How Many Calories Should I Burn A Day?

How Many Calories Should I Burn A Day?

At the beginning of fitness journey, I struggled because I was unsure of the number of calories I needed to burn each day. Most beginners and a few pros struggle with this too. It’s normal.

Throughout the years, as I’ve interacted with trainers and other fitness enthusiasts, the answer has become clearer.

How many calories should I burn a day to lose a pound of weight?

According to research, one pound of body fat is made up of 3500 calories. So, if you’re successful at burning 1,000 calories a day (that’s 7,000 calories a week!), you’ll lose 2 pounds a week and 8 pounds a month!

However, it’s not as mathematically simple as that. Factors such as age, weight, height, and the physical activities that you do all contribute in determining how efficiently you burn calories every day.

How Many Calories Do I Burn Daily?

how many calories do i burn daily

How many calories do I burn daily? To answer that burning question, we need to understand the basics of calorie-burning. Let’s start with the most basic – calories!

What Are Calories?

Calorie refers to a Kilocalorie (kcal), a unit that represents the amount of energy that you get when you consume food. It’s the same unit used to refer to the energy you expend or burn when exercising or doing different activities.

Eating more calories than our body can burn will result in excess fats being deposited or stored in different parts of our body. Thus, the term stored fat.

What Is Daily Calorie Requirement?

Our body requires specific levels of energy to perform our daily activities and maintain good health. This is called our daily calorie requirement.

Men generally have higher daily calorie requirement than women. An average adult woman requires 2,000 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight, while her male counterpart needs 2,500 calories.

Take note, however, that in reality, some women may require more calories than men, especially if they’re heavier and more physically active. So how does each of us expend or burn energy?

Daily Energy Expenditure

If you think that you burn calories only when you’re exercising or physically active, you’re wrong. The truth is that your body burns calories all the time.

Yes, your body burns calories even when you’re sleeping. So don’t misinterpret resting as a zero calorie-burning time. As long as you’re alive, your body’s systems – blood circulation, breathing, and cell activities – will constantly burn calories.

The total energy spent (or calories burned) by a normal human being is the sum of the following:

1. Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR)

This refers to the calories your body burns while maintaining its primary physiological functions, such as blood circulation, breathing, digestion, and other cell functions.

It is the energy you spend while you’re resting or in a dormant state. This may surprise you, but your resting energy expenditure accounts for 60-70% of your total daily calorie burn.

Of course, it will vary from one person to another depending on gender, age, weight, and other factors like digestion. In some studies, calories burned during digestion is calculated separately.

2. Non-Exercise Activity Thermogenesis

We’re now including the calories you burn as you perform various activities that are not forms of exercise. These are your day-to-day tasks, like walking to work, cleaning, gardening, and many others.

The exact percentage depends on your activities. It accounts for 10 – 15% of your total daily calorie burnt.

3. Calories Burned During Exercise

The type of exercise, duration and intensity of your workout determines this calorie number. Contrary to popular opinion, this only attributes to a maximum of 30 % of your total energy expenditure.

How to Calculate Calories Burned

Every exercise and activity you do has a an assigned value called Metabolic Equivalent of Task (MET), which is a constant used to calculate calories burned.

To calculate the number of calories burned in a task, we use the MET value for that particular task and plug it into the MET formula, along with your weight and the duration of your activity. The only shortcoming of this formula is that it does not put into consideration your level of fitness.

Nonetheless, your weight, age and intensity of the exercise are key factors that influence the amount of calories burned while performing any physical activity.

Let’s see the MET formula at work.

The MET Formula

MET x Body Weight (kg) x 0.0175 x Time (minutes) = Calories Burned


The MET value of a brisk walk is 4 and that for running is 11.5. With these constants, you can now apply the MET formula to estimate the amount of calorie you burn while performing a particular exercise.

If you weigh 70 kilograms and you ran for 30 minutes, we can apply the MET formula to calculate the calories you burned as follows:

11.5 (MET)  x  70 (Body weight in Kg) x 0.0175 x 30 (Time in minutes) =  422.625 (Calories burned)

You will have burned approximately 423 calories running for 30 minutes.

If the next day, you decided to do brisk walking instead of running, this will be your total calorie burn for the same duration:

4  x  70 x 0.0175 x 30 =  147 Calories burned

You will have burned only 147 calories brisk-walking for 30 minutes.

Once you have mastered this formula and you know the MET for a task, you can then apply the same to your daily activities and exercises.

