Want to burn calories? Burning calories are on the minds of every single one of my participants. In fact, the number one question I get on my YouTube channel is, ‘How many calories do I burn by doing this workout?’ When your main fitness goal is weight loss, it’s important to know how many calories you burn, but it’s not the only thing to consider.
Here are the 3 most common weight-loss methods most people use, and what’s most sustainable for your body long-term:
1. Eat fewer calories than you burn in a day with no increase of physical activity. I’m not a fan of this dieting/starvation method. Ever! You may slim down some, but it could be that you’re actually losing muscle and not fat if you’re not getting the nutrients you need. When you deprive yourself, your body goes into ‘starvation mode’ and your body actually reduces the amount of calories it burns. Your metabolism slows way down, and weight loss halts. Calorie restriction is difficult to maintain long-term, and when returning to regular eating, oftentimes all original weight returns with a little extra.
2. Burn more calories than you consume by doing extreme amounts of exercise. While the benefits of working out are huge, exercising in excess puts you at risk for over-training injuries. Also, when you increase your physical activity your body actually needs more calories, in the way of wholesome foods to refuel, rebuild, and recharge. Our bodies are super smart and when you increase your daily exercise but aren’t refueling properly, your body will hang on to fats to ensure your body has enough energy to keep running.
3. Use a combination of both exercise and consuming less ’empty’ calories. This is the most healthy and effective method of long term weight-loss. Think of food and exercise as a winning team, both there to help you run in the most efficient way possible. Find physical activities you enjoy and make it a priority to move every day. For your exercise sessions, invest in a good *heart rate monitor with a chest strap to record your heart rate continuously during your entire workout. This will allow you to see the actual amount of calories you burn during your workout session. You may be surprised at how many or how little calories you personally burn. Keep in mind, for cardio sessions your body will register a greater calorie burn than for weight training sessions, but strength training raises your metabolism long after you’re done.
(*If investing in a heart rate monitor is out of your budget right now, you can can try this Exercise Calculator for a rough estimate. It will at least give you an idea how many calories you could burn for certain activities, though not all all exercise types are listed.)
With food choices, be mindful of 80% of the calories you consume, making sure they’re nutrient rich. Enjoy treats 20% of the time. Eat foods that taste good and are good for you. Both sensible eating and movement are key to optimum health and happiness. (Many people find great success using the FREE app MyFitnessPal which helps you easily track food calories, and even allows you to download recipes to get an estimate on calories.)
(*Blog originally posted in 2012 and updated on Sept. 5, 2015.)
If you’d like to try one of my most popular step aerobics workouts called Step by Step, I’ve posted it below.