How do we burn calories?

The number of calories your body uses to breathe, circulate blood, adjust hormone levels, growing and repairing cells is known as your basal metabolic rate (BMR), or what you might call metabolism.  These factors determine your basal metabolic rate:

  • Your body size and composition. The bodies of people who are larger or have more muscle burn up more calories, even at rest.
  • Your sex. Men usually have less body fat and more muscle than do women of the same age and weight, burning more calories.
  • Your age. As you get older, the amount of muscle tends to decrease and fat accounts for more of your weight, slowing down calorie burning.
Calories are simply a way for us to measure energy. Specifically, a calorie is the amount of energy required to raise the temperature of 1 gram of water by roughly 2 degrees Fahrenheit. With that said anything that we do, from the normal physiological processes that keep us alive, to physical activity, requires energy and thus, calories to do it. That’s why increasing physical activity is so important to helping us manage our weight. The more physically active we are, the more calories we are able to burn due to the increased energy demand it places on the body.

Whenever you use energy, you are burning calories.

Once the body breaks down calories into carbohydrates, proteins and fats, it uses the energy it needs and stores the rest in fat cells.

Fat cells live in adipose tissue, which essentially acts like a gas station for your body - storing your fuel reserves.

When you burn more calories than you take in, your body pulls from its fat stores - and you lose weight.

Calories = Energy! We need energy to live and so just staying alive requires us to burn calories.  When it comes to weight loss or even weight gain, we know we have to manage energy "in" (food) vs energy "out" (activity) to work towards our desired goal.

One of the best ways we burn calories is through physical activity.  Physical activity such as walking, dancing, swimming, jogging, and resistance training, will force your body to burn calories to create energy.  We obtain fuel from the food we eat in the form of calories and those calories are then burned to sustain physical activity.  When you eat food, your body uses a specific amount of calories to provide you with the energy needed to perform daily activities.  Any excess that is left is typically stored in your body to be used at a later time.  When you perform physical activity, your body will use the sugar, proteins, and/or fats that you have previously consumed as a fuel source.  During this process, your body breaks down cells into molecules in order to release energy.  This process allows the body to heat up, your muscles to contract, and your body to move.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.