Let’s face facts, we all want to look good.  One of the hardest parts of building a big squat, bench and deadlift is gaining weight and thus not looking as good as possible.  So logically, the question arises, “how many calories does strength training burn?”

Whether you want to lose weight via just strength training, which can be done.  Or you just want to build as much strength without gaining too much fat; strength training AND nutrition should be a staple in the program of every lifter and fitness enthusiast.  

For those of you in a hurry, you can very easily calculate how many calories you burn during a workout using this equation:

0.086 (Weight Lifting Constant) X (Weight In Kilograms) X (Minutes In Gym)

That’s it!

Let’s do an example just to make sure you got it down. 

The following example is for an adult male who weighs 190 lbs (86 kg) and lifts weights for 1 hour (60 minutes):

0.086 X 86 kg X 60 min = ~444 calories

Pretty simple and an invaluable source of information if you are serious about your health and fitness.  

Why Should You Care About Your Calories?

A calorie is a unit of measure.  It is simply the amount of energy it takes to raise the temperature of 1 liter of water by one degree Celsius.  Believe it or not they actually light the food on fire to calculate this.  

Check it out in this video:

Your body gets energy from calories and if you eat too much, then you will gain weight.  We all know this. 

But if you start to gain too much weight, then you will put your health in great risk.  

In a sport perspective, you will lose relative strength and your speed on the court, or field, will slow down.

From a fitness perspective, you will start to get soft and lose definition.  Think of the “jacked” fat guy.  

A lot of this is common knowledge, but what if there was a way to keep lifting weights, making gains and still keep yourself lean and good looking? 

How To Lose Weight And Still Look Good

Looking Good

There is a common fallacy among the overly marketed world of fitness that you can somehow build muscle and lose weight a the same time.  That is total BS!

While you are dieting, you are going to be taking in less calories than you burn.  This means you will be on a caloric deficit (think of economics).  

With a deficit, there are not going to be enough resources to build new muscle tissue, so your body will not build new muscle per se.  

But…. you can still get stronger.  How does that work?

How Our Bodies Build Strength

There are two main mechanisms that allow our bodies to build strength.  One is muscular and the other is neurological.  

Muscular adaptations come in the form of hypertrophy (increasing the size of the muscle).  In order for this to happen, your body needs a caloric surplus.  So we already know this is going to be inhibited when dieting.  

But what about the other form of adaptation.  Neurological adaptations come from the motor patterns of the exercise you are performing.  

In a nutshell, when you are performing an exercise, you are performing a movement pattern.  These patterns are stored in the brain (cerebellum) and are strengthened with repetition. 

As the movement pattern gets stronger, the nervous system conducts the movement with greater speed and quality.  Thus, you get stronger.  

Fortunately, this form of strength is not affected as much by a caloric deficit.  So you can still build some strength while dieting.  But just to be clear, the strength gains are going to be minimal compared to that of a caloric surplus.  

How To Apply The Workout Equation To Your Goals

So how does the equation in the introduction actually work?  How can it help you achieve your goals?  

Diet Program

The key to the formula is to subtract the amount of calories you get, as a result, from the total number of calories you eat per day.  So all you have to do is add them to your total caloric intake.  

Let’s go over an example:

Using our previous example from the introduction, let’s say that you burn around 444 calories during a 60 minute strength training session.  And let’s say that your on a 2,000 calorie/day diet.  

All you do is add the number of calories from the above equation to your total caloric intake.  In this example, add 444 calories to 2,000 to get 2,444 calories/day. 

444 calories/workout + 2,000 calories/day = 2,444 calories/day total

The new number you get is the total amount of calories you need to eat per day to neither gain nor lose weight, aka it’s the fulcrum.  Eat more than this and you gain weight, eat less and you lose weight.

How Many Calories Above/Below The Fulcrum Should I Eat?

Caloric Fulcrum

If you want to gain weight, you should aim to eat about 500 calories more per day and if weight loss is your goal, then eat 500 calories less than the fulcrum.  

Again if we look at our example:

To gain weight:

2,444 calories/day + 500 calories = 2,944 calories/day

To lose weight:

2,444 calories/day – 500 calories = 1,944 calories/day

Simple enough right?

How Quickly Will I Gain Or Lose Weight?

Unfortunately, this approach is not the quickest for either losing or gaining weight.  But it is the most effective and credible.  There is a lot of research to back up this approach from many different third party sources.

Check out this study comparing different popular diets with their total weight loss results for a year.  It will surprise you.  

But at most, you will only gain, or lose, about 1 lbs of muscle/fat per week.  

If you increase/decrease the calories to 1,000, then you can increase this number to 2 lbs per week.  But be careful with this approach, it can be a bit too much for some and it is tough to maintain for long term progress.  

Staying in the 500 calories range seems to work best for most individuals.  So I would stick with this.  

Other than that it is just a game of maintaining your numbers and waiting it out.  The results come naturally.  

Conclusion

With all of this said, you have to actually stick to your diet program for a prolonged duration until you reach