Calories in food provide the energy that fuels everything your body does from daydreaming to hiking. Calories come from the foods we eat in the form of carbs, fats, and proteins. From time to time we eat too many calories, and our bodies store those calories away to use later. Unfortunately,  those extra calorie stores end up as extra body fat. To counteract this, you’ll need to better understand calorie burn and weight loss and why they go hand in hand.

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How Burning Calories Helps You Lose Weight

Everyone who starts out on a weight loss journey wants to know how many calories they have to burn to lose fat. One pound of body fat equals an average of 3,500 calories. But how do you know how many calories you’ve burned off in, say, a week? Using a calories-burned calculator allows you to direct your weight loss, based on your eating habits and how hard you exercise.

How to Track Caloric Intake

With a calories-burned calculator, every time you exercise you log your workout and the app does the rest. It’s easy to track how many calories are going in, so you can better plan out your weekly meals to burn off more than you eat — which is called a calorie deficit. Basically, you want to eat fewer calories than you would have in the past. Pair that with burning off calories through exercise, and your body turns to that stored body fat for energy.

Why the Burn Is Key to Weight Loss

Exercise burns calories, but its most vital role in your weight loss journey is that it also helps hold on to your muscle mass while you’re dieting. Reducing calories alone will help you lose weight, but some of that weight is good, lean muscle. Having lots of metabolically active muscle not only looks good, but it burns more calories than those lazy fat tissues. Just 30 minutes of moderate weightlifting burns over 100 calories while building muscle at the same time.

Sure, cardio workouts burn more calories during a session. If you’re running a five-minute mile, you can burn up to 250 calories in the same 30 minutes, but strength training has other valuable benefits that you’ll see over time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that the best approach is to incorporate both weight training and cardio exercises each week for optimal weight loss.

How to Burn Calories

Look for a physical activity that speaks to you as an individual so that you’ll stick with the program. Never mind the hype: If you prefer hiking to the treadmill, or lumberjacking to powerlifting, do it and enjoy every minute of it. It’s amazing how many calories you can burn doing what you love. Calories burned biking to the grocery store: 50, while calories burned swimming in the backyard pool is another easy 500.

Calorie burn helps you lose weight, and it is even more effective when combined with dietary measures. Use an online calculator to determine your daily calorie needs and feel the burn without eating more, and you’ll create the calorie deficit you need to reach your goals.

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