You step off the elliptical machine, sweaty and winded, and glance at the screen. According to the machine, you’ve just burned 450 calories! Or did you? How would the machine know, anyway?
Those machines at the gym are programmed to calculate, according to things like your speed, the average amount of calories that you probably burned. These figures are based upon trials in which a number of participants are hooked up to a device which measures their calorie usage. As the participants use machines like stationary bicycles and ellipticals, their energy output is measured and then averaged. The makers of the machines use that data to program them.
So if you use an elliptical machine for thirty minutes, your “calories burned” are based upon the averages of those study participants.
Unless you are very average in your body size, state of endurance, muscle to fat ratios, and many other factors, chances are good that you actually burned more or less calories than what the screen is telling you. The difference might only be negligible, or in some cases it is significant. If you’re in excellent shape, you don’t have to put forth nearly as much effort to use that machine for thirty minutes. If you’ve never worked out a day in your life, exercising for the first time will obviously require much more effort (and energy).
Of course, you probably fall somewhere in between those two extremes. But the point we’re making is that you can’t count on that number to be exact. If you do, you could make the mistake of overestimating how many calories you’ve burned, and adjust your calorie intake accordingly. You wouldn’t be the first person to say, “I just burned 700 calories on that rowing machine; I can have pizza and a milkshake tonight!” If you really only burned 400 calories, and you go out for a 2,000-calorie meal, you haven’t exactly done yourself any favors.
That’s why we recommend that you focus on a healthy weight loss diet (or maintenance diet, if you’re already at your desired weight), and regular exercise that you enjoy. Don’t try to play the numbers game, or you could be gambling with your results.
For more information on that weight loss diet, give us a call. We can assess your dietary needs and customize a plan to help you meet your goals.