The remarkable aspect of energy expenditure is that it’s a non-stop clock in our everyday life. You can tweak it with foods and exercise. Then we have a small factor called our ‘age’, which plays a large part in all of this. Don’t worry too much if you are older — there are a few tools in my belt that I use, which has helped me tremendously during my transition (now 42).
We burn calories by being alive, conducting our bodies’ normal functioning, and of course, when we are eating and digesting foods. This is what we call, our resting metabolic rate. It accounts for 60–70% of the total number of calories you burn every day.
What’s incredible is that you can tweak your caloric burn by eating more foods like protein. Protein in and of itself is thermogenic, which means, it uses up calories to digest. When you add a whole host of nutrition to your everyday caloric expenditure strategy, weight loss becomes a lot easier and seems effortless.
Then my favourite called NEAT. This stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis. This is the energy your body uses to do a daily activity like walking cleaning, typing on your computer. The number of calories depends on how long and frequent the action is. The more active you are, the better it is.
If you want to know how many calories you’re supposed to burn when exercising, I suggest you look online for an energy expenditure calculator. That will give you a great indicator of the number of calories you consume. Be honest about your activity level on these calculators. If you are doing your absolute best, then don’t feel ashamed or embarrassed. I used to hate those things as well, and always made sure I put the higher number. When it comes down to it, I was cheating my self in finding what works for me. Don’t do that please!
One great way (which is what I use) is an iWatch that has a caloric expenditure app. I wear my watch religiously, and it helps to keep me accountable regarding the number of steps I do and the calories I burn. You can also purchase a fit bit or any other watch or app, which helps monitor your calories every day. Monitoring your walking is NEAT — which is incidental exercise. Making this part of your everyday strategy will help you a lot along the journey.
Depending on your training you will always burn a different caloric bracket. You will still experience a different rate of caloric burn when you take on HIIT than steady-state cardio. With steady-state cardio, you do not share the after-burn effect. This happens in HIIT because your body is in recovery mode, preparing tissue from the exercise’s intensity. The rate of afterburn varies between each individual.
A similar effect takes place when you weight train. Again, depending on how much weight you lift, the intensity of the training and how much muscle damage happens — will determine the number of calories you burn. The calories are burnt within the session, and afterwards. Again, the body is repairing tissue, which eats up calories.
I would not get caught up in the caloric war. You cannot train at a heightened intensity every single time. There will be days when you prepare moderately, high and also low intensity. This prevents overtraining and burn out. Your nutrition will pivot during these times, and you will notice you’re not as hungry on the quieter intense days.
The best alternative is always to monitor your food choices, and make diet the number one strategy for the caloric burn. Exercise will ever become a by-product of your diet. This is by far the best way to build muscle, burn fat and maintain your health and body shape for the rest of your life. I like to think of training as a long term solution for your mind, body and soul.