie calculators and fitness trackers can provide a close approximation but should not be taken as an exact value. Instead, please focus on the other positive aspects of exercise, such as its benefits to your overall physical and mental well-being.