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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Burn Calories Effectively (the Healthy Way)

How to Burn Calories Effectively (the Healthy Way)

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 extra calories.

First, you need to understand calories better.

What Are Calories?

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 liter of water by one degree.

Calories are determined by using calorimeters[1], 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 that “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, but you can’t 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 measurements. This doesn’t mean calories are insignificant—far from it—but trying to measure things down to the calorie will be next to impossible.

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How Many Calories to Burn a Pound

This is another common question when discussing calories, and the answer varies greatly. This will depend on your lifestyle, body type, gender, BMI, and more.

The old rule was that for every 3,500 calories you burned, one pound was lost. Of course, it’s much more complicated than that. The more fat you have on your body, the quicker you will lose weight as your body burns away fat and water. However, when you’re fairly close to your natural body weight, your body resists burning away fat and will begin to burn away muscle.[2]

All of this affects the amount of calories you’ll need to lose a pound. I wish there was an easier answer. However, the good news is that there are lots of things you can do to learn how to burn calories effectively and help your body function better overall.

Below are six tips that will get you started. Try them out and see what works for you.

1. Focus on Real, Whole Foods

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 and weight loss gets harder.

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.

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Learn how to burn calories by focusing on whole foods

    One critical review found that “of 43 studies reviewed, 37 found dietary UPF [ultra-processed foods] exposure associated with at least one adverse health outcome. Among adults, these included overweight, obesity and cardio-metabolic risks; cancer, type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases; irritable bowel syndrome, depression and frailty conditions; and all-cause mortality.”[3].

    Do your best to stay away from processed foods, and your body will naturally become better at burning the calories you give it.

    2. Work on Strength Training

    If you’re learning how to burn calories, clearly, physical activity is important, but we will look at specific forms of exercise that are more effective than others.

    Strength training will do a few things. These exercises 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 metabolic rate.

    Muscle requires calories to maintain it, which means that, even at rest, our body is burning calories. Strength training improves insulin sensitivity, thus allowing our body to better handle sugars because they will be processed more effectively, leaving us less likely to end up storing it as body fat[4].

    3. Do High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

    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-second, 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.

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    HIIT is similar to strength training, as it uses a lot of calories. They are tough workouts, but the good news is that they don’t take as long and burn more calories in less than 30 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, or “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—this is done by burning calories.

    We can burn calories for up to 24 hours after doing a HIIT workout[5]. The great news is that 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

    4. Try Tabata Training

    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 four-minutes total.

    The great thing about Tabata is that it can be done with a bodyweight exercise such as burpees or mountain climbers, and it can be done anywhere. Check out the video below to learn how to do burpees correctly for a great workout.

    Of course, bodyweight will add to the intensity of the workout, pushing us to our limit. At first, it may not feel like it can, but it is important to persevere, because once at the half-way point, the rest periods will feel insufficient.

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    If you’re really determined to learn how to burn calories, Tabata can be added to the end of a strength training workout and can be done every other day.

    5. Eat Spicy Food

    Here’s one that doesn’t require you to leave the dinner table! Eating spicy foods, such as jalapeno peppers, cayenne, chilis, or a hot sauce, can give your metabolism a boost by up to 8% because they contain a chemical compound called capsaicin[6].

    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!

    If you want additional information about the health benefits of spicy food, check out this article.

    6. Drink Cold Water

    This will not burn the same number of calories a day 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 quench our thirst, but 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 quite a bit, but one study showed that drinking 17-ounces of cold water may increase calorie burning by at least 4.5% to up 30 % for 30-40 minutes[7].

    Final Thoughts

    When considering how to burn calories effectively to lose weight, 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, but they generally don’t cost much and are easily added into most lifestyles.

    More on How to Burn Calories

    Featured photo credit: Julia Ballew via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Adnan Munye

    Personal Trainer and Fitness Expert

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

    Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss for Beginners (A How-to Guide)

    Intermittent fasting weight loss is a type of diet that’s rapidly growing in popularity and becoming the way to lose weight. Scientists and nutrition experts like it, too. New books and articles on the topic are being published daily. Intermittent fasting is also popular with followers of the Paleo diet since our ancestors appear to have eaten this way for thousands of years.

    I’ve been following this type of diet myself for 2 years. Doing so helped me lose and keep off 70 pounds without ever having to count calories, limit carbohydrates, or eat 6 to 7 meals a day.

    This article teaches you all about intermittent fasting weight loss and details why it is one of the best weight loss diet hacks around. Once you finish, you will be able to implement it into your diet and experience the benefits it offers almost immediately.

    What Is Intermittent Fasting?

    As you may have figured from its name, intermittent fasting weight loss is a diet plan where you set fasting periods during the day. This is usually between 16-20 consecutive hours, but it can be as little as 12 hours or as much as 24 hours (or even 36 hours).

    While fasting you can eat and drink low calorie or calorie-free foods. Think coffee, tea, water, and vegetables.

