Which calories count?

It’s no big secret that when someone wants to lose body fat, they need to burn more calories then they are taking in.  Although it can be a bit more complex than this, the basic concept is that if you have a surplus of calories, you will gain weight.  Conversely, if you have a caloric deficit, you will lose weight.  This is why almost everybody knows what calories are and the impact they can have on the body.

You hear about calories on talk shows and see the word printed on the cover of half the magazines in the grocery check out line.  Everybody wants to be burning more calories.  But what does that mean?

Several years ago, I remember seeing an article about the calories you burn doing everyday activities. (And I’ve seen several articles like this since.)  These numbers are made up, but it was something along the lines of:

Vacuuming for 30 minutes: 56 calories burned

Gardening for an hour: 72 calories burned

Washing the dishes by hand: 31 calories burned.

I'm gettin' shredded!

The frustrating (and very misleading) thing is that the article was proposing these daily activities as a way of losing weight.  A way to stay healthy.

This is taking it a bit too far.

Here’s the truth, every little thing you do burns calories.  Breathing burns calories.  Grocery shopping for Twinkies burns calories.  The above examples burn calories.  You are even burning calories when you’re chomping down on a greasy double bacon cheeseburger with extra large fries and a chocolate shake.  (It takes calories to chew food.) But these don’t really count as calories burned, at least not in the way that you want them to.  Doing the things you need to do every day are not going to add up to a level that make any kind of impact on your physique.

You’re not going to vacuum your way thin.  And you’re not going to see your abs by planting a lot of tomatoes.   Yes, it is important to continually be active, both inside and out of the gym.  Keeping mobile can have a huge impact on the way you feel.  But the place that you are going to make a real difference is in your training.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that keeping your house clean and buying some groceries counts as exercise.  Working hard, lifting, pushing and carrying heavy stuff is going to burn the calories you want to to reach your physique goals.


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