What calories are? what is BMR? what is the afterburn effect and how to utilize it to lose fat

There are health and fitness terms we use daily or hear daily but not necessarily we fully understand their meaning. Calories sound trivial, but it is not so trivial for many of us.  BMR is also a known term, but do we really understand what does it mean for us? And there is the afterburn effect. This sounds like a more advanced topic. But, it is actually a very important one, also for weight loss.  Let’s cover these topics and understand them. Let’s see how the afterburn effect, once understood, can help us to decide what is the right workout routines for us. And, how to optimize energy consumption with respect to the fitness or weight loss goals we have.

What calories are? what is BMR? what is the afterburn effect and how to utilize it to lose fat

What calories are?

A calorie, in short, is a unit of energy. Consumption of a food’s calories means the consumption of a certain amount of energy.

Some physics for explanation:

The unit of calorie describes the energy needed to raise a temperature of 1 gram of water to 1 °C.

This also equals to 4.1868 joules.  A Joule is an energy, or a force equals the work done by one-newton force for a 1meter moving in the direction of the force. Let’s keep it simple shall we?

When applying to our body and food consumption, we refer to the energy that now our body consumed/absorbed and can utilize for the purpose of work.

A KiloCalorie (Kcal), usually is the unit that appears in nutrition labels is equivalent to 1000 “small” calories and means the energy needed to raise the temperature of one kilogram of water by 1 degree Celsius.

When we consume food, it means we consume fuel (and other valuables). The body knows to produce energy from several ingredients such as fats, carbohydrates, and protein.

Proteins and Carbohydrates both provide 4 calories per gram. Fat provides 9 calories per gram. It should be clearer why fatty food means more calories.

Gaining and losing weight

Each person has his own need for calories in order to maintain calories balance, hence weight balance.

Excess of calories is stored as body fat. Our body needs some stored fat to stay healthy and to for some backup. Storing too much fat can be unhealthy, and impact our day to day life.

Gaining unhealthy weight means that over time we keep storing excess energy as fat, as we didn’t maintain a balance between energy consumed and energy used.

Of course, one can gain a healthy weight, which means we gained muscle mass. Body fat still can below or within the normal range.

The healthy range of fat percentage for men is up to 17% and 24 for women.

Above 25% fat for men and 32% fat for women, there are health risks of fat-related processes.

Description      Women            Men

Essential fat    10–13%           2–5%

Athletes           14–20%           6–13%

Fitness 21–24%           14–17%

Average           25–31%           18–24%

Obese 32%+   25%+

How many calories to consume?

The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans estimate women need 1,600 to 2,000 calories, while men generally require 2,000 to 3,000 calories each day to maintain a healthy weight. Harvard Medical School suggests adults need 13 to 18 calories per pound of bodyweight each day to maintain their weight. Therefore, a 125-pound woman needs 1,625 to 2,250 calories each day and a 165-pound man requires 2,145 to 2,970 calories per day, depending on their activity level. Safe and effective weight loss diets for men and women usually contain 1,200 to 1,600 calories per day, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This may vary according to the intensity of exercises during the weight loss program.

Basal Metabolic Rate-BMR:

The recommendations that appeared above are calculated according to the nominal values of a regular person with an average level of activity.

The body uses energy also at rest as the body’s processes should maintain active. Heart beating, breathing, thinking, cell reproductions, digestion, and minor movements.

The energy required for such a case, of keeping the body to function is called Basal Metabolic Rate (also known as Resting Metabolic Rate).

How one can understand how many calories to consume?

As of today, there are many online calculators to use. You can track calorie intake needed, in order to stay with the same weight or what it needs for losing or gaining weight.

Refer to  BMR/BMI calculator and calorie table page to get a further understanding of these parameters.

The general BMR calculations:
  • If you’re a man, your BMR is equal to: 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years). Example, if you’re 170 pounds, 5’11”, and 43, your BMR is 66 + (6.23 x 170) + (12.7 x 71) – (6.8 x 43) = 1,734.4 calories
  • If you’re a woman, your BMR is equal to: 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years). Example, if you’re 130 pounds, 5’3”, and 36, your BMR is 665 + (4.35 x 130) + (4.7 x 63) – (4.7 x 36) = 1,357.4 calories

Generally speaking, roughly we need to calculate the below in order to have our estimated calories consumption daily:

  • Rarely exercising? multiply your BMR by 1.2
  • Exercise on 1 to 3 days per week? multiply your BMR by 1.375
  • For exercising during  3 to 5 days per week, multiply your BMR by 1.55
  • For exercise 6 to 7 days per week, multiply your BMR by 1.725
  • And, if you exercise every day and have a physical job or if you often exercise twice a day, multiply your BMR by 1.9

One of the first assessment steps any trainer will do is check his client’s BMR and BMI parameters. The BMR will guide us, as a starting point, the nutrition guidelines. The BMR will be the link between the diet you should have and the training you should perform.

