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Calorie Counts: Burn, Baby, Burn

Using a generic calculation for BMR (trust us, it's too messy to get into), we derive a burn of slightly more than 57 calories per hour while sedentary. Assume Ms. Given sleeps for eight hours and is basically inert (sitting at some kind of screen, talking on the phone, driving, doing a crossword) for 11 more hours. She'd burn 1,090 calories in those 19 hours. Add another eight (!) calories to account for her buffness, and we can round up to 1,100 calories.

TEF -- the number of calories burned digesting food -- is estimated at 10 percent of daily caloric intake. Because the body works a little harder digesting protein than other nutrients, you can nudge up this number by eating more protein and fewer fats (carbs fall in the middle). But not much, said Darlene Sedlock, associate professor of exercise physiology at Purdue University.


Ms. Example Given: Moving, not muscle, determines her calorie burn. (Photodisc)

_____The Moving Crew_____
At Play With a Madman (The Washington Post, Mar 29, 2005)
On the Treadmill: Keep Hope Alive (The Washington Post, Mar 22, 2005)
Calculating the Curves (The Washington Post, Mar 15, 2005)
Does Bush Put His Budget Where His BMI Is? (The Washington Post, Mar 8, 2005)
Out of the Running? Friends Can Help (The Washington Post, Mar 1, 2005)
Previous Columns
_____Live Discussion_____
The Moving Crew explores some facet of fitness and offer ways to overcome the excuses that keep so many of us desk- and sofa-bound. Join them, every other Thursday at 11 a.m. ET.

Because Ms. Given's diet is protein-rich, she "might burn another 20 or 25 calories" beyond the 210 a standard 2,100-calorie diet would consume, Sedlock said. Okay, 235 calories for TEF.

Now, the fun: Ms. Given found time for a 30-minute, three-mile run, which burned 306 calories. If you've bought the hype on afterburn, you'd think her body would devour calories well above her BMR for hours.

Wrong. Given's EPOC "is probably less than 30 calories" after her run, Sedlock said. So: 335 calories for the run and its resulting EPOC.

Luckily, Ms. Given spent the other 4 1/2 hours of her day doing a variety of mild physical activities -- walking to the printer, carrying groceries, practicing guitar, cleaning her apartment. These incinerated another 700 calories (for data: www.caloriesperhour.com).

The total? Give us a sec here. . . . For the day, she burned 2,370 calories and consumed 2,100 -- a modest deficit that could, if sustained, support weight loss. But if sloth halves her activity calories, if she doesn't run every day and if she adds an afternoon latte with 2 percent milk . . . she's suddenly running a surplus. Love-handle alert!

More important, Ms. Given has taught us two key things: Exercise is the only significant calorie-burning method you can control -- and little episodes of activity really add up. Oh, and watch the snacks.

Join Ms. Given and the Crew Thursday for our online chat at 11 a.m. at www.washingtonpost.com

-- John Briley


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