Odds are that if you have decided to embark on the journey that is improving your own health and wellness, you have become more than familiar with the term “calories”. Whether it be calories consumed, calories burned, calories in, or calories out, your life has recently become centered around this tiny measurement of energy. This is likely because you have also figured out that the most basic principle of losing weight or gaining weight is to burn more calories than you consume, or vice versa, on a daily basis.
So now you may be asking the question, “how many calories am I burning?” “How can I keep track of the amount of energy I am expending while performing my rigorous leg routine?” Well my friend, the act of measuring the calories you expend during a weight lifting session to any degree of specificity can be a challenging one! However, the answer to your question is quite simple: don’t worry about it.
Variability and Consistency
Aside from the golden principle of weight control that is “calories in versus calories out” there are a few other keys to success. These include limited variability and consistency. Hopefully if you have decided to try and add or drop a few pounds, you have adapted a diet that has you consuming a measurable amount of calories day in and day out, and hopefully you know to a certain degree of accuracy how many calories that is. I will also assume that you have begun a structured workout routine that has you lifting weights for a set number of exercises per day and days per week. Congratulations, you are well on your way!
Because you are specific with your calories consumed and consistent with your workout routine, you can focus less time worrying about irrelevant specifics such as “how many calories am I burning during weight lifting?” because these problems will take care of themselves. What I mean is, without knowing the literal number of calories burned during a weight lifting session, you can still judge your progress based upon your rate of weight change and adjust your daily energy expenditure accordingly.
Weigh and Measure
So assume that you consume the same number of calories each day for two weeks. During this two week period, you also perform a structured weight lifting routine. At the end of this two week period, you measure your bodyweight and note that you have lost two pounds. This tells you that the amount of energy you are expending during your weight lifting session (in other words, the amount of calories burned) is sufficient enough to put your body into a caloric deficit based on the amount of calories you are consuming on a daily basis! Therefore, there is no need for adjustments at this time so long as weight loss is your overall goal.
On the flip side, assume that after two weeks time your bodyweight has not changed. This is a good sign that your weight training sessions alone are not burning as many calories as you are eating throughout the week. Based on this outcome, you now know that you need to either increase your daily activity (possibly in the form of longer or more intense weight training sessions) or reduce the amount of calories you are consuming in order to further progress towards your goal of weight loss.
In contrast, if your goal is to gain weight, then the opposite is true. Obviously reducing the amount of physical activity you perform inside the gym is probably not conducive to muscle building, so an increase in calories consumed is in order! As you can see, it is possible to determine whether or not your energy expenditure is supportive of your goal based upon factors that are much easier to measure such as your daily body weight.
More Efficient Methods of Burning Calories
Another important element that I feel should be mentioned here is that if you are attempting to place yourself in a caloric deficit via physical activity, there are much more efficient ways to do so. Cardiovascular training such as walking on a treadmill, climbing stairs on a step mill, jogging outside, or swimming can be much more efficient at burning calories as well as much easier to measure in terms of calories burned!
Rather than becoming focused on the amount of calories burned during your weight training session, utilize this time for what it does best: building lean muscle. Weight training can help to ensure that the pounds you are dropping while in a caloric deficit are comprised mostly of excess body fat as well as give a nice boost in metabolism even after you leave the gym!
As for expending excess energy, try adding in one or two cardio sessions into your routine. A brisk 30 minute walk on a treadmill is much more efficient at burning calories than a 30 minute weight training session and will eliminate several variables associated with weight training such the types of exercises being performed, compound versus isolation movements, intensity of the workout session, amount of rest time taken, etc. Instead, find a pace and incline that you can semi-comfortably perform on the treadmill for 20-30 minutes and knock it out! Most machines even have a built in feature to display the amount of calories burned during your cardio session. This can be a great way to quantify the amount of cardio you are doing and make adjustments as needed.
Similar to before, if your weight is not going down over time and your goal is to lose weight, then you can deduct that you need to increase the calories burned during your cardio sessions… or eat less food, but who wants to do that?
If for some reason you are still concerned with the amount of calories you are burning during your weight training sessions, there are tons of electronic devices that you can wear during workouts that will give some estimation of the energy you have expended by way of measuring heart rate and other factors. However, these are just as I stated: rough estimations.
As long as you know the amount of food you are eating daily, and you know that your workout routine is structured, you can determine whether or not you need to be eating more or less food based on the data you collect from the bodyweight scale. From there, adjust your daily activity levels accordingly, and continue your progress without stressing over the tiny details that don’t matter!