If you’ve been proactive with your health, and are exercising regularly, you will probably look at how to burn calories effectively while still staying healthy.
Fortunately, there are different things you can do with exercise, diet, and lifestyle to burn more calories than usual.
And firstly, you need to understand calories better.
A calorie is the energy content in food but if we’re getting technical, a calorie is what it takes to raise the temperature of one litre of water by one degree.
Calories are determined by using calorimeters which are like mini incinerators. They involve a chamber surrounded by water where freeze-dried powdered food is placed and incinerated. The temperature of the water is then measured, and this is how we determine the energy content of food in kilocalorie form.
Also, this is why it is said ‘All foods aren’t created equal’ after all, one handful of lettuce will burn up quickly, leading to a minimal rise in water temperature, while the same portion size of almonds will be much denser thus leading to higher temperatures. One cup of almonds will have around 530 calories while one cup of lettuce will have maybe just five.
However, our body doesn’t “incinerate” calories, it digests them. This makes calorie counting far from a perfect science because not only do you not know exactly how many calories you’re burning each day, you cannot be sure of the calorie content in food.
The FDA allows labels to be off by as much as 20%, in either direction and most nutritional information comes from databases and not actual calorie measurement. This doesn’t mean calories are insignificant, far from it. But trying to measure things down to the calorie will be next to impossible.
So, how do we make sure we’re burning calories effectively?
When you focus on genuine food, and not things that come out of a package, or a box, you make it much easier for your body to process those calories.
Your body is designed to manage calorie intake sufficiently without things getting thrown out of whack. It has been doing this since the beginning of time, and it’s only when we add artificial and processed ingredients to our dirt that things get messy.
Think of your metabolism like a sink, designed to drain water effectively. If we give our body real, whole food, it’s able to process and drain it effectively. However, if we put things such as hair and other gunk in the sink, the drain will get clogged up, leading to flooding.
Hair and gunk have the same effect on the sink as processed food has on our bodies. Processed food does not allow our body to run optimally instead it promotes fat accumulation and poor health.
Clearly, exercise is important for burning calories, but we will look at specific forms of exercise which are more effective than others.
Strength training will do a few things. They take a good amount of effort to perform and require a lot of calories to provide energy. They also help us build lean muscle and the leaner the muscle we have, the better it is for our metabolism.
Muscle requires calories to maintain it, which means even at rest, our body is burning calories. Strength training improves insulin sensitive thus allowing our body to better handle sugar s because they will be processed more effectively, leaving us less likely to end up storing it as body fat.
Most people know of HIIT as it’s one of the best workouts you can do. It also is a great calorie burner and can burn off more calories in a fraction of the time spent doing regular steady state cardio.
HIIT training involves doing an all-out exercise (such as bike sprints or regular sprints) for around 30 seconds, followed by a 90-120 slower-paced recovery period. You can do anywhere from 3 to 8 rounds of this, leading to a workout that won’t take you long.
HIIT is similar to strength training, as it uses a lot of calories. They are tough workouts, but the good news is they don’t take as long and burn more calories in ten to fifteen minutes compared to an hour of walking on a treadmill. This is why sprinters look leaner than marathon runners.
Another benefit of HIIT is known as Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption ‘EPOC’. This is an “afterburn” effect that allows our body to burn calories long after the workout is done. Our body needs a lot of oxygen to perform a HIIT workout and it needs to replenish it – and this is done by burning calories.
We can burn calories for up to 24 hours after doing a HIIT workout. The great news is we do not need to work out every day to get these benefits, just 2-3 times a week can be effective.
Here’s a beginner guide to HIIT: How To Choose The Best Moves For Your HIIT Workout
This is HIIT ramped up to the next level. Tabata’s were invented for Olympic athletes as a super intense training method but, it’s one that will also act as an amazing calorie burner.
Tabata is a four-minute workout and as bizarre as it may sound, there’s a lot of science behind its design. Tabata follows the same breakdown as a HIIT workout but here the intense exercise is done for 20 seconds followed by a ten second rest, over 8 rounds, for a four-minute total.
The great thing about Tabata is that it can be done with a bodyweight exercise such as burpees or mountain climbers and can be done anywhere.
Of-course, bodyweight will add to the intensity of the workout as, pushing us to our limit. At first, it may not feel like it can but it is important to preserve because once at the half-way point, the rest periods will feel insufficient.
For extra calorie burning, Tabata can be added to the end of a strength training workout and can be done every other day.
Here’s one that doesn’t require you leaving the dinner table! Eating spicy food such as jalapeno peppers, cayenne, chilis, or a hot sauce can give your metabolism a boost by up to 8% because of capsaicin in them.
Eating spicy foods increase our body’s thermogenic output by burning fat to create heat thus we feel warmer and our sinuses clear up. Capsaicin can also prevent weight gain, talk about a double whammy!
This will not burn as many calories as a good HIIT session but since we have to drink water throughout the day, we may as well burn calories while we’re at it.
Not only does water keep us hydrated and quenching our thirst, drinking it cold can give us a temporary metabolism boost.
With cold water, our body must warm it up thus creating a thermogenic effect. It varies a lot on the individual, but there are various studies showing that drinking 17-ounces of cold water may increase calorie burning by at least 4.5% to up 30 % for 30-40 minutes.
When considering how to burn calories effectively, it is important not to forget that our body has this ability built into it.
We can rely on natural methods to boost calorie burning and improve our health. Not only are these natural methods healthy, they generally don’t cost much and are easily added into you most lifestyles.
Finally, focusing on diet, real whole foods, will allow our bodies to turn into a calorie burning machine.
Featured photo credit: Julia Ballew via unsplash.com