Training and caloric expenditure

My workout

Published on 27 February 2020
by Jean-Denis Thomson

Training and caloric expenditure


Just how complicated is the process of losing weight? In theory, weight loss is simple. It’s all about consuming fewer calories than the amount that you burn on a weekly basis. While this may be straightforward, it really is key to the weight loss process.


This notion is backed up by the following calculation: if you consume 2,000 calories in your day and burn 2,500 calories, this 500-calorie deficit will see you weigh in one pound lighter after seven days. It’s all in the math!


It should be said that healthy weight loss varies from one to two pounds per week and is achieved through a combination of increased energy expenditure and reduced caloric intake. In other words, you just need to work out and eat healthy. It’s also important to maintain a balanced diet to provide the nutrients, vitamins and minerals your body needs to function properly.

The role of basal metabolism

Basal metabolism is the minimum amount of energy required to maintain the body’s vital functions.

It accounts for approximately 60–75%[1] of daily energy expenditure. The following variables influence basal metabolism:

  • Lean body mass (muscles): Each pound of muscle gained corresponds to a daily increase in caloric expenditure of approximately 15 kcal.
  • Body surface area: The larger the body surface, the greater the heat loss, which increases basal metabolism.
  • Age: Basal metabolism drops with age. This decrease equates to about 5% per decade from age 25 up. 
  • Stress: Nervous system activity also increases basal metabolism.
  • Hormones: Adrenaline (an arousal hormone) and thyroxine (a hormone produced by the thyroid gland) increase basal metabolism.

Add all your daily physical activities to your basal metabolism and you will get your daily energy expenditure.

So knowing your daily energy expenditure by including basal metabolism is a great way of keeping your weight under control. If you know how much energy your body uses while resting and during physical activities, it will be easier to adjust your required caloric intake and achieve your goals.

Gym training and caloric expenditure

Cardiovascular training is key to losing weight as it burns a lot of calories. And the better your cardiovascular fitness level, the more calories you burn each training. It is therefore important to focus most of your workout on cardiovascular fitness. The Adaptive Motion Trainer (AMT), treadmill, bike, stepper and elliptical are great machines for reaching your goal.

Strength training is also essential to cardiovascular fitness. Using machines, dumbbells and pulleys during strength training increases your maximum strength and maintains muscle mass.


Cardiovascular training is a must

Benefits of improved cardiovascular fitness

Well aware that humans need oxygen to move and live, researchers have quantified oxygen consumption using the following determinant: VO2/kg/min. This represents the volume of oxygen (O2) consumed in millilitres (mL) based on the weight of the person (kg) for a given period (min).

Oxygen consumption varies from person to person for the same activity. What’s more, the greater the effort, the more oxygen that is consumed. The maximum volume of oxygen consumption is referred to as VO2 max.

Let’s compare two subjects during the same activity, in this example, a 30-minute bike workout. The first subject (80 kg) has trained regularly over many years and has a VO2 max of 60 mL O2/kg/minute. The second subject (80 kg) is less active and has a VO2 max of 28 mL O2/kg/minute—half that of the other subject.

Therefore, Subject 1 who trains at 75% of their maximum capacity will consume 45 mL O2/kg/minute while Subject 2 training at the same intensity will consume 21 mL O2/kg/minute. Who do you think will burn the most calories over the same period? Answer: Subject 1, because, the greater the oxygen consumption, the higher the caloric expenditure. The math is simple: (45 mL O2 x 80 kg x 30 min)/1000 (convert the millilitres into litres) = 108 litres of oxygen consumed. One litre of oxygen is equal to 5 kcal. So Subject 1 will have burned 540 kcal in 30 minutes while Subject 2, who has an inferior VO2 max will have burned 336 kcal.

Therefore, it is important to improve your cardiovascular fitness so you can burn more calories on a daily basis and during each training. 

Interval training—a winning solution

In most cases, interval training is an effective method when wanting to burn calories. This type of training is extremely motivating, easily applied to all gyms and improves VO2 max. Here are the steps to follow in a typical workout:

  • Exercise interval time: 30 seconds
  • Exercise interval intensity: 100% of VO2 max
  • Recovery interval time: 290 seconds
  • Recovery interval intensity: 40% of VO2 max
  • Number of reps/sets: 5 reps
  • Number of sets: 2
  • Recovery interval time between sets: 4 minutes 
  • Workout time: 33 minutes

A personal trainer or a kinesiologist specialized in training can customize, adjust and/or review the intensity of your training.


Cardiovascular machine:


The AMT is an effective machine due to its lack of impact on the body and the three different movements it offers. It is intended for people wanting to reproduce a cross-country skiing movement, which works both the arms and legs and burns more calories in the process. 


  • Starting position: Place your feet in the centre of the pedals and grip the handles. Keep your body straight.
  • Action: mimic a walking or running motion.
  • Main muscles involved: quads, glutes, calves, lats and biceps.

Finally, let’s say you double your muscle strength in the future... just imagine how easy daily activities will become. Take this simple example: you can only complete one elbow curl with a 20-lb barbell. When you pick up your grocery bag (18 lb), you use 90% of your maximum load. Through regular and planned training, you increase your 1RM (one-rep maximum) to 40 lb. Next time you lift your grocery bag, you’ll use 50% of your maximum load. AWESOME!


Circuit training burns calories

Circuit training is a simple and efficient method suitable for both beginner and experienced gym-goers.

The training circuit consists of four to eight exercises mainly targeting large muscles.

Do the complex exercises focusing on large muscles (quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes, chest, back, etc.) at the beginning of your circuit and finish with the exercises targeting the smallest muscles (deltoids, triceps, biceps, etc.).

Do a set of 8–15 repetitions per exercise. Quickly change exercises to eliminate recovery time. Repeat the circuit to increase the duration and intensity of your workout. Be careful not to burn yourself out during the exercises.

Muscle exercises: Here are six exercises to integrate into your circuit training:

  • Exercise 1: Squat
  • Exercise 2: Lunge
  • Exercise 3: Bench press
  • Exercise 4: Trunk curl on a stabilization ball
  • Exercise 5: Low-pulley rower machine reps
  • Exercise 6: Military press using small dumbbells


The combination of a healthy diet and gym training is a great way to achieve healthy weight loss. Training burns calories while maintaining muscle mass. Discipline and progress are also key elements for getting fit and healthy. The ultimate goal of this “training and healthy diet” combo is to reduce your weight and body fat. In other words, get a whole new body!  



[1] McCardle, Katch and Katch, Exercise Physiology, 2007



Jean-Denis Thomson
Kinesiologist, Training Department Director