Why Calories Burnt is Irrelevant

Calories burnt irrelevant

OK, listen up, I want you to say this out loud: Calories burnt is irrelevant…

Yes, the number of calories burnt is irrelevant and a totally useless indicator of whether a workout is good or bad.

One more time: calories burnt is a useless indicator of anything.

This needs frequent repeating.

Because there is a shedload of misleading information out there. Heck your fancy Garmins and workout watches and all the cardio equipment in a gym give you this “calories burnt” number at the end of the workout, right?

So why am I saying it’s useless?

Because workouts are not about burning calories. They are about making you stronger. I could have you jogging on the spot for 40 minutes. Your calories would be pretty high. But how much muscle would you build? A big round zero.

In fact, chances are that you just end up pushing your body into a high-stress and catabolic state. The exact opposite of what we need to build muscle.

Why Muscle Building is Important

Let’s quickly recap on why building muscle so important.

  • Once we hit our 30s, we start losing muscle. Once we hit our 40s we start losing muscle fast. Once we hit our 50s, we start losing muscle and bone density super-fast.
  • Resistance training and getting strong NOW, is what’s going to give you the best quality of life, not just now but into your 50s, 60s, and beyond.
  • The more muscle you have, the higher your BMR. That’s your Basal Metabolic Rate or the rate at which your body burns calories when you’re sleeping, resting, eating or whatever. The BMR is by far the largest proportion of daily calorie expenditure (around 70% for women). So it makes sense to try and tweak this. We want a high BMR to allow us to burn more calories. In contrast, your exercising calories expenditure is teeny at around 5-10% on average…

So, if you want to lose fat, you should be doing this via your nutrition. As they say: you can’t outrun a bad diet. Creating a calorie deficit through food is much easier than trying to create it through diet.

Don’t use workouts as an excuse to eat more. Don’t use workouts to judge some imaginary calories that you have burnt. Don’t use these imaginary calories to assess whether a workout was “good” or “bad”.

It’s really quite simple:

Exercise to get strong.

Nutrition to lose fat.

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