    The more time you spend fasting every day, the better your results. You can do these fasts as often as you like. Again, the more often you do so, the better[1].

    Getting Started With Intermittent Fasting

    Following this diet plan is super simple. All you have to do is choose a period of time during the day that you will fast. This should be between 16-20 hours.

    The longer you fast each day, the better. Don’t worry about calorie restriction or measuring carbohydrates. Just focus on going about your day until it’s time to eat.

    It’s best to choose a set period of time to conduct your fast. I like to fast from 8 PM to 4 PM the following afternoon. I’ll then have my first meal of the day and a snack or two a few hours later. Once 8 o’clock rolls around, it’s back to fasting.

    My experience with intermittent fasting is that it’s best to start with a 16 hour fast (i.e. 8 PM one evening to 12 PM the next day) for the first 1-2 weeks. Once you are comfortable with this schedule, you can increase the amount of time you spend fasting. Do this by adding 30 minutes to each fast until you get to where you are fasting for 20 hours at a time.

    You don’t have to fast every day in the beginning either. You may be more comfortable breaking in slowly with 2 or 3 days per week, or trying alternate day fasting. Add additional days of intermittent fasting as you become more comfortable with this style of eating.

    Intermittent Fasting Schedules

    There are several different fasting schedules you can choose from when you start an intermittent fasting diet. Here are some of the most popular.

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    The 16/8 Method

    This method of fasting involves fasting every day for 14-16 hours and eating during an 8-10 hour window. Many people who are getting started with intermittent fasting will find this the easiest schedule to keep. You can eat your last meal around 8 PM and not eat again until noon the next day, for example. This sounds simple, as you’re really only skipping breakfast, but you’re actually fasting for 16 hours in this case![2]

    16/8 Method of Intermittent Fasting

      The 5:2 Method

      This fasting method involves eating normally five days each week and restricting calorie intake to 500-600 calories for two (non-consecutive) days. On fasting days, women should eat around 500 calories, and men should eat around 600 calories.

      5:2 Diet for Intermittent Fasting

        Alternate-Day Fasting

        As its name suggests, this type of intermittent fasting involves fasting every other day. As with the 5:2 method, some people find it easier to eat 500-600 calories instead of going on a full fast each fasting day.

        Alternate Day Fasting
          The Warrior Diet

          This type of fasting is considered by many to be the most difficult and follows a 20/4 eating schedule. For most of the day, you limit your food intake to small amounts of fruits and vegetables (low-calorie foods). For four hours each day, you eat large-portioned meals to get in your day’s calories.

          Because of the intense nature of this method, it’s only recommended for those who have been on an intermittent fasting diet for a while and feel comfortable with it.

          The Warrior Diet

            Tips to Make Intermittent Fasting Easier

            1. Drink Plenty of Water

            Squeeze a little lemon or lime juice into your water to help get rid of any cravings you experience. You can also drink coffee, tea, or other calorie-free beverages. After a few weeks, you will find that intermittent fasting keeps you from craving sugar entirely.

            2. Take in Caffeine in the Morning and Early Afternoon

            The caffeine in coffee and tea may actually make intermittent fasting weight loss a little easier since it’s good for curbing your appetite. Be careful not to overindulge, as this may lead to you feeling a little too wired. I also recommend these natural energy boosting tips to keep you going during the day.

            3. Avoid Artificially Flavored Drinks

            One type of calorie-free drink that should be avoided are diet sodas and other beverages that use artificial sweeteners like Splenda and Sweet & Low. Studies show that the can actually stimulate your appetite[3] like a drink that contains sugar and causes you to overeat.

            4. Don’t Gorge at Your First Meal

            The first meal after your fast should be the amount of food you typically eat. Binging will only make you feel awful and diminish the benefits you get from the fast.

            To avoid this, try creating meal plans, at least for the first few weeks. This will help you get into the rhythm of eating regularly portioned meals during your eating window.

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            5. Minimize Processed Carbohydrates and Sugars

            While intermittent fasting does make it possible to eat a little looser than normal, you should still eat as little bread, pasta, rice, etc. as possible.

            Focus instead on eating protein from beef, fish, or pork, carbohydrates from vegetables, fruit, and sweet potatoes, and healthy fats from foods like almonds, avocados, fish, and olive oil.

            You can find some carb sources that will aid your weight loss journey here.

            How Intermittent Fasting Helps You Lose Weight

            Eating this way has many benefits with regard to weight loss. The first is that when you’re fasting, your body will be forced to use its stored body fat for energy. After several hours of not eating, your body will use up its sugar stores, which will cause it to start burning fat for energy, a process known as metabolic switching. 

            Mark Mattson, Ph.D., a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins explains this effect in simple terms:

            “Intermittent fasting contrasts with the normal eating pattern for most Americans, who eat throughout their waking hours…If someone is eating three meals a day, plus snacks, and they’re not exercising, then every time they eat, they’re running on those calories and not burning their fat stores.”[4]

            Burning calories this way, instead of from the food you’re eating throughout the day, will help you experience significant weight loss, but specifically lose weight from any excess body fat you’re carrying.

