While on a recent conference in Orlando, I made sure to keep up with my exercise. I visited the hotel’s gym that offered everything from free weights and machines to cardio equipment. While using the treadmill, I simply hit the ‘manual’ choice and began a 30 minute plan that included a mix of incline walking to level running. As I approached the end of my workout I noticed that the caloric burn read 267 calories. I knew right away that it was inaccurate.
This lead me to wonder how often people use these machines, believing they are burning off more than they really are. I also knew that there were probably a lot of these same people proceeding to go about their day thinking they could now consume that much more without any negative effect on their weight. I’ve often overheard people throughout the years coming out of a tough workout saying that they now planned on eating their favorite desert without guilt.
Here’s the problem. In past columns, I’ve written about common exercises and how many calories an average 150 pound person would burn during a thirty minute workout on a bike or running on a treadmill. It’s not 267. It’s more like 100 to 150 at most, depending on level of intensity.
And that’s not all it would depend on. The fact is everyone burns calories at different rates depending on their metabolism, present weight, and body composition. With metabolism being the most important factor, your age, gender, weight, hormone function, and body composition (ratio of fat to lean muscle) all affect your metabolism and how efficient you burn energy. This being said, there is no way a treadmill or other gadget is going to be able to give you accurate readings on caloric burn without presetting some of these factors into the gadget itself. Some equipment and gadgets do allow you to do this and may be a little more reliable, but never exact.
The take away here is this. If weight loss or maintenance is one of your goals, never plan to ‘eat back’ what you burn. Just stay consistent with healthy food choices and exercise regularly…on vacation or not.