It is very common this day and age for people who I work with to have lost track of the underlying mechanism by which you can change your body. With so much crazy and conflicting advice out there it is easy to get confused. It is important for you to understand that the determining factor for getting in shape is your energy balance.

There are two sides to this, how much you eat and how much you expend. Which can be summed up by – 


A few months ago I wrote about how to find out your calorie needs>>. However, what Influences how many calories your body needs? It only makes sense if looking to manipulate the energy balance equation to want to know how to increase the calories you are burning. There are various factors that affect how many calories you burn per day, some can be changed while others cannot.

The following affect how many calories you need but generally are not that easy to manipulate:

Size – How big a bodied person you are in general will influence how many calories you need, e.g. a tall large framed guy will burn more calories than a short petite woman.

Weight –You burn more calories when you are heavier simply from moving a heavier weight around. The same would apply if you were carrying a heavy backpack. As you lose weight during a transformation you will expend less energy than before for the same movement as you are lighter.

Metabolism –The strength of your metabolism represents various biochemical processes going on within the body.  This includes cell regeneration, detoxification and your internal body temperature.  The thyroid gland efficiency influences this process. Metabolism varies across the population and even between people of the same size/weight etc.

Temperature –The climate you are exposed affects calorie burn, e.g. you would burn more calories if you work outside during the winter as you try to keep warm than inside an office with heating.

Body Position – You will burn more calories standing up than sitting down and even less calories lying down.

Mental Engagement – Your brain burns calories and you expend more thinking about difficult problems to solve than watching TV. You expend the least calories when you are asleep.

Monthly Cycle – Women will experience variations during their monthly cycle for how many calories they expend per day.

Medications & Supplements – Many medications affect your metabolism, some can increase your calorie needs while many reduce it. Likewise, some supplements can increase your metabolism.

Involuntary Movements – Fidgeting, which is mostly involuntary can burn extra calories. It is often used by the body to expend excess calories consumed.

Nutrition – What, How Much & How Often You Eat – The types of food you consume affect the energy burn of the body. Likewise, the more times you eat per day, the more calories you burn if the amount of food is kept constant. This is due to the energy cost of digestion.

However, you need to be careful with this aspect. Doubling the amount of food you eat to burn 50 extra calories digesting it is not a good idea. Your recent nutrition will also affect your metabolism, long periods of under eating decreases metabolism and long periods of overeating increases it.

Temperature of Liquids Consumed – Very Cold liquid if consumed in large amounts uses energy to raise your body temperature. For most this is impractical.


At a practical level it is not so easy to change many of the above elements. You could stand up at work more, lower the office temperature and not wear a jumper but then you may find your work performance suffers because you are not comfortable and feel cold.

You could walk everywhere carrying a 10kg weight vest or you could leave a note to fidget more. All of this is much harder to do in comparison to just doing the obvious ways to burn more calories which are:

Exercise – Doing exercise takes energy, the longer you do it the more calories you burn. In general aerobic exercise burns more calories than resistance. Harder exercise burns more calories per minute than easier exercise but you need to consider how many minutes of each you can do.

Exercise – EPOC – While calories are burnt while exercising you also burn extra energy following an exercise session. A hard exercise session can increase calorie burn for the next 24 hours(14). In general, the harder the exercise, the greater the extra energy expenditure will be after the session. It is best to view the exercise session and EPOC together to for fair evaluation of the overall calorie burn when comparing different exercise types. 

Movement – This refers to how much you move about in life, e.g. walking steps, cycling places etc. This can come from a focused effort like going for a walk or as a natural consequence of your lifestyle, e.g. a postman would walk much further than an office worker in a typical day. Walking offers a huge calorie burn opportunity as you can walk large distances if have the time without injury.

Activities – Any activity that engages your brain, involves moving in some form or gets you up on your feet will burn calories more than the nations favourite activity of watching TV or Netflix. Almost any hobby would come under this category.


With this knowledge in hand you can now think of how to increase your energy expenditure. In a future emails I will write about all the factors that affect food intake and the psychology behind changing both of these factors. 


Photo – Apps that can help with energy balance awareness  –


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