How Many Calories Should I Burn a Day?

 Abs Workout

Losing weight can be a challenge, and small changes are sometimes what make the most significant difference. We often don't think about how many calories we consume, or how many we burn. This is where most people go wrong.

Calories play a massive role in our health. You may be thinking that calories are calories no matter where they come from, and that’s true. But it actually all comes down to the source they are coming from.

To lose, or even maintain weight, you need to be burning a certain amount of calories per day.

What Are Good Calories?

Good calories are dense in nutrients, which our body desperately needs. Calories are converted into energy and the nutrients are all absorbed by the body. They typically come from three sources:

  • Whole grains: brown rice, oats, whole wheat bread, quinoa, vegetables and fruits.
  • Lean protein: chicken breasts, nuts, legumes, seeds and low-fat diary.
  • Healthy fats: nuts, fish, shellfish, especially tuna and salmon, are high in healthy fats.

The whole grains provide our body with minerals, fibers, vitamins and antioxidants. Protein provides our body with much-needed amino acids which are required to repair cells, tissues and muscles. We also get iron from protein which is essential to red blood cell function. Healthy fats provide our body with omega-3, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Good calories provide a range of nutrients needed for a healthy body.

Weighing scale with a word diet

What Are Bad Calories?

Bad calories don’t add anything to our diet other than what they are, calories and extra fat. This will lead to weight gain, since the body won’t get the nutrients it needs for strength and energy to exercise.

These days it can be difficult to completely avoid consuming any empty calories. Foods that are high in added sugars, salt and oil are generally marked as such. These are found in excessive amounts in processed food. Saturated fats and cholesterol are also something to watch out for, because these will affect your health in a dangerous way.

To avoid the empty calories, you should try to choose whole foods as much as possible. Empty calories will not only slow down the metabolism, they will also affect mood and appetite.

Counting Calories

In order for us to determine how many calories we should burn a day, we need to first look at the bases. A pound of fat is approximately 3,500 calories. So in order for you to lose one pound in a week, you will have to burn 500 more calories than you consume daily.

The average person consumes around 2000 calories per day, although this can vary significantly, depending on the person and their diet. If that individual also burned 2000 calories per day, they would just be maintaining their weight. But if they went the extra mile and burned 500 to 1000 more, they would then be losing weight.

A good thing to do is to check everything you are eating and drinking, to see how many calories they contain. This way you can always go back and look where you went wrong if the weight loss isn’t happening.

But you have to remember that there will be easy times and hard times. Sometimes the body needs a little extra time to say farewell to the pounds it’s going to lose.

It’s also a good idea to set a weight goal, but remember to be realistic. It’s better to exceed your expectations rather than end up disappointed and maybe even discouraged and ready to quit. Also, write down your current weight, and your weekly goals, this way you can plan out your exercise routines for the week.

Woman lifting weights in the gym

Why Exercise Is so Important

Losing weight without exercise can happen. If you consume fewer calories than your body burns, then there will be a change. But when this happens, the body often loses lean muscle. 

Muscles need calories to remain strong, when there are not enough calories or other things keeping them stimulated, they will slowly weaken. This is why exercise is important. Not only for losing weight, but for keeping muscles strong.

Strength Training

Strength training will build up your muscles, making you look more taut. When going to a gym, you can find specific machines for particular areas of muscles.

Making your own routine, or getting advice from others, will help you to gain equal muscles across your whole body. You may not burn as many calories, but you will like the results more if you throw a few strength workouts into your week.


Cardio and HIIT

Exercise is also important for the heart. High impact workouts, or HIIT (high intensity interval training) is a great exercise to strengthen the cardiovascular functions. These workouts usually consist of cycling or running.

You do one small period of high intensity workout, then you change and do a low intensity period. This way of exercising can be hard for some, but others see it as a more fun way of doing cardio. You will also burn a lot more calories when you get your heart rate up.


Exercise Recommendations

It is recommended that an adult exercises at least important for the heart, or around 30 minutes daily. This may not seem that much, but it is also advised that we burn 2000 to 3000 calories per week through exercise.

While going for a walk is a great choice, you may need a little more intensity to burn off the required calories to maintain weight loss. Maybe go for a power walk instead, or get out that old bike; cycling is a great way to get your heart rate up.

Woman doing some work out

How Many Calories Do Different Exercises Burn?

Calculating the exact number of calories you burn can be tricky. It all comes down to your weight, the intensity of the workout and the duration. Some gym equipment, such as elliptical trainers and treadmills, have a calorie estimator. Though this is not a hundred percent accurate, it will give you a rough idea of the number of calories you have burned.

Unless you are in a clinical setting where there are machines that monitor and count the exact number of calories you burn, it’s hard to give a specific number.

You can find rough estimates on the internet, they can be useful to help you calculate. ChooseMyPlate has a list of different exercises and how many calories they burn. Their example uses the calculations for a 154-pound person. Remember that, the more you weigh, the more calories you’ll burn.

Why Nutrition Is so Important

Nutrition is essential for our body to work the way it is supposed to. We need important resources like vitamins, minerals, protein and fat to make sure our body isn’t needing anything vital while working hard to lose weight.

Now we’re not saying you should eat a breakfast inspired by The Rock’s 857 calorie feast. But getting a good start to your day is essential to collect enough energy for the day’s hard work.

Studies have shown that people who eat a good, nourishing breakfast were less likely to overeat during the day. Eating a well-balanced diet throughout the day will help keep the calorie count at a minimum, without losing any important nutrients.

Portion Control

Portion control is key to maintaining either a healthy weight or weight loss. You can, at times, indulge in some of your favorite foods, but it should just be done in moderate portions. Finding foods and recipes you like is essential to sticking with your diet. If you’re not happy, you might find yourself reaching for that stash of Oreos hidden in the back of the drawer.

Meal planning is a great tool to make sure you stay within the limited calorie count. Packing a lunch from home is much better than eating out or in a canteen, for example; you are more likely to overeat when you have a wide range of choices.

You could also prepare small in-between healthy snacks to make sure you won’t reach for anything you’ll regret later. Many people report having lost a lot of weight by having something small, like almonds, to nibble on throughout the day, rather than eating bigger meals. It’s important you find what fits you best.

Measuring device on a sandwich


Calories play an important role in our health. When trying to lose weight it’s essential to find the right balance between the number of calories that go in and those that go out. How many calories you should burn a day depends greatly on your weight and your weight loss goals.

If you are looking to lose a lot of weight, you need to burn many more calories than you are consuming. But if you just want to maintain your weight, then light exercising, such as strengthening workouts, mixed with a healthy diet will be just fine.

While exercise is important, it isn’t everything. Even if you exercise daily, with high intensity and low impact, it won’t make much of a difference if you then go home and munch on empty calories.