Why Do I Burn Less Calories Than Other People?

By February 19, 2013

I do a one hour boot camp class workout 2-3 days a week. It’s very intense, and I wear a heart rate monitor that tells me my total calories burned. I also run/strength train 2-3 days a week on days that I don’t do boot camp. I usually rest one day a week from exercise. I am 5’4″ and weigh ***lbs. I recently noticed that my total calories burned during my boot camp class is usually about *** calories total. I mentioned in class my calorie total, and everyone was surprised because they usually burn at least twice as many calories. Why would I burn a lot less calories than everyone else? Someone thought maybe I don’t take in enough calories or eat enough. Can you shed some light on this?

Dear Visitor,

It is difficult to answer your question without knowing how much you are eating.  Calories burned through exercise is not an exact science, and heart rate monitors are not necessarily accurate. 

When one eats too little, the body can compensate and conserve calories to fuel the vital organs.  Most people don’t realize that the Resting Metabolic Rate is the number of calories needed for the organs to function if one was simply sitting all day. When you don’t eat enough and exercise too much, the body needs to figure out how to supply the organs with fuel, and all organs, including the muscles, have less energy to burn.

A more important point is to think about the purpose of the boot camp and ask yourself why you need to know the calories you are burning. Exercise should be for fitness and fun. Eating should be for nourishment and fun. The balance occurs when you take care of yourself by eating a wide variety of foods throughout the day to satisfy hunger and your nutritional needs, and you use activity for fitness, stress relief and fun.

Everyone’s nutritional needs are different, but most young adults need a minimum of 6 ounces of protein food, 6 servings of grains, 3 servings of dairy, and 5 servings of fruits and vegetables.  Please hear me–this is minimum. With exercise, this is definitely not enough.

How does your intake compare?

Eileen Stellefson Myers, MPH, RD, LDN, FADA