You are a Calorie Burning Machine!

Have you ever wondered how many calories you burn during the day, and how? Working out is a great way to help ensure you burn more than you consume, but your workout is only a small portion of your entire day.  What about the rest of the time? Do you burn calories watching tv or sleeping?

You may not realize that your body is like a fiery furnace which burns calories each day, all day long.   While working out and other physical activity helps maximize this burn, it really accounts for only about 15-30% of the calories you burn in an entire day. Your actual burn through activity depends on your exertion level, fitness level and many other factors.

So how does your body burn the remaining 70-85% of calories each day? How can you maximize this? (And YES, you can make your body burn calories more efficiently!)

What is Metabolism?

The standard, scientific definition of metabolism is, “All chemical reactions within organisms that enable them to maintain life.” What?

Simply put, metabolism is the process by which your body converts what you eat and drink into energy.

Your Body needs Energy for 3 Primary Purposes:

  1. To maintain the ‘hidden’ basic functions in the body such as breathing, blood circulation, repairing cells, adjusting hormone levels, etc.
  2. To power physical activity
  3. To process the food you eat

A Closer Look at #1 – This is called your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)

  • You burn the most calories during the day with no effort at all!
  • Resting Metabolic Rate or RMR is the total calories burned by maintaining a heartbeat, breathing, maintaining body temperature, etc. It includes only the calories you burn at rest.
  • RMR accounts for 60 – 70% of your total daily calories burned

RMR is Different for Everyone

  • RMR can vary as much as 25% among different people, mostly because of differences in muscle and organ mass
  • Resting muscle requires a lot of energy to maintain itself. It is more metabolically active than fat and makes the greatest contribution to RMR
  •  75 – 80% of your RMR is determined by your muscle mass…do you see a pattern here?
  • Women have lower RMRs than men
  • During sleep, RMR falls by about 10%

A Closer Look at #2 – Physical Activity

  • Your body burns calories during all types of physical activity including exercise, sports, work, leisure activities and everyday activities, even fidgeting and keeping good posture!
  • Physical activity accounts for 15-30% of total daily calorie burn
  • This is where most people focus on burning calories
  • Fit people can exercise with greater intensity and duration, burning more calories overall

A Closer Look at #3 – The Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)

  • You burn calories by eating!  Chewing, swallowing, digesting, absorbing and metabolizing the nutrients you take in is called the Thermic Effect of Food (TEF)
  • TEF peaks about 1 hour after eating and lasts approximately 5 hours
  • Protein maximizes TEF – it takes more energy to digest
  • TEF is lowest for fat – it doesn’t require much energy to store excess dietary fat as body fat
  • TEF accounts for about 10% of your total daily calorie burn

Burn More Calories!

If you are currently working out, excellent! Please continue! And if you don’t currently have an exercise program, you should begin!  In either case, you should focus your workouts on increasing muscle mass, which will, in turn, maximize your Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR). Muscle is the best fuel to feed your fiery furnace!

Remember, your RMR accounts for 60-70% of your total daily calorie burn.

Muscle is your most metabolically active tissue. Not only does it create all calorie burning movement, but it requires a lot of energy to maintain itself.

Increasing your muscle mass burns more calories at rest and at play.

Burning more calories at rest? I like that!

How Do You Gain Muscle?

The best way to gain muscle is by adding resistance training to your workout schedule. I would suggest doing some sort of resistance workout 2 to 3 times per week to start.

What is Resistance Training?

Resistance training or strength training are collective terms for a variety of strength-building exercises that make use of resistance to grow muscles. There are many ways to do this!

  • Body weight exercises are a great way to start, especially if you’re new to exercise.          Body weight exercises include pushups, pull-ups, sit-ups, squats, lunges, plank, etc. where you use the weight of your own body as the resistance.
  • Lift weights
  • Use resistance bands
  • TRX

There are so many more options!

Happy Lifting!



Insel,P., Ross,D., McMahon,K., Bernstein,M., Nutrition Fourth Edition. Burlington: Jones & Bartlett, 2013

BJ Gaddour, Metabolic Training Certification, 2012

“Metabolism and weight loss: How you burn calories”, Mayo Clinic Staff,


One thought on “You are a Calorie Burning Machine!

  1. Wayne Pinnell

    Great info! If only I could burn more calories while ‘resting’ at my desk during the week!


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