When you’re involved in a hard workout you can almost feel the calories being burned by your body. However, if your metabolism only burned calories during exercise, you’d have to work out for hours on end each day to work off the calories you consume. Luckily, our bodies don’t work that way. If you want to fit into that new bathing suit more quickly, then consider adding cardio and strength training to help you burn more calories even after you’ve finished exercising.
How Metabolism Works
Metabolism is the process your body uses to convert food and drink into energy. The faster your body is able to complete this process, the faster you will use up calories during and after exercise. Your body is constantly burning calories, even when you’re sitting down, through your basic bodily functions like blood circulation and cell reparation.
Basal Metabolic Rate
Each body is different, so everyone has a different basal metabolic rate. This is the number of calories needed by your individual body to carry out basic functions such as breathing and blood circulation. This accounts for 60 to 75 percent of the number of calories burned by your body each day. Your basal metabolic rate is determined by your sex, age and body size and composition.
Burning Calories with Cardio
Mayo Clinic recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio or aerobic activity each week for weight maintenance, but some people may need even more. Cardio includes activities like running, biking, swimming and hiking. There is a tool on the Mayo Clinic website that can tell you, based on your weight, how many calories you will burn doing a specific activity. In addition to burning calories during cardio, your metabolism also has an increase in calories burned directly after exercise. This is known as the after-burn effect. Depending on the intensity and duration of exercise, it can take your body anywhere from 15 minutes to 48 hours to return to normal. During this time of adjustment, your body is burning an extra number of calories.
Burning Calories with Strength Training
Another way to increase the number of calories your metabolism burns after exercise is through strength training, which involves activities that require short bursts of energy. Not only do you experience the after-burn effect from strength training, but you can also experience long-term calorie-burning effects by building muscle. Since muscle burns more calories than fat, increasing your muscle mass and decreasing your fat content can help you burn additional calories while at rest.
Contrary to popular belief, after exercise is the best time to eat because your body will use up those calories right away to restore and repair itself instead of storing them as fat. Within two hours of your workout you should eat a meal high in protein and carbohydrates. If you aren’t hungry, try drinking juice or a sports drink to replenish your fluids, vitamins and minerals.
- Mayo Clinic: Weight Loss: How Metabolism Works
- Mayo Clinic: Exercise for Weight Loss: Calories Burned in 1 Hour
- Center for Advanced Medicine and Clinical Research: Lifting Weights Burns Fat
- Mayo Clinic: Eating and Exercise: 5 Tips to Maximize Your Workout
- The University of New Mexico: Exercise After-Burn: Research Update
Danielle Clark has been a writer since 2009, specializing in environmental and health and fitness topics. She has contributed to magazines and several online publications. Clark holds a Bachelor of Science in ecology and environmental science.