What determines how many calories I burn?

Manuel Villacorta
Nutrition & Dietetics Specialist

When most people think of energy expenditures, they think only of exercise. But in reality, there are three important components that will determine your calorie expenditures for the day, or your total energy expenditure (TEE). The first component is your resting metabolic rate, which means your metabolism. Your resting metabolic rate represents the calories the body burns to maintain vital body functions (heart rate, brain function, breathing, etc.). In simple terms, it is the number of calories you would burn if you were awake, but at rest all day with no physical exertion.

The second component that determines your energy expenditure is the amount of activity you do during the day through your work. Depending upon the activity level you perform during the day, your calories burned will vary. Even a sedentary person who sits in front of a computer will burn a small number of calories.

The third component is exercise. Your TEE is the sum of these three components, the total calories you burn in a 24-hour period. So if you eat the same number of calories as your TEE calculation, you will maintain your weight; if you eat more than your TEE calculation, you will gain weight; and if you eat less than your TEE, you will lose weight. It sounds simple, but it's a very powerful formula to understand.

Eating Free: The Carb-Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Embrace Your Hunger, and Keep Weight Off for Good

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Eating Free: The Carb-Friendly Way to Lose Inches, Embrace Your Hunger, and Keep Weight Off for Good

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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.