Burning Calories: Definition, Importance and How to Properly Burn Calories?

Burning calories is a topic that goes beyond mere interest in weight loss or fitness. It encompasses a fundamental process of life and a key driver of health and well-being. This article explores the intricacies of burning calories, the acquisition of caloric content, the average caloric needs of an individual, and the consequences of low calorie intake. We shall also delve into the significance of burning calories and provide a guideline on the proper way to do it.

What Does Burning Calories Mean?

The process of burning calories, in its simplest terms, pertains to the energy expended by the body to maintain basic physiological functions and perform activities. Every movement or function, from the beating of the heart to the lifting of a weight, requires energy, and this energy is sourced from calories. When we refer to ‘burning calories,’ we are essentially talking about how the body utilizes this energy.

The rate at which the body burns calories is known as metabolism. This process can be further divided into basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is the number of calories needed to perform basic life-sustaining functions, and the energy used during physical activity. Both components contribute to total energy expenditure, with BMR typically accounting for the majority.

How Do You Get Calories?

Calories are primarily obtained from the food and drinks we consume. They are found in the three macronutrients: carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. Specifically, carbohydrates and proteins provide about 4 calories per gram, while fats offer about 9 calories per gram. Thus, the caloric content of a meal depends heavily on the composition of these macronutrients.

How Do You Get Calories
How Do You Get Calories?

The body has the ability to store excess calories for future use. When we consume more calories than our body can burn, these extra calories are stored as fat. This reserve acts as a source of energy during periods of caloric deficit, enabling the body to burn fat for fuel.

How Many Calories Does an Average Person Have Every Day?

The average daily caloric intake varies significantly based on factors such as age, sex, physical activity level, and overall health. However, a common guideline suggests an average of 2000 calories for women and 2500 for men. It’s crucial to note that these are merely averages; individual needs may differ. An individual who leads a sedentary lifestyle, for instance, requires fewer calories compared to an active individual.

One of the fastest ways to burn calories is to increase physical activity. A brisk walk, for example, can burn up to 300 calories per hour, while more vigorous activities like running can burn over 600 calories per hour. This demonstrates the impact of physical activity on caloric burn rate.

What Are the Consequences of A Low-Calorie Intake?

A low-calorie intake, particularly when prolonged, can lead to several physiological and psychological consequences such as nutritional deficiencies, decreased energy levels and mental fatigue, and slow down metabolism.

  • Nutritional deficiencies: Consuming fewer calories often means consuming fewer essential nutrients, which can compromise overall health.
  • Decreased energy levels and mental fatigue: This is because, as previously mentioned, calories serve as the body’s energy source. Thus, insufficient calories can result in feelings of lethargy, difficulty concentrating, and poor mental performance.
  • Slow down metabolism: As a result, this causes the body to conserve energy and potentially making weight loss more challenging in the long run. This phenomenon, often referred to as “starvation mode,” can hinder the body’s ability to burn fat effectively.

How to Properly Burn Calories?

Burning calories effectively necessitates a multifaceted approach that combines a balanced diet and regular physical activity. The goal should be to create a caloric deficit, where the number of calories burned exceeds the number of calories consumed, thereby promoting fat loss. However, this should be done in a healthy and sustainable manner to avoid the adverse effects associated with low caloric intake.

How to Properly Burn Calories
How to Properly Burn Calories?

One effective strategy for burning calories and decreasing body fat is incorporating regular exercise into your routine. It increases total energy expenditure, aids in preserving lean muscle mass, and enhances metabolic rate even at rest.

  1. Exercise
  2. Drink Caffeinated Tea
  3. Drink More Water
  4. Eat Small but Frequency Meals
  5. Do Not Skip Breakfast
  6. Do Not Sit for A Long Time
  7. Take Low-Fat Dairy Products
  8. Keep Moving

1. Exercise

Exercise is a potent tool for calorie burning. It not only contributes to immediate calorie burn during the activity but also elevates the metabolic rate post-exercise, resulting in additional calorie burn. It is important to include both cardiovascular exercises like running, swimming or cycling, and strength training exercises like weight lifting in the regimen.

