The Science Behind How Many Calories You Burn

bmr calorie burning neat steps thermic effect of food workout May 09, 2020

It’s Coach Kasey here with you today, and I’ve got a truth bomb you probably won’t like. 

You burn more calories existing than you do during your 1hr workout.⁣

Before you read on, you have to go to the prerequisite reading Healthy Lifestyle Change Pyramid post here

Ok, now that we’re all on the same page about what‘s typically glossed over, but arguably most important, when it comes to creating a sustainable & healthy lifestyle (i.e., mindset, movement, values)⁣, let’s dive into everyone’s favorite topic:⁣

calorie burning.


     1. ⁣
Exercise plays the largest role in your daily energy expenditure⁣

I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but this is false. Exercise is actually responsible for the
smallest amount of energy you burn each day. 

When we look at the numbers behind the calories we burn, the energy you burn when exercising makes up about 5% of your total daily energy expenditure. 

An important note, though! Just because exercising only results in about 5% of your total daily energy expenditure does not mean exercise isn’t important. Exercising can quite literally add years to your life! Not to mention, it will improve your daily well-being and functioning.  

2. A calorie is a calorie, no matter the type of food⁣

Calories are not all made equal because
food composition matters. 

However, calories in versus calories out is indeed still a thing. The only way to lose fat is by being in a calorie deficit. In other words, you must burn more calories than you consume. 

The thermic effect of food plays a role in this. When referring to the thermic effect of food, I’m talking about the increase in your metabolic rate (the rate at which your body burns calories) that occurs after ingesting food. About 10% of your total daily energy expenditure comes from the energy you burn while digesting and absorbing food.

Protein requires the most energy to digest, transport, and metabolize, which means that it has a high thermic effect. Protein has a thermic effect of approximately 20%, meaning that for every 100 calories of protein you consume, you’ll burn about 20 calories absorbing and digesting it. 

The thermic effect is closer to 10% for carbs, and for fat, it is only about 3%. 

So when I talk to new clients, I find that they often don’t need to eat fewer calories, but instead, we just need to adjust the composition of the calories they’re consuming (e.g. more protein).  

Also, foods that are high in protein (and fiber) will help keep you full for longer, so you won’t feel hungry as quickly after eating a plate of steak and vegetables compared to a plate of nachos. 

     3. Daily movement doesn’t matter much if you work out⁣

Things like how many steps you take per day, whether your job is active or sedentary, how much you use your hands when you talk, or if you have a standing desk all add up!⁣

Your 1-hour workout doesn’t give you permission to not move the rest of the day.⁣ If you think to yourself that your morning workout excuses your need to go for a walk on your lunch break, you’re doing yourself a major disservice. 

Moving your body is about so much more than burning calories. While yes, going for that walk will burn a few extra calories, it will also help clear your mind, energize you for the afternoon, and reduce a bit of the tension you probably feel in your hips if you have a desk job. 

One more problem...

While this isn’t a misconception, there’s also the general lack of recognition given to how many calories your body
needs to simply operate each day.


You can easily calculate your basal metabolic rate (BMR) to get an estimate for how many calories you need to keep your body functioning. Google has plenty of free calculators that you can use for this. 

Once you’ve calculated your BMR...

Are you eating less than that?

If you aren’t eating enough calories and getting sufficient nutrients, you can face problems like downregulation of your hormones, hormonal adaptations, or the loss of your menstrual cycle. 

In that case, a reverse diet might be necessary to get your body functioning normally again.

Don’t forget your mindset

Your thoughts come into play here too! Your mindset matters!

If you’re constantly having thoughts like:

“I need to exercise more! That’s most important!”


“I don’t need to go for walks; I work out five times a week.”

You will benefit from changing your mindset to something more productive. Instead, try saying things like:

“Exercise makes me feel powerful and energized, but there’s more to it than just that.”


“What type of food I eat impacts how I feel and how much energy I burn, but there’s more to it than just food.”


“Daily movement is more important than many people realize.”

By reframing some of these thoughts you’ll worry less about how many calories you burn with each activity, and you’ll focus more on the factors that positively impact your health.

If you’re ready to change your mindset and achieve your goals, check out our
FREE habit formula. It will help you determine what specific behaviors you want to change and how to fit them into your life in a way that works for you!


Disclaimer: things like age, medical conditions, medications, if you’re an athlete exercising 5 hours per day, stress, sleep, etc. all come into play when determining your personal total daily energy expenditure percentages


Check out the original post HERE.


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IG: @coachkaseyjo @kjocoaching


Hi, I'm Kasey!

I coach, mentor, write, and teach with one main focus: Build strong bodies and healthy lifestyles, starting with your mindset.


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