Daily Calorie Burn

Posted: April 12, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Throughout yesterday and today, I have had something repeatedly come to mind. I've been thinking about how much we can underestimate our metabolism and daily activities and think that our daily calorie burn is much less than the reality. Yesterday I didn't get in a formal workout, but I know my leisurely hike got my body moving. Today, I spent a little over an hour cleaning our downstairs. I also did laundry and chased after Makenzie while she "helped".

When I came to the end of my cleaning spree, I know I probably burned close to what I did during my morning spin class. But how easy is it to just ignore that fact? And think that the only activity that "counts" is what you put in at the gym, on the pavement, or with a Jillian Michaels/Cathe/Turbojam DVD?


Before I go any further, please note that I do not try to tally how many calories I burn in a day. I actually don't care. What does sadden me though, and leads me to this post, is when I see people focused on a reaching a calorie burned goal during a workout or equating how much they worked out with how much they should eat for a day. There is so much more to our activity than our workouts.

Everything burns calories. From breathing to digesting to studying to running to sleeping to laughing. It all adds up. We need to begin focusing on our lifestyles as a whole. Our daily workouts probably only account for about 20%  of our total daily burn. That is 80% from other factors. We need to recognize those other factors so as to give our body adequate fuel. Underestimating what we need to maintain is only detrimental to our health. Who wants a lower metabolism when they could have a higher one? Who wouldn't want to be able to eat even more of their favorite healthy meals and provide more nutrition to their body?

LOTS o' Good Food

I used to be in the same boat. I swore up and down that my maintenance calories were around 1800. Then, I got to borrow a nifty little contraption from a friend. It's called the Go Wear Fit and it is an armband you wear that calculates your activity, calorie burn, sleep, etc.


While I don't care for this item anymore because I prefer being intuitive and not worrying about any numbers, it was interesting information to see. Turns out I was burning close to 2300 calories....on my rest days. Workout days were closer to 2800. And then when I got to more intense training days for the competition (two-a-days) I was generally always over 3000. Now, I consume on average 2500/day. That is a guesstimate since I don't track and just figured in my head around how much I eat on any given day. I easily maintain my weight of around 135 lbs. And I am happy to provide my body with more fuel because I know it can handle it and needs it.

I want to be clear that I understand some have more sedentary jobs and their workouts are a big part of their activity for the day. I am not saying formal workouts are unnecessary. I also am not saying that what I found for my body applies to everyone. What I am saying is to be aware of all that your body does for you and fuel it properly. Your body is an amazing machine. It needs ample food supply to work efficiently. Give it what it needs. Recognize ALL the ways it works for you, not just when sitting on a spin bike. Honor your body, your health, and your hunger and eat up as much as you possibly can. 🙂

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No Comments to “Daily Calorie Burn”
  1. love this post. I know i have a fast metabolism, and burn tons of calories even if I’m barely doing anything at all. I also don’t track how many calories I eat or burn. I trust my body to tell me when to eat more, or when to stop eating. I always stay within a 2 pound range. I guess it’s my body’s “happy weight”

  2. Heather says:

    i really enjoyed this…i had a heartrate monitor that i was using to track calorie burn in workouts, but i stopped using it and threw it away because i was wearing myself out mentally and physically worrying about it all the time! it’s hard to learn how to listen to your body again but definitely worth the adventure!

  3. lisaou11 says:

    love this! although sadly, my mainteance calories were lower to maintain! bummer ;). Even though I don’t care anymore!

  4. Kelly says:

    What a great post!! I honestly have no idea what my maintenance calories are….but now I am definitely curious!

  5. homecookedem says:

    All very true!! I would just really like to know how many calories my body really needs. I have absolutely no idea, I just go by the various formulas there are out there to estimate, but since it is near impossible for me to lose weight these days, I’m curious if I just have a super slow metabolism. Because I am very active!!

  6. lessonstolearn says:

    Those are really good points. I think its easy to forget that our bodies are constantly burning calories and that just moving more in general plays a huge role in our overall burn. Its definitely not a good idea to use a workout as an excuse not to move for the rest of the day. Even when I am studying all day, I try to get up and move regularly.