            This means that you won’t just be thinner, but you will also look better and be much healthier than if you lose weight the old-fashioned way[5].

            Intermittent fasting can help optimize the release of the key fat-burning hormones in your body. This is especially true for the two most important hormones: human growth hormone (HGH) and insulin.

            Human growth hormone plays a key role in turning on your body’s fat-burning furnace so that it gets the calories you need to work and play from stored body fat. Studies show that fasting can significantly increase the production of HGH[6].

            The influence intermittent fasting has on insulin is just as impressive and possibly more important. Keeping your insulin levels low and steady is key to losing excess fat and keeping it off.

            Diets that are rich in processed carbohydrates (bread, pasta, rice) and simple sugars (candy, cookies, and soda) have the opposite effect. They cause your insulin levels to rapidly spike and then crash every time you eat one of these foods. The net result of this phenomenon is that your body will store more of what you eat as excess body fat instead of burning it off as energy.

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            Chronically elevating your insulin levels like this can also lead to the development of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and other chronic health problems. Intermittent fasting easily solves this problem.

            One study found that men who participated in intermittent fasting had “dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity”[7].

            This happens because you’re not giving your body food, so it will not produce insulin, allowing insulin levels to balance out until you eat again. This helps your body stay in a calorie and fat-burning state. You’ll also find that it gives you more energy throughout the day.

            Another great weight loss benefit of intermittent fasting is that hunger pangs and cravings that may normally plague you throughout the day will be reduced, if not altogether eliminated. This is probably due to its ability to balance your insulin and blood sugar levels and, in turn, help correct other hormonal imbalances.

            Intermittent Fasting Weight Loss FAQs

            Now that you know what intermittent fasting is and how to get started, it’s time to answer your other questions.

            Below are answers to the questions frequently asked about intermittent fasting. These answers should help you and make getting started a lot easier.

            How Much Weight Will I Lose?

            The amount of weight you lose with fasting is determined by how often and long your fasts are, what you eat afterward, and other factors.

            One study published by The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that average weight loss on an intermittent fasting diet was around 9lbs after 12 months, and weight loss was most successful in those who strictly adhered to their chosen diet[8].

            Can I Work out While Fasting?

            Yes, you can. In fact, doing the right type of workout while fasting will help you lose weight faster and even build muscle.

            If you are a hardcore athlete who often exercises for an hour or more each day, intermittent fasting may not be the best choice for you as this amount of exercise requires fuel to keep you moving and build muscle. However, light to moderate intensity workouts 2 to 4 times a week should work with intermittent fasting.

            The best workouts to do while fasting for weight loss are strength training workouts. This means anything from standard strength training to kettlebell or body weight workouts. Combine these with lighter forms of exercise like walking, jogging, or yoga.

            You could also try this 30-Day Resistance Band Workout Challenge alongside your intermittent fasting diet. It will help you get into an exercise routine while easing into your new eating routine.

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            Focus on doing 3-4 total body exercises per workout with as little rest as possible between sets. Doing this will help you burn more calories during and after your workout. You’ll also build muscle, which will help you look and feel better as the weight comes off.

            Remember, exercising can increase hunger, so try working out in the hour or two right before you are scheduled to break your fast[9]. Your body will be primed for a meal, and your hunger won’t get the best of you.

            Won’t I Lose Muscle When I Fast?

            First of all, you aren’t fasting long enough for your body to start breaking down muscle for energy. You have, perhaps, hundreds of thousands of calories from your stored body fat to use before that will begin to happen.

            If you’re trying to build muscle while fasting, you’ll need to ensure you’re getting enough calories, especially through protein, at each meal between fasts.

            Is Fasting Safe?

            As long as you are healthy, not pregnant, and aren’t taking medications, fasting is safe. Like all diets, you should discuss it with your doctor before beginning an intermittent fasting diet.

            I also feel that it may not be smart to follow this type of diet when you’re especially stressed. Since this diet can be a little stress-inducing at first, doing so when you aren’t able to be relatively stress-free and rested probably isn’t a good idea.

            Are There Any Supplements I Can Take to Make Fasting Easier?

            As with any other weight loss plan, it’s a good idea to take a few nutritional supplements to make sure your daily requirements are met. This includes a once or twice daily multi-vitamin, fish oil, and vitamin D.I’ve also found taking 10 grams of branched-chain amino acids before and after my workouts really helps, too. They’re great for giving you more energy during your workout and decreasing post-workout muscle soreness.

            For supplements to specifically help with digestion, check out this article.

            The Bottom Line

            Now you know what intermittent fasting is and how it can help you lose weight quickly and safely. If you want to give it a try, find a fasting schedule that fits with your lifestyle, and give it a go.

            More About Intermittent Fasting

            Featured photo credit: Toa Heftiba via unsplash.com

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