Burning Calories on a Treadmill

burning calories on a treadmill

The treadmill has become the go-to machine for most people seeking to burn extra calories. It’s one of the most convenient options since it simulates different outdoor running conditions while working out in the comfort of your home.

This cardio exercise is an excellent calories burner. Whatever the amount of calories you want to burn in a day, a treadmill can no doubt help you with that.

What Determines the Amount of Calories You Burn on a Treadmill?

You’ll always burn calories on a treadmill whether you choose to walk or run, but the amount of calories you burn will vary.

The following factors will help explain why.

1. Efficiency: How well are you using the treadmill? Using the treadmill properly will increase your calories burning efficiency.

Two individuals of the same age and size, each running on a treadmill (see our top treadmills for sprinting ) at the same speed and incline percentage, will achieve different results if one of them has the wrong form and posture on treadmill.

2. Intensity: Treadmill workout is good at raising the heart rate which in turn makes it a very effective workout for burning calories.

Intensity on a treadmill is increased by either running faster or increasing the incline percentage settings. The more intense the workout is, the more calories you burn.

3. Hands on the Handrails: If you hold on to the handrails, you will reduce the efficiency of your treadmill workout session.

If your treadmill model comes with a calorie counter, you’ll see the reduction in figures if you hold the rails compared to a similar workout but you’re not holding the rails.

4. Incline vs Decline: Running or walking on an treadmill incline will help you burn more calories than you would burn while on a decline or level treadmill. Increasing the incline by 20 % will make you burn up to 5 more calories in a minute.

5. Speed and Duration: Speed increases intensity because it makes you cover the same distance in a shorter period resulting in burning more calories.

Please note that you can also burn the same amount of calories in another session in which you will run slower but for a longer duration.

6. Long or Short Stride: The length of your stride affects the amount of calories you burn on a treadmill. Shorter strides for the same distance means doing more steps than running in long strides. More steps results in burning more calories.

7. Your Body Weight: Bodyweight is among the basic determinants of the amount of calories your burn during any exercise. More weight or bigger body size translates in burning more calories on the treadmill as compared to lighter and small-bodied individuals.

Burning 300 Calories on a Treadmill

treadmill calories burned

Let us look at different 30-minute workouts on a treadmill to help you burn 300 calories a day.

Get on Your Treadmill
Start by walking briskly or jogging with zero incline. Set Perceived Exertion (RPE)  at Level 5-6.

Treadmill Workout
Duration Intensity RPE
1 minute Set incline 2% every 15 seconds 5–6
1 minute Lower the incline 1% every 15 seconds 6–7
3 minutes Jog or walk briskly at a moderate pace 5
This workout will burn approximately 320 calories when performed by a person weighing 140lb.

Burning 400 Calories on a Treadmill

For an average person, it will take 10 minutes of jogging to burn around 100 calories. By jogging, we mean a speed of around 8 km/h.

In other words, you’ll need to jog for 40 minutes to burn 400 calories. That sounds easy, right? However, it’s not that easy when you’re on the treadmill for the first time. So if you’re a beginner and you’ve read this, don’t despair if you’re beat after 20 minutes. Take it one day at a time and gain enough strength to be able to sustain a 40 minutes continuous jogging session.

Of course, if you’ve been using a running machine for a while, this will be a walk in the park.

Elliptical Trainer: Calories Burned

Set your workout time at 30 minutes on your elliptical trainer using the manual program and choose a resistance that will be challenging to you.

Elliptical Trainer Workout
Time Intensity RPE
6 minutes Increase resistance for more challenge 6
2 minutes Increase resistance every 30 seconds 7–8
2 minutes Start lowering resistance every 30 seconds. 5
6 minutes Set the resistance to medium and go backwards 7–8
Based on a person weighing 140 lb, this workout will burn 250-300 calories

Stationary Bike: Calories Burned

calories burned stationary bike

Here is how you can burn calories on your bike. If you’re using an exercise bike with screen, set 30 minutes as your workout time and then choose a resistance that will challenge you beyond your comfort zone.

Stationary Bike Workout
Time Intensity RPE
5 minutes Cycle at a moderate pace 5
2 minutes Raise resistance 2-3 units every 30 seconds 6–8
2 minutes Lower resistance 2-3 units every 30 seconds 6–8
1 minute Set a higher resistance level and cycle to your limit 9–10
This will burn approximately 245 calories if done by a 140-lb person

Other Activities You Can Do to Burn Calories

Burning 400 Calories a Day

1. Walking

Even though running can help you achieve this faster, walking can also make you burn 400 calories a day. Try walking while maintaining a 3.5 mph pace for at least 40 minutes. By including hilly terrains in your itinerary, you’ll increase your efficiency in burning 400 calories every day.

