HANDS up if you spend every minute on the treadmill with your eyes glued to the calorie counter? Well, everything from your age to your weight and even the phase of your menstrual cycle can affect how many calories your body actually burns, according to The Sun.
“Calories are a measure of energy, just like pounds are a measure of weight,” explains personal trainer Tim Blakey from Fitness And Function. “The average woman needs about 1,200 calories a day to support basic functions like breathing and digestion, and around 1,500 if you include everyday activities such as walking. But it’s the calories you consume on top of – or below – this that affect your weight.”
Age can make a difference, too. “Studies have shown that people who rarely exercise lose between three and five per cent of their muscle mass every decade after the age of 30, and the less muscle you have, the lower your metabolism will be,” Tim adds. Use our crib sheet to work out how many calories you’re actually burning at the gym
So how much muscle you have and how often you use those muscles really counts! And whatever your age, with the right exercise you can burn calories after you’ve stopped working out. “We call it the ‘afterburn’ effect,” says Tim.
“After exercising, your body uses more oxygen to recover, and while it’s doing that, it burns calories. This can last from 15 minutes up to 48 hours afterwards, depending on what you’ve been doing. High-intensity aerobic activity will make your body burn up to 50 per cent more calories than continuous steady cardio, like a long jog. “Most effective of all, though, is resistance training [lifting weights], which outperforms both aerobic exercise and circuit training with light weights when it comes to post-workout burn.”
Weighty issueA week before your period, you’ll expend energy 2.5-11 per cent faster than at any other time*
Ever shy away from weights? Don’t! “Many women think if they do weights, they’ll bulk up,” says Tim. “But females don’t have enough testosterone for that, and resistance training with weights will gradually increase muscle mass and help you burn more calories.”
A pound of muscle burns around three times more than the same amount of fat. So while the number of calories burnt might not be as high as other exercises, the afterburn effect means you’ll be shifting calories without lifting a finger!
Protein PowerThe average commute burns 324 calories a day – the equivalent of a cheese burger**
It’s not just exercise you need to build those fat-burning muscles. “Protein is essential for muscle growth,” explains Dominic Plumb, founder of Victorious Training Systems.
“Often women don’t eat enough of it. While chicken and eggs are good food sources, one of the easiest ways to up levels is to supplement with protein powder. It’s consumed in liquid form, so cuts down the time it takes for your body to absorb it, meaning it gets to work faster.”
We like Neat Nutrition Vegan Protein, £34
Motivation stationWatching a 90-minute adrenalin-pumping horror film can burn up to 113 calories. Eek!***
Of those of us who fail to keep our New Year’s get-fit resolution, 62 per cent quit by the end of February, according to a survey by Fitness First. But the gym chain has come up with a motivator to keep us on track. BioScore is a new scientific test that measures fitness, agility, strength and lifestyle choices to work out your “true” biological age. It’s free for members and £20 for non-members.
“If your result is older than your age, BioScore challenges you to improve by making changes, so it’s a motivational tool,” says Lee Matthews, UK Fitness Director at Fitness First.