The Cold Penguin

expanding the box

Calorie Burn

on April 15, 2014

Wow – there’s a random downpour outside right now!  It scared the nearly deaf dog enough to send her under my feet!  Crazy weather we have all had over the past 6 months, right?

Ok, enough of the weather.

Lately I’ve been feeling a little down on my body.  I wish I wouldn’t (don’t we all?) because I’m not overweight, I’m just over what I call my “comfy” weight: the range on the scales that I feel most confident about myself and my body, and my clothes fit just right.  My weight is above that range, I’m starting to feel less confident, and my clothes are fitting, but not well.  Ugh!

I knew I was snacking way too much, but still felt like my exercise has been so that I wouldn’t at least be gaining weight, and maybe even slightly (0.1 lb) dropping some.  So I decided to break out my old Polar heart rate monitor to see really what was going on.

I used to be so great at calorie counting, almost a bit too good at it, but my skills have definitely been lost.

Today I did a 11 minute Jessica Smith HIIT workout that I love, and that causing me to sweat, get out of breath and have really wobbly burning legs.  The video is advertised as 150 calorie burning, which I know is a guesstimate and she has a verbal disclaimer at the beginning so I’m not mad at her at all.

But I did think I was burning at least 100, probably around 120 calories, based on my suffering.

The results: 79 calories.  I was shocked!  How could working out for 11 minutes with HIGH HIGH intensity really cause me only to burn 79 calories.

Well, my scientific mind knows it’s for several reasons:

1) my smaller body size.  The more weight you have, the more calories you burn.  (This is because it takes more energy to move for example a 200 pound body than it does to move a lighter 150 pound body.  And yes, this is why it’s easier to lose weight in the beginning of your weight loss program but those last 5-10 lbs never seem to want to come off!)

2) the interval style.  I was not at peak performance throughout the entire 11 minutes, meaning my heart rate dropped from around 170 to 130 during the lower intensity breaks.  That’s what the intervals are supposed to do and it’s fine.  It helps keep you going strong throughout the workout.  However, you have to take into account that there were several minutes where I was working out at a moderate to low intensity, even though afterwards it felt like the entire workout was high intensity.

3) my age and gender.  As a 34-year-old woman, my metabolism has slowed.  It’s just a fact of life that women’s metabolism slows down after 30.  Men’s generally slow down after 40 (unfair!).  And I definitely do not lose weight as easily as I did when I was 29!

4) me being me.  We all burn calories differently and at a different rate.  My metabolism is good, but may not be as fast as another persons.  It’s just me.

So I’ve worn my polar heart rate monitor for the majority of my exercise sessions, and I have dramatically overestimated my calorie burn in my head.  Yes, I’m huffing and puffing and working hard, but the calories are not being burned as fast as I thought.

And that’s why that extra snacking really is more detrimental to my weight loss goal than I thought.

Are you overestimating your calorie burn?  If you have or can get a heart rate monitor that estimates calorie burn, I highly recommend it.  It’s eye-opening and will really help get you going in the right direction.  Or, you can visit this site to get a better estimate of your calorie burn during activities.

And once you realize your 20 minute run only burns off half of the ice cream you were planning on having for dessert, it will definitely help your eating habits as well!



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