When someone is trying to lose weight, the first question is always “how many calories should I eat?” It depends. On many different factors.
Too many people make the mistake of thinking they need to burn as many calories through exercise as they eat to lose weight. So they take to hours upon hours of cardio trying to burn 1000+ calories per day.
To lose weight, you do need to burn more calories than you consume. But that is NOT just through exercise- it’s your total daily energy expenditure, which includes everything you see above!
Your basal metabolic rate (metabolism) is also a factor. When you are completely at rest, your body is burning calories by simply living. This can be increased in some instances- if you add more muscle mass to your body for example, your BMR will increase as you require more calories as fuel.
Your NEAT will also play a big factor. This is any movement you do outside of your structured exercise. If you are a very active person outside of the gym, then you’re going to be burning more calories in a day. If you’re a construction worker, your NEAT is going to be significantly higher than someone working a 9-5 desk job. That’s why if you have a desk job, getting in those extra steps every day will really help.
The thermic effect of food is also a factor, albeit a small one. I wouldn’t stress this, as the calories we burn from eating is typically no more than 10% of our calories burned. Different foods will have slightly different thermic effects, but not nearly enough to concern yourself with- focus on everything else.
As you can see, there are lots of variables to just how many calories you burn in a day. It’s not just burning calories doing cardio!
Online calculators are a great place to start to give you an idea of how many calories you need, but ultimately, it’s going to take some trial and error to find exactly what works best for you and your body.
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