  7. cardiopizza says:

    Great post!

    I never have cared how much I ‘burned’ on machines or my HR monitor, nor do I give myself a calorie limit. I find listening to my body much better for my lifestyle 🙂

  8. This is a great reminder post (especially for me). I do tend to forget all the other things I do throughout the day that do indeed count as calorie burning, like my 3-block walk to and from my car in the morning, lunch, after work. Sometimes I think the worst thing I ever did was get a HR Monitor.

  9. amen girl: We need to begin focusing on our lifestyles as a whole.

    Oh and the other comment you left me the other day about cardio, totally good input. I am always willing to listen and learn esp from someone like you who’s been down the path!

    lovely post, Tina!

    • Tina says:

      And I saw how you mentioned you need cardio for mental health. I totally relate to that and some is still good. Just be careful that the weights workouts are the main focus now and get the most intensity. But it sure sounds like that is how you are approaching things so that is great!

  10. Nicole says:

    All good points. I think being sedentary also gets underestimated, however. As soon as I started working a desk job (even coming from being a stay-at-home-person in search of a job), I gained 15 lbs. I do very, very, very little movement at my job. Basically to the waiting room and back to get patients. That’s it 🙁 I wish I had a more active job, it’s tough! Great post! Being active, whether it’s exercise by the true definition or otherwise, is so important!

  11. LOVE this! I actually just got a heart rate monitor for the first time, and have worn it the past couple of days to come gym classes – but also at home, while cleaning and mowing. And you are RIGHT. All this time…I was convinced I had to sweat my heart out at the gym for 60+ minutes, not even taking into consideration what I was doing throughout the day/night. I’m trying to focus more on just moving in general, instead of telling myself I have to work out for XX minutes a day. I’m a LOT happier thinking that way, too. 🙂

  12. lauradishes says:

    Great post. My uncle once told me to just move for 20 minutes each day, and that really stuck with me. Whether it’s 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or however long, it’s important to just move… gym or no gym!

  13. Awesome post, girl! I agree – sometimes it is easy to overlook activity outside of “gym” activity or “when my HRM is on” activity. I have a very sedentary job, but do notice on the weekend when we’re running around, shopping, dancing, etc. I’m MUCH more hungry and it makes perfect sense of course! I wish I could borrow one of those things – very cool!!

    Thanks for sharing your wisdom as always!!

  14. Lauren says:

    Thanks for this post Tina. I definitely agree with you. It can be so detrimental to obsess over calories burned at the gym when our bodies burn the majority of their calories just by living! Yes, its great to work out and it can be fun and social and certainly healthy, but there is more to life, and we need to fuel our bodies for those other parts of our days too. You made such great points!

  15. norcalchic says:

    Great post! I think people tend to eat way less, thinking they will lose weight and forget you NEED a certain number of calories to gain muscle, which in in turn bumps up your bmr. I can agree though how it’s sometime easy to get caught up on the “perfect” number of calories.

  16. Kerry says:

    I only count a proper sweating as if i’ve burnt calories, i could walk for hours but not count it and i don’t think its hard enough! Saying that, i don’t work out to count how many calories i burn.

  17. Vee says:

    Another great post Tina. I absolutely agree with everything you have written!

  18. Krista says:

    Great post! Lifting weights, spinning, even jogging are fairly new activities for the general population. People used to stay in decent shape just from their daily activities…and from eating smaller portions.

    I will say, that I burn way more calories as a stay-at-home mom than I did in my former desk job, though. Housework is hard work!

  19. Lindsey says:

    I think it would be so interesting to know how many calories I burn each day. I have absolutely no clue! I think it’s interesting when my Garmin tells me what I’ve burned for each run – it’s generally lower than I expected.

  20. I couldn’t have said it better myself. You have to give your body what it needs to get out of it what you want. If you treat it right, it will reward you. If you deny it what it needs, it will break. I have learned that the hard way.

  21. love this post – I also have a pretty active job and don’t even go to the gym as much as most people but I burn a lot of calories by just running around all day, who knew!

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