2. Swimming

You only need 40 minutes in the pool to burn 400 calories. Swimming is an incredible way of burning calories and getting in shape, not to mention that it is also an excellent stress reliever. Check out the swimming pool in your neighborhood and swim your way to a healthy bod.

3. Skipping Rope

Rope skipping might sound like a childish activity but nothing beats it when it comes to burning calories. Skipping rope for only 20 minutes can help you burn 400 calories.

It’s no doubt one of the best cardiovascular exercises there is. It works several muscle groups in your body, you don’t need a special equipment to do it.

Burning 500 Calories a Day

1.  High-Intensity Interval Training

This is the new training style that has taken the fitness industry by storm – high-intensity interval training! The best thing about HIIT is that you can apply it to practically any workout.

That means you can adopt it without dropping your current workout. It involves alternating high-intensity periods with resting periods in your training session. It may need close supervision by your trainer if you are a beginner.

HIIT improves the quality of your training by stimulating your metabolism.

This high-intensity training method takes short periods of between 5 to 15 minutes depending on the type of exercise you do.

2. Running at 8 mph for 30 minutes

This is yet another superb way of burning 500 calories. Whether you run outdoors or jog on the spot, you reap the benefits without need of any equipment.

Running for 30 minutes while maintaining a pace of 8 mph has been tested and proven to be an effective way of burning 500 calories. It is a compound exercise that also tones your muscles.

3. A 60-Minute Swimming Session

Swimming is not just a leisure activity, it comes with a lot of health benefits, including burning 500 calories a day. If what you have in mind is swimming lazily or just back floating as you bask in the sun, banish the thought. To burn 500 calories, you need to swim lap by lap with intensity.

4.  2 Hours of Lawn Mowing

calories burned mowing lawn

Burning calories is not limited to sports and exercises, some other activities like mowing your lawn can also help you do it. This may not be a daily activity but when that day comes, be sure to use it to burn calories too.

Pushing your mower around your lawn for 120 minutes will help you burn 500 calories. You can mow your neighbor’s lawn too if you have a few more minutes to burn. What a way to kill two birds with one stone.

5. Hiking for 120 Minutes

This is yet another therapeutic option to exercise. The exhilarating encounter with nature as you hike, combined with the fresh air you breathe is a wonderful way to increase your heart rate and burn calories.

The physical activity works your entire body musculature resulting in remarkable burning of calories. Hiking for two hours will help you burn approximately 500 calories.

If possible, try hiking several times a week. It is a wholesome activity that is good for the body and mind.

Burning 1000 Calories 

Now, this is the real challenge! Burning 1000 calories in a day will require a long and fairly intense period of exercising to achieve. Since not so many of us have the luxury of time, HIIT should be our best training friend.

Another Word about HIIT Workouts

HIIT is an effective anaerobic cardio involving intense and explosive bursts of training interrupted by short resting periods in between.

You can apply the HIIT principle on treadmill sessions, rope jumping, burpees, and so on, to gain the benefit of burning calories long after your training session is over. Here is a list of high-yielding HIIT exercises that will burn 1000 calories.

1.  Rope Jumping

Rope jumping has become a popular and effective way of helping people burn calories. It is a fun-filled exercise that can help you burn between 800-1050 calories if you did it for up to two hours.

In high-intensity training, you are required to push yourself to the limits and take short breaks of low-intensity exercises before continuing with the rest of the sets.

2. Plank Jacks and Jumping Jacks

A combination of plank jacks and jumping jacks is an amazing cocktail for a high-intensity compound workout that will help you burn between 700-1000 calories per hour.

Start by doing 40 jumping jacks, then without resting get into a plank pose. Hop, and then lift your toes off the floor. Place your toes shoulder-width apart.

Hop again and then bring your feet back to the starting position. Perform 15 intensive repetitions before taking a 10-15 seconds break and go for another set.

3. Burpees

Burpees are incredible full-body strength and cardio exercise that will give you remarkable results when done HIIT style. Start by jumping then landing softly and flex your knees before you sit down.

In the sitting position place your fingertips on the floor, hop your legs and push them back. Hop, get to sitting position and jump again.

You need to do this intensely for 90 minutes with short resting periods in between sets.