This gadget over on the right is the Gowear Fit. It is a device which actually monitors various parameters of the body (explained in the science section of the product website) and calculates the caloric expenditure of the given individual.
When I first saw this product, I was wondering how accurate it was. Fortunately, the community out at Lyle McDonald’s forums in a specific thread on the device were dicussing its accuracy.
The company estimates the error to be less than 10% for any given individual. Most people found it to be very accurate, meaning that the value tallies with expected real world changes in body composition.
What this means that if they ate 500kcal less than the value that the device told them, the fat loss per week was the expected 1lbs.
Regardless, I’m going to tackle two misconceptions that people have about caloric expenditure. Firstly, the number of calories burned. Secondly, the caloric expenditure of various activities.
Most people vastly over-estimate how many calories they burn during activity.
Say you have a 130lbs/59kg female going jogging at 8mph/12.9kmph for an hour. That’s a about 820kcal by most standards.
Mind you, running at 8mph for one solid hour (that is running a distance of 8 miles) takes a bit of conditioning to achieve, and yet it only burns 800+kcal. Some people think that their easy aerobics classes burn 1000kcal, and then proceed to eat a burger, thinking that they have ‘earned’ the 1000kcal.
Well, unfortunately, that burger you ate was probably 1500kcal , and the exercise you did burned probably 500kcal. See the disconnect?
Basically, people tend to over-estimate the amount of calories exercise burns and under-estimate the calories in food(a topic for the future).
This brings me to my second point.
Comparison of Calories Burned
So here’s some anecdotal data from a user of the gowear fit. This is data from a roughly 150-155lbs user, so the values will differ for someone heavier or lighter.
~30 mins of depletion work (3-4X 15-25 per body part) plus 3 30/30 balls out intervals:
a whopping 180 kcal
35 mins of mod. intensity (HR 135-145) cardio followed by 10 mins of gradual cool down:
2.5 hrs of packing boxes with my mom in preparation for moving:
a really slow and boring < 6 hour bartending shift:
Now the question is, which activity had the highest perceived exertion?
Based on this, the interval + weight training, which is arguably the hardest of all the activities, resulted in a paltry caloric burn. The steady state cardio was pretty good.
But notice the last one. At 1254kcal, bartending burned 200kcal per hour, while the intense exercise burned 360kcal per hour.
So in fact, our regular activities don’t burn a lot less than true exercises. Activities like yardwork, cleaning, general commuting, etc all burn a significant amount of calories.
Yet, so many people fall into the trap of exercising hard for 1 hour (and burning say 500kcal), then reducing their activity to sitting around for the next 5 hours (burning another 500kcal) and on top of that thinking that they can eat more since they ‘earned it’.
In fact, the guy who is moderately active, say walking around campus and attending some various classes may end up burning 150kcal/hour for 900kcal over the same period. Only 100kcal less, and he didn’t even break a sweat.
So my point is: People vastly under-estimate the number of calories regular activity burns
That is in my opinion why so many people end up being frustrated with their diet attempts. They exercise so hard, thinking that the caloric burn is larger than it actually is, while at the same time eating more than they think they are eating, leading to slow or non-existent results.
The take home from this article: We need to be able to be able to (at least roughly) quantify our caloric expenditure and intake.
My advice, go to this website that gives estimates for caloric expenditure. Play around with various values. Though not accurate for regular activities, it at least gives one a yardstick for comparison for various types of exercise. Many will be surprised that yardwork probably burns an equal if not more calories than weight training. One can then realise how little exercise as compared to the total daily expenditure.
Bottom line is, if you want to increase caloric expenditure, your safest bet is to become more active throughout the day. Even standing out every now and then instead of sitting for 5 hours straight will probably yield another 100kcal in expenditure. Slowly, that adds up.
Of course, the other way is to become really fit so that you can exercise at extremely high levels of intensity (like running 10 miles in a hour). By that time, I bet you won’t be struggling with a weight problem anymore.
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