How Does the Body Burn Calories?
Your body burns calories through a process known as metabolism. What is metabolism? According to Qiagen Glossary, it is the entire set of enzyme-catalyzed transformations of organic nutrient molecules (to sustain life) in living cells. Metabolism deals with the conversion of food and water into nutrients that can be used by the body’s cells, and the use of those nutrients by those cells (to sustain life, grow, etc.). In simpler terms, it’s the process by which your body breaks down what you eat and drink into energy.
During this intricate and complex biochemical process, the calories from the food you eat and drink is combined with oxygen and broken down to release the energy that your body needs to perform the various functions that keep you alive each and every day. Even at times as simple as sleeping your body needs calories to keep it functioning so that you can breathe. It also uses those calories to circulate blood and repair your body at a cellular level.
In order to carry out all of these functions, your body requires calories to give it the energy needed to perform at a high level. The amount of calories the body needs to carry out these functions (known as the Basal Metabolic Rate) varies from person to person based on such factors as body size and composition, sex, and age. The BMR accounts for around 60 to 70 percent of all of the calories your body burns on a daily basis.
The rest of the calories burned come from two other sources: thermogenesis and physical activity. Thermogenesis encompasses all of the processes your body uses to break food down for the body to use such as digesting, absorbing, transporting and storing all of the calories. Thermogenesis accounts for about 10 percent of all the calories burned daily.
Physical activity, on the other hand, accounts for the rest of the calories burned. This includes playing sports, going to the grocery store, cleaning the house, gardening, taking the dog for a walk and any other form of movement that occurs throughout the day. Some people maximize the calorie burn by weight training and performing cardio routines in order to burn more calories to lose weight.
Ways to Increase Calorie Burn
There are a number of ways to increase calorie burn and most of them involve some form of increasing physical activity. The best way to burn calories is to get off the couch and start moving. It seems like a pretty simple concept: the more active you are, the more calories you will burn. So what are the best ways to get active?
- Regular Cardiovascular Exercise – this includes any sort of aerobic exercise that challenges the heart, gets oxygen flowing, and gets the heart rate going. These activities include walking, jogging, running, sprinting, bicycling, and swimming. These activities can be performed using a treadmill, an elliptical, a stationary bike, a rowing machine, etc. Other activities such as playing sports like football, basketball, volleyball, baseball, tennis, etc. are also aerobic in nature and are great ways to burn calories while having fun. It is generally recommended that in order to lose weight and lead a healthy lifestyle, people should perform aerobic exercise at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes each time.
- Weight Training – resistance training plays a crucial role in burning calories because building lean muscle mass will increase the body’s metabolism causing it to burn more calories every day. It is generally accepted that one pound of lean muscle burns anywhere from 6 to 35 calories every day whereas one pound of fat burns anywhere from 2 to 10 calories every day. Therefore, dropping the fat and increasing lean muscle tissue is an essential part of turning your body into a fat burning machine. Also, resistance training causes something called the Afterburn Effect which basically means that after a good resistance routine, the body will maintain an elevated metabolism for hours after the workout thus increasing calorie burn throughout the day. There are other reasons to include resistance training into your schedule such as the fact that it can increase muscular endurance, reduce the risk of osteoporosis, decrease blood pressure, improve cholesterol, increase self-confidence, improve appearance, relieve stress, strengthen the lower back, lower your resting heart rate, improve immune function, etc. It is recommended that resistance training be done at a minimum of 3 times a week for 30 minutes each time.
- Lifestyle Activities – This includes any other activities performed throughout the day that involves movement. Finding ways to increase walking each day is a great start. Park your car further away from the office or take the stairs instead of the escalator or elevator. Do some cleaning around the house or some gardening outdoors. Play with the kids or pets or find some household chores. There are countless ways to increase movement other than working out or playing sports. Find additional ways to move each and every day and your calorie burn will increase drastically.
MayoClinic.com (2011, February 17). Metabolism and Weight Loss: How You Burn Calories. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/metabolism/WT00006
Qaigen.com (2011, February 17). Glossary. Retrieved from https://www.qiagen.com/about/press/glossary.aspx
CarolsGym.com (2011, February 17). 18 Great Reasons to Weight Train. Retrieved from https://carolsgym.com/reasons.html