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Burning Calories

There are three ways of burning calories. Here's what they are and how you can influence your body into burning more calories.

How to Make Your Body Burn More Calories

You can make weight loss quicker and easier by increasing your metabolic rate and burning more calories.

Metabolic Rate is the rate at which the body burns up calories. A body that consumes 2500 calories a day, and burns 2500 calories a day will stay at the same weight. A body consuming 2500 calories daily but burning only 2000 will gain weight at the rate of about 1lb a week.

This explains why that ‘lucky’ person across the table from you doesn’t get fat from all that junk food.

You can do quite a lot to speed up your metabolism – the secret of burning calories lies in knowing what determines your metabolic rate and what you can do to influence it.

You burn calories to provide energy for three main functions:

Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)

This is the amount of calories you burn just by being alive – even when you are lying down, doing nothing. BMR accounts for approximately 60% of the calories burned for an average person.

Burning Calories for Activity

This is the energy used during movement – from lifting your arm to operate the remote control to cleaning the windows. This accounts for approximately 30% of the calories burned by an average person.

Dietary Thermogenesis

The ‘thermogenic effect’ described as meal-induced heat production – the calories burned in the process of eating, digesting, absorbing and using food.

How to Speed Up Your Rate of Burning Calories

You can influence all these factors, and speed up your rate of burning calories using some, or all, of the following tactics:

Build Muscle

Increase the amount of muscle in your body. For every extra pound of muscle you put on, your body uses around 50 extra calories a day. In a recent study, researchers found that regular weight training boosts basal metabolic rate by about 15%. This is because muscle is ‘metabolically active’ and burns more calories than other body tissue even when you’re not moving.

Training with weights just 3 times a week for around 20 minutes is enough to build muscle. Not only will you be burning more calories, you’ll look better – whatever your weight.

Move More

Although the average person burns around 30% of calories through daily activity, many sedentary people only use around 15%. Simply being aware of this fact – and taking every opportunity to move can make quite a dramatic difference to the amount of calories you burn.

The trick is to keep the ‘keep moving’ message in mind. Write the word ‘move’ on post-it notes and put them in places you’ll notice them when you’re sitting still. Then, take every opportunity to move – here’s some ideas for burning calories:

  • Tap your feet
  • Swing your legs
  • Drum your fingers
  • Stand up and stretch
  • Move your head from side to side
  • Change position
  • Wriggle and fidget
  • Pace up and down
  • Don’t use the internal phone – go in person
  • Use the upstairs loo
  • Park in the furthest corner of the car park
  • Stand up when you’re on the phone
  • Clench and release your muscles

You’ll find lots of opportunities for burning more calories if you remember that you’re looking for them! Keep thinking ‘keep moving’.

Eat Spicy Food

There is evidence to show that spices, especially chilli, can raise the metabolic rate by up to 50% for up to 3 hours after you’ve eaten a spicy meal.

Drinks containing caffeine also stimulate the metabolism, as does green tea.

Aerobic Exercise

As well as the actual amount of calories burned during exercise – studies have shown that sustained, high-intensity exercise makes you burn more calories for several hours afterwards.

Try 30 minute sessions of heart rate raising exercise, such as vigorous walking, step aerobics, jogging, cycling or swimming, 3-4 times a week.

Eat Little and Often

There is some evidence to suggest that eating small, regular meals will keep your metabolism going faster than larger, less frequent meals. There are two reasons why meal frequency may affect your metabolism. Firstly, levels of thyroid hormones begin to drop within hours of eating a meal, and metabolism slows. Secondly, it may be that the thermogenic effect of eating several small meals is slightly higher than eating the same amount of calories all at once.

Provided your small meals don’t degenerate into quick-fix, high fat, high sugar snacks, eating little and often can also help to control hunger and make you less likely binge.

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... to find out how many calories you are burning each day, and how many you are eating. It takes just 2 minutes to get instant access to all our great tools:

  • Daily Calorie Allowance - tailored to you;
  • Interactive Goal Setting tool - set a goal that works for you;
  • Online Food and Exercise Diary - the easy way to count calories;
  • Calorie and Nutrition Database - quickly find how many calories are in the foods and drinks you consume;
  • and Exercise Database - see how many extra calories you burn doing the activities you enjoy.

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