The number of calories burned during exercise varies considerably based on factors such as the type of activity, intensity, duration, and individual fitness level. For instance, high-intensity activities like running can burn more than 500 calories per hour, while strength training can continue to burn calories for hours after the workout, due to a phenomenon known as Excess Post-exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC).

2. Drink Caffeinated Tea

Drinking caffeinated tea can modestly boost calorie burn. This is due to its caffeine and catechin content, both of which have been shown to enhance metabolic rate and increase fat oxidation. Green tea, in particular, has been linked to an increase in caloric expenditure and fat loss.

The caloric impact of tea drinking is generally small compared to the effects of diet and physical activity. It should, therefore, be viewed as a complement rather than a cornerstone of a calorie-burning strategy.

3. Drink More Water

Hydration is critical for optimal metabolic function. Research suggests that drinking water can temporarily boost metabolism, leading to a slight increase in calorie burn. This effect may be even stronger when the water is cold, as the body must expend energy to heat the water to body temperature.

While the impact is modest, staying well-hydrated is nonetheless crucial for overall health and can contribute to feelings of fullness, potentially helping to reduce calorie intake.

4. Eat Small but Frequent Meals

Eating small but frequent meals can help maintain steady blood sugar levels and reduce hunger pangs, making it easier to control overall calorie intake. Additionally, the process of digesting food—known as dietary thermogenesis—also burns calories, so consuming small meals throughout the day could potentially result in more calories burned compared to consuming the same number of calories in fewer, larger meals.

It is important to note, however, that the quality of food consumed matters as well. Meals should be balanced, containing a mix of macronutrients, and rich in whole, unprocessed foods.

5. Do Not Skip Breakfast

Breakfast sets the metabolic tone for the day. Studies indicate that those who regularly eat breakfast tend to have a higher total daily energy expenditure compared to those who skip it. Eating a nutrient-rich breakfast can also help curb cravings later in the day, reducing the likelihood of overeating.

Some research suggests that breakfast may contribute to better weight management, possibly due to its effects on appetite regulation and metabolic rate.

6. Do Not Sit for A Long Time

Sedentary behavior, like prolonged sitting, can contribute to weight gain and associated health issues. This is because it burns fewer calories compared to when you’re active. Standing, walking around, and generally moving throughout the day can help increase total daily energy expenditure, thereby promoting calorie burn.

Increasing daily activity levels doesn’t necessarily mean hitting the gym. Simple acts such as standing instead of sitting, taking the stairs instead of the elevator, or doing house chores can make a significant difference in the number of calories burned.

7. Take Low-Fat Dairy Products

Low-fat dairy products, apart from being lower in calories, contain high-quality proteins that can enhance feelings of satiety, and thus, may help control overall caloric intake. Some studies suggest that dairy products could potentially enhance fat loss, possibly due to the combined effects of calcium, protein, and other bioactive compounds on metabolism.

It’s important to choose low-fat dairy options and control portion sizes, as full-fat dairy products can be high in calories and saturated fats.

8. Keep Moving

Constant movement is key to burning calories. This doesn’t necessarily mean engaging in strenuous exercise. Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) — the energy expended for everything we do that is not sleeping, eating or sports-like exercise — can have a significant impact on energy expenditure. This includes everyday activities such as walking, fidgeting, gardening, or even chores.

By making conscious efforts to move more throughout the day, one can significantly increase their total daily caloric expenditure, leading to increased calorie burn and potential weight loss.

What Is the Importance of Burning Calories?

Burning calories is critical for weight management and overall health. It aids in maintaining energy balance, which is key to preventing weight gain and associated health risks such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.

A key aspect of burning calories and losing fat is its impact on adipose tissue, which not only stores fat but also secretes hormones and inflammatory substances. Therefore, reducing body fat can result in improved metabolic health and reduced risk of chronic diseases.

What are the Benefits of Burning Calories?

The benefits of burning calories include weight management, improved metabolic health, enhanced mood and cognitive function, increased longevity, and improved bone and muscle health.

