Getting your metabolism to fire so you burn 2,000 calories per day is quite achievable, especially if you're a moderately-active healthy adult. Your body uses calories for basic biological activity, such as breathing and pumping blood. Add the calories required to function in daily life -- such as walking to your car in the parking lot, grocery shopping and showering -- and any exercise you do, and there's a good chance your metabolism will surpass the 2,000-calorie mark. However, burning an extra 2,000 calories -- in addition to those you use for daily living -- is not something the average person should attempt every day, because it requires the training and exertion levels usually reserved for athletes. Always check with your doctor before beginning an exercise program.
Average Calorie Burn Estimates
The number of calories you burn per day depends on a number of factors, including your age, gender, size, activity and genetics. The average adult burns between 1,600 and 3,000 calories per day. Sedentary, small in stature and older women fall into the lower end of the range. Tall or stocky young men who exercise regularly may even exceed the 3,000 calorie-per-day burn rate.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration set 2,000 calories per day as the standard for nutrient reporting on food labels. This is the amount the U.S. Department of Agriculture 2010 guidelines estimates is burned by the average moderately active, adult woman. New York University Professor in the Department of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health, Marion Nestle, notes that the actual average is closer to 2,400 for women -- and as much as 3,050 calories for men.
These estimates of average calorie burn show that it's quite easy to reach 2,000 calories per day as long as you're moderately active, which means you move the equivalent of walking 1.5 to 3 miles per day in addition to your regular daily life activity.
Serious Exercise to Burn 2,000 Calories Per Day
Exercise the equivalent of 150-minutes per week of moderate intensity, such as brisk walking or water aerobics done 30 minutes per day, five times per week only burns around 178 calories per session for a 185-pound person. If you're smaller, it burns even fewer calories.
To burn 2,000 calories per day, you need to exercise for a longer duration and at a greater intensity. A runner who weighs 155 pounds and goes at a swift pace of 7.5 mph burns 465 calories per half-hour; it'll take him 2 1/2 hours of running at this intensity to burn 2,000 calories. Running a marathon, competing in an Ironman or half-Ironman triathlon, hiking a fourteener, or other exercise that requires four or more hours of consistent work is likely to burn 2,000 calories for most people. A "big" training day for one of these events, such as a 20-mile run or 6-hour bike ride, could also burn 2,000 calories.
Entering the Realm of Olympians
Some elite athletes may easily burn 2,000 calories in activity daily. Olympians, for example, train for several hours per day. But not all of these athletes burn 2,000 calories a day in addition to normal activity. Endurance athletes in cycling, rowing and running as well as team athletes in activities such as soccer or basketball tend to burn the most daily and need to eat between 3,000 and 8,000 calories to maintain their weight and energy, reported National Public Radio in 2012. Other athletes, including those involved in strength sports such as shot put and weight lifting who require short bursts of energy, or aesthetic sports such as diving and gymnastics who need to maintain a light, lean frame, tend to burn fewer calories and do not often exceed 2,000 calories in activity per day.
How You Can Burn 2,000 Calories
Instead of trying to burn 2,000 calories in a day, aim for a more realistic burn of 2,000 calories over the course of several days or a week. To lose significant weight, the American College on Exercise notes you must exceed 250 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week. If you're 185 pounds and walking briskly for 250 minutes per week, you'll burn only 1,483 calories per week. To burn 2,000 calories in a week with this intensity of exercise, you'll need 337 minutes of exercise per week, or 48 minutes every day, to achieve it. If you participate in more-intense exercise, you can spend less time exercising. For example, if you weight 155 pounds and work out on the elliptical machine at the gym, you'll burn approximately 335 calories in 30 minutes. It'll take you about three hours to burn a total of 2,000 calories.
- Harvard Health Publications: Calories Burned in 30 Minutes for People of Three Different Weights
- American College of Sports Medicine: ACSM Position Stand on Physical Activity and Weight Loss Now Available
- National Public Radio: How Many Calories Do Olympic Athletes Need? It Depends
- Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010: Balancing Calories to Manage Weight
- The Atlantic: Why Calories Count: The Problem With Dietary-Intake Studies