Calculate Your Actual Daily Calorie Burn

Every month, around 8.1k of you search on Google, "how many calories do I burn a day?" (with an additional 5.4k of you wondering how many you should burn). Honestly, the advice you come across can be quite conflicting, leaving you more confused than when you initially began your search. The reason behind this confusion is that there's no universal answer that fits everyone. However, according to Dr. Luke Powles, clinical director for Bupa Health Clinics, there are a few methods to get an approximate estimation of the number of calories you burn in a day.

Before we delve into that, let's not forget that a healthy lifestyle encompasses much more than just counting calories. Consider the nutritional value of the foods you consume and prioritize your mental well-being. Is the act of counting calories causing you stress or anxiety?

That being said, calories, which represent the energy units found in food and beverages, can serve as a helpful resource. In fact, the NHS recommends a calorie-counting diet for sustainable weight loss through a calorie deficit (you can try our UK calorie deficit calculator if this applies to you). Combining this with an understanding of how many calories you burn in a day can potentially expedite your progress.

So, let's explore the insights we gathered from Dr. Powles, ranging from a useful formula for calculating your daily calorie burn to understanding the factors that cause the number of calories burned to vary.

How many calories do women burn in a day?

According to Dr. Powles, several factors contribute to the number of calories an average woman burns daily, including:

Resting metabolic rate (RMR): This refers to the amount of energy (or calories) your body utilizes for basic functions like breathing and blood circulation. It is influenced by your age, weight, and gender, typically accounting for 60-75% of your daily calorie burn.

Non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): NEAT exercise represents the energy expended through physical activities that aren't deliberate exercises, such as gardening and walking around the house. NEAT usually burns between 100 and 800 calories per day.

Exercise: This refers to the energy expended during structured workouts.

Thermic effect of food: This represents the energy used by your body to chew, digest, and store food.

Dr. Powles explains that the total calorie burn typically ranges from 1800 to 2000 calories, which is why the NHS recommends that the "average woman" consume around 2000 calories per day to maintain her weight. Consuming fewer calories than you burn creates a calorie deficit, leading to weight loss, while consuming more than you burn results in a calorie surplus and potential weight gain.

Your personal "how many calories do I burn a day" calculator

To obtain a more accurate calculation, one must divide their day into various activity categories. Each activity can be quantified using metabolic equivalents of task (METs). Dr. Powles recommends researching the MET value of your preferred exercise online, but he also provides approximate estimations for a few popular workouts:

Brisk walking (3-4mph): 4 METs

Steady strength training: 7 METs

Tennis: 8 METs

Skipping or running: 12.3 METs

The MET value for resting or sitting still is 1. As the activity becomes more vigorous, the MET value increases.

Now, let's look at Dr. Powles' formula:

METs x 3.5 x (your bodyweight in kg) ÷ 200 = calories burned per minute.

For example, if you weigh 73kg and play tennis for an hour (MET value of 8), the calculation would be as follows:

(8 x 3.5 x 73) ÷ 200 = 10.2 calories per minute. Multiply 10.2 calories by 60 minutes, and you'll burn approximately 613 calories.

On a day when you don't engage in any exercise and weigh 73kg, you would use the MET value for sitting still, which is 1:

1 x 3.5 x 73 ÷ 200 = 1.3 calories per minute. This amounts to 77 calories per hour or 1,848 calories per day.

To determine your total daily calorie burn, repeat this calculation for each activity you engage in and add those numbers to the total number of hours spent resting or sitting still.

Feeling overwhelmed by all these numbers? Dr. Powles suggests using online calorie calculators like Bupa's to easily estimate your energy expenditure.

Why does the number of calories burned in a day vary?

Even if you engage in the same activities (both deliberate exercises and NEAT) and consume identical meals on two different days, you'll likely never burn the exact same number of calories each day. Dr. Powles explains that this is because your body processes food differently each time. For example, if your muscles require more energy in the form of protein, you'll burn more calories compared to a scenario where they don't need it.

Additionally, your body composition plays a role, and it is constantly changing. "The ratio of muscle to fat in your body is always in flux, influencing your daily calorie burn. If you have more muscle, your daily calorie burn will be higher because muscle is more metabolically active than fat. This means that muscle burns calories at a faster rate," says Dr. Powles.

Alright, so how does gender affect daily calorie burn?

"Women generally burn fewer calories than men," explains Dr. Powles. "This is because men tend to have a naturally lower body fat percentage and more muscle mass than women of the same size. As mentioned earlier, muscle is more metabolically active than fat." However, this isn't a blanket statement that applies to every individual. It's worth noting if you've noticed such differences in your personal experiences.

Any final thoughts?

Dr. Powles advises that while weight is a crucial factor in maintaining good health, it should be taken into account in conjunction with other lifestyle factors. For instance, someone who is of a healthy weight but smokes, excessively consumes alcohol, and lacks sufficient sleep cannot be labeled as healthy. Health encompasses various aspects, and it is crucial to take care of all elements.

Our advice? Don't let calorie-counting consume your life. It can be helpful to occasionally assess how many calories you burn in a day to determine if you're consuming enough to build muscle or if you need to reduce intake for weight loss. However, if this practice begins to negatively impact your mental or physical well-being, take a break.

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