How many calories do I need to burn to lose weight?
Weight loss used to be all about calories in and out–a seemingly simple health equation. And while this may still work for many, emerging research is showing that for some people it’s not that simple. No matter how many calories they omit or burn, they are still not losing the weight they want to. If this sounds like you, here are a few reasons why this might be happening.
Needless to say, exercising is half the battle in your weight loss efforts. And if you’re calorie counting or recently taking up a new exercise routine, you may be curious as to how many you’re burning or how many you should be burning so that you can get into those smaller jeans quicker. (Either that, or you want to know what it’s going to cost to eat that extra piece of bread or dessert, while still on the path to weight loss.)
Unfortunately, there is no target number of calories you should be burning for guaranteed weight loss. In fact, (depending on your starting weight) sometimes improved fitness may lead to weight gain (albeit improved body composition..that is, you look leaner and stronger). That’s because muscle mass is heavier although smaller in volume than fat.
What you should focus on (as long as you’ve been cleared for exercise) is increasing the intensity and diversity of your workouts–increasing your fitness level. Journaling is a great tool to track your fitness level. Jot down the type of exercise, the distance you went (and the time) or the amount of weight you lifted, the repetitions and sets. Then try to improve your time/distance or amount of weight lifted.
For general health and wellness, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends engaging in at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity 5 days a week. Moderate intensity is the point where you can feel your heart pumping strong (but you’re still able to hold a conversation). As your fitness improves and you pair it with a generally healthy (nutritious) diet, your body composition (and maybe your weight) will improve as well.
If you do like to track calories then you can try one of many diet apps available to help you estimate and keep track of kcals consumed vs. burned such as MyfitnessPal. Additionally, you can recruit a local Registered Dietitian to help you achieve your weight loss goals or make changes toward a healthier lifestyle.
By: Scarlett Full, in-house Registered Dietitian