  • Weight Management: Regularly burning calories can help maintain a healthy weight or aid in weight loss, as it contributes to a caloric deficit.
  • Improved Metabolic Health: Regular physical activity can enhance insulin sensitivity, reduce blood pressure, and improve lipid profiles.
  • Enhanced Mood and Cognitive Function: Physical activity stimulates the release of endorphins, known as ‘feel-good’ hormones, and has been associated with improved mood and reduced risk of depression. It can also enhance cognitive function and potentially reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.
  • Increased Longevity: Regular physical activity, a major contributor to calorie burn, is associated with increased lifespan and reduced risk of chronic diseases.
  • Improved Bone and Muscle Health: Weight-bearing and resistance exercises can improve bone density and muscle strength, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and sarcopenia.

How to Measure Burned Calories?

The estimation of burned calories can be a complex process as it depends on multiple factors including age, sex, weight, and the type. The intensity of the activity which helps establish the basal metabolic rate may also be used.

However, the most common method is using metabolic equivalents (METs), which are a measure of exercise intensity based on oxygen consumption. Various online calculators and fitness trackers use METs to estimate the number of calories burned during different activities.

It is important to note that these are estimations and individual variations can significantly impact the actual number of calories burned.

How Does the BMI Determine the Daily Calorie Requirements?

Body Mass Index (BMI) is a common tool used to assess an individual’s weight status by comparing their weight to their height. It can provide a rough idea of whether a person is underweight, at a healthy weight, overweight, or obese.

However, BMI does not directly determine daily caloric requirements. These are typically estimated based on factors including age, sex, weight, height, and physical activity level. Still, a person’s BMI status might influence their calorie needs. For example, individuals with a high BMI may require more calories to maintain their weight, but if they are aiming for weight loss, they would need to create a caloric deficit.

Will I Lose Weight by Burning Calories?

Yes, weight loss occurs when the body is in a caloric deficit, meaning more calories are burned than consumed. This deficit leads to the body utilizing stored fat for energy, resulting in weight loss. However, it is important to create this deficit in a healthy and sustainable way, combining a balanced, nutrient-dense diet with regular physical activity.

Will I Lose Weight by Burning Calories
Will I Lose Weight by Burning Calories?

Weight loss is not just about burning fat but also about preserving lean muscle mass. Maintaining or increasing physical activity, especially strength training, can help ensure that a larger proportion of the weight lost is fat rather than muscle.

Does Being Active Burn More Calories?

Yes, physical activity increases total energy expenditure and thus burns more calories than being sedentary. The more intense the activity, the higher the number of calories burned. However, even light activities, such as standing, walking, or household chores, can contribute to daily caloric burn.

Regular physical activity also has metabolic benefits beyond immediate caloric expenditure. It can enhance muscle mass, which burns more calories at rest than fat does, leading to an increased basal metabolic rate. It can also improve metabolic flexibility, or the ability to switch between burning carbohydrates and fats for energy, which is associated with improved metabolic health.

Does BMI Helps Determine the Daily Nutrition You Need?

No, BMI is a measure of weight status, not nutritional needs. It doesn’t directly dictate the amount or type of nutrients needed. However, a person’s weight status may influence their dietary needs.

For example, individuals who are overweight or obese may need to reduce their calorie intake for weight loss, which should be done by adopting a nutrient-dense diet that is lower in calories but still provides all the necessary vitamins, minerals, and other essential nutrients. Similarly, underweight individuals may need to increase their caloric intake, ideally through nutrient-dense foods, in order to gain weight healthily.

Overall, while BMI can provide a general idea of whether a person may need to adjust their dietary intake for weight management, individual nutritional needs depend on a variety of factors, including age, sex, physical activity level, medical history, and specific health goals. Therefore, personalized dietary advice from a healthcare provider or a registered dietitian is often beneficial.

Athletic Insight

Athletic Insight Research


The Athletic Insight Research team consists of a dedicated team of researchers, Doctors, Registered Dieticians, nationally certified nutritionists and personal trainers. Our team members hold prestigious accolades within their discipline(s) of expertise, as well as nationally recognized certifications. These include; National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer (NASM-CPT), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA-CPT), National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Nutrition Coach (NASM-CNC), International Sports Sciences Association Nutritionist Certification.