What it takes to lose or gain 1 pound or 1 kilogram of body fat

As said, in order to lose weight, one needs to be with a lack of consumed calories, over time, compared to the body of the calories needed to burn.

1 kilogram of body fat equals around 7700 calories (1 pound equals 3500 calories).

It means that over a week if we eat 500 excess of calories per day we will gain 1 pound of body fat (1 pound equals 0.453 kilograms).

If over a week we will consume 3500 calories less than needed, we will lose 1 pound of body fat.

Keep in mind, in a positive way, that if you trained hard, and trying to lose weight, don’t judge yourself by stepping the scales and measure your weight. Eventually, it is about being fit and healthy, not necessarily what is your weight at a certain point is. Also keep in mind while training you are building muscles and gaining muscle mass so you improve your body fat percentage, not necessarily it means you keep losing weight (but losing fat).

Consume less, burn more and eat (mainly) healthy food, so you will give your body as close to optimum conditions as you can to be on the right side of the fit and fat equation.

Empty calories are those that disturb the most to this balance. Empty calories term means foods that provide energy but almost none of the vital ingredients as minerals, vitamins, fibers, protein, antioxidants, etc.… good (which is bad) example of empty calories are the regular sugary drinks heavily consumed.

What is afterburn?

When exercising, we are using more energy than at rest. How much? Depends on the type of exercise we do.

1 hour of normal speed walking will burn fewer calories compared to 1 hour or running or 1 hour of the intense martial art training.

Press here to go to the full table of calories per activity

Each exercise we do has a bit different effect on the way our body functions for filling the energy back in the muscles and how it impacts on muscle mass which yields to higher BMR. Higher muscle mass building over time will consume more energy in order to function during rest.

The afterburn effect is essentially the calories you burn post exercising. This happens as the body, apart from the energy consumed for the exercise itself, needs calories in order to recover, to gain muscles, to handle protein and energy processes, to repair tissues and microfractures that eventually will build larger muscles or to maintain them, etc. the body also handle hormonal changes and there is an excess of post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC).

It is known now that High Intense workouts provide a higher ability to burn more fat in less time. This is also due to the afterburn effect created while exercising that way.

The more intense the exercise, the greater the afterburn effect is going to be.

Taking a running exercise as an example: running moderately for 30 minutes will create less afterburn effect compared to high-intensity interval running during this period of time.

How many calories exactly are burnt in the afterburn effect is hard to precisely indicate as it depends on many individual parameters. It is assumed to be around a 10 percent increase in calorie expenditure for the day in which performed 20 minutes of high-intensity workout.

Assuming during your active day your body using a total of 2000 calories. So, if you performed a high-intensity workout of 20 minutes, your body by end of the day actually used around 2200 calories. This is to keep the targeted functionality and development post the workout, and recovery.

How do we further benefit from the afterburn effect?

Each type of exercise has its own benefits, mentally and physically, and may provide different ingredients to our overall wellness.

Fat burning speaking, replacing more monotonic exercises with high-intensity exercises will yield higher calorie burning over time hence will enable reducing fat faster.

Here are some examples you can further use:

30 minutes moderate run or walk, to be replaced with 30 minutes intensity running intervals in which you exhaust more the breathing and muscles over a shorter period of time repeatedly.

When doing weight lifting or resistance workout. You can perform “supersets” in which you exercise till exhaustion one muscle group and then move right away to another one.

This can be done in the gym with the gym’s regular equipment or in a cross-fit style workout.

If you aim to improve your outdoor capabilities for mountaineering, for example, you can practice high-intensity stairs climbing, bouldering climbing fast routines, or intense wall climbing which will help you to improve your aerobic and anaerobic capacities while increasing your calories intake.

To summarize:

We must be aware of the calorie balance you have over time. That is ok not to control each and every meal but over time we need to know we maintain the balance for the personal goals we have, reducing fat, keeping the same weight, or gaining muscle mass. It is a good practice to be aware of our BMR (Basal Metabolic Rate) and how much we can burn by each type of exercise.

In order to further reduce fat and to handle more calories on an active day, it is good to consider the afterburn effect and have some workouts that utilize it. This will further help the body’s calorie-burning, increase metabolism, and can make a difference in the balance of body fat percentage.

We can also benefit from the correlation between exercises that have a higher afterburn effect and fitness improvement. And this is where you need to consider to include intervals and HIIT training in your routines.

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