Is It Safe and Healthy to Burn 1,000 Calories a Day?

Smiling woman doing sit-ups in gymnasium
Working out is just one way to burn calories. (Image: Robert Daly/OJO Images/Getty Images)

Most adults easily burn 1,000 calories per day even without movement. Your body is constantly working behind the scenes -- pumping blood, running internal organs and taking in oxygen. These necessary functions use energy or calories; the calories burned through them are known as your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Your BMR accounts for 60 to 75 percent of the total calories you burn daily. How many additional calories you burn through daily activity, such as showering and washing dishes, as well as through exercise, is up to you. Depending on your size and fitness level, burning 1,000 calories in addition to your BMR is also quite possible and safe to do every day.

Metabolism Breakdown Basics

Calories you burn over and beyond your BMR come from formal exercise as well as household chores and minor movement, such as fidgeting, This activity accounts for 15 to 30 percent of your total calories burned daily. Digestion also uses some calories, known as the thermic effect of food, and it accounts for another 10 percent of your daily calories burned.

Your BMR is hard to change as it's set by genetics and also by your size; a larger person uses a lot more calories throughout the day than a smaller one. Gaining muscle and displacing fat can change your BMR, because muscle requires more energy to sustain. A body with more muscle burns more calories than one that has more fat, if all other factors are equal. Severe calorie restriction can also reduce your BMR, because your body conserves energy when it senses starvation.

These changes to BMR happen over time, and it's unlikely you could raise it by 1,000 calories total. Adding more movement during the day does offer an immediate metabolic boost, however. For most people, burning an additional 1,000 calories through activity is possible and healthy.

Burning 1,000 Calories Through Daily Exercise

One way to boost your daily calorie burn is to include more formal exercise. Larger individuals can pretty readily burn 1,000 calories per day through exercise. Smaller-framed people might find burning 1,000 calories per day -- every day -- through exercise challenging, however. For example, it would take a 125-pound person almost 2 hours of pedaling on the elliptical trainer or 1 hour and 40 minutes of running at a 6 mph pace to burn 1,000 calories. A 185-pound person, though, would burn 1,000 calories in just 75 minutes on the elliptical or a little over an hour running at a 6-mph pace.

Of course, these durations are more than double the 150-minute-per-week recommendation for minimal physical activity put forth by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC notes, though, that going beyond the 150-minute recommendation affords numerous benefits. The American College of Sports Medicine asserts that burning in excess of 2,000 calories through as much as 5 hours of exercise weekly promotes weight loss. To burn 1,000 calories, some people would need to exercise more like 7 or 8 hours weekly, which is still perfectly healthy. More petite people, however, will find burning 1,000 calories through exercise alone quite time consuming and exhausting.

Build Up to More Exercise

Going immediately from coach-potato status to burning 1,000 calories per day is not advised. Be realistic about your current fitness level before you embark on a program. Endurance athletes, such as those training for long-course triathlon or ultra marathons, do put in 1,000-calories worth of training -- or more -- on most days. These individuals work up to these levels of exercise, though, and take time in the off-season to exercise more moderately.

Also, evaluate how much time you have to devote to exercise. If you have a demanding job and busy family life, you may not be able to carve out 2 or 3 hours per day for exercise. If you skimp on sleep to squeeze in time for extra exercise, you may do yourself more harm than good. You'll lack the energy to maximize your burn. A study published in the Journal of Sleep Medicine in 2013 found that good sleep positively influences the next day's exercise performance. Not getting enough sleep also raises your body's production of hunger hormones, so you end up eating more. When you're sleepy, you're more likely to reach for calorie-ridden energy drinks to get through your day too.

Other Ways to Safely Burn More Calories

Instead of relying on exercise alone to boost your burn, consider how you could benefit from NEAT, or non-exercise thermogenesis. NEAT refers to any calorie-burning activity that is not formal exercise. This includes walking, doing household chores, fidgeting and showering.

Modern conveniences, from cars to computers, rob you of daily activities that burn calories. Walk to the store, doctor or school -- if possible. At work, pace while you're on the phone and stroll down the hall to ask a colleague a question, rather than send an email. Do a brief walk after breakfast, one at lunch and one after dinner to connect with your family. Clean your house, do laundry and wash your car. All of these activities seem small, but the calorie burn adds up easily to 500 or more per day.

If you can burn 500 calories or more through non-exercise activity and another 500 through exercise -- you've easily achieved a 1,000-calorie daily burn in addition to your BMR without over-stressing your body.

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