The Cooper Institute

Founded in 1970 by the "Father of Aerobics"
Kenneth H. Cooper MD, MPH


Keeping the Calorie Burn High!!

Posted in
Live well

Monday, Dec 06, 2010

After accomplishing big goals, or making progress towards them, it often seems it is harder to continue to get the same results. This always seems to trigger the saying we have all heard, but often forget: If you always do the same thing, you will always get the same results.” – Or maybe you thought I was going to refer to Albert Einstein’s definition of "insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Yesterday many runners and walkers in Dallas finished the White Rock Marathon. This might have been the big goal. But what if the goal was more than just the finish line? What if the goal was related to weight loss and there are still a few pounds left to shed?

Last week we looked at the number of calories burned in one mile. Analyzing the difference in the number of calories burned in a mile for one person versus another, the biggest variable was a person’s weight. That is why it gets harder and harder to lose those final pounds as a lighter person is burning fewer calories than when he or she started their weight loss journey. The body is not working as hard to carry the extra weight.

To keep the results coming and the calorie burn high, an adjustment to your training might help. You cannot continue to do the same thing and expect the same results because your body is becoming more efficient at using energy to perform the work. We all do this with all sorts of tasks. When the task is first given to us, it may be a bit difficult and take a long time to complete. But over time, we become more efficient and can do the task with more ease. Our body has the same reaction to exercise.

Altering the task can help to keep the body working hard and burning the needed calories to result in weight loss. Two ways this can be done is by:

  • Extending the exercise sessions
  • Increasing the exercise intensity
As the holidays approach and race goals pass by, it can be difficult to increase the exercise time. As a result, increasing exercise intensity may be more effective as you become more fit. As exercise intensity increases, the number of calories burned increases in the same amount of time, and possibly can burn even more in less time. 1

But exercise by itself may not be the solution, especially as the holidays bring many high calorie temptations. Calorie restriction should also be addressed. As individuals may decrease mileage due to accomplishing a race goal, it is important to remember that the body will no longer need as many calories. An article by McMurray2 looked at weight loss via diet versus exercise. The article found that for trained individuals it is much more difficult to use exercise alone to accomplish weight loss goals. This may be a result that endurance trained individuals have a higher capacity to oxidize fats during exercise.

As a result a combination of diet and exercise seems optimal, as lean body mass would be maintained and weight reduced. While individuals could try to isolate just one of the methods listed above, research by Larson-Meyer3 found greater improvement in insulin sensitivity, LDL cholesterol, and diastolic blood pressure by those that utilized exercise and diet versus those that restricted calories by diet alone.

So as you continue toward goals this holiday season, how do you plan to make changes in exercise and/or diet to keep your caloric burn high? Comment on our Facebook page about your ideas.

1McArdle, W. D, Katch, F.I, & Katch, V.L. (2001). Exercise physiology: energy, nutrition & human performance. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

2McMurray, V.B., Forsythe, W.A., Smith, A.T.;  (1985). Responses of endurance-trained subjects to caloric deficits induced by diet or exercise. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc, 17(4), 574-579.

3LARSON-MEYER, D.E., Redman, L., Heilbronn, L.K., Martin, C.K, Ravussin, E.; (2010). Caloric Restriction with or without Exercise: The Fitness versus Fatness Debate. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc, 42(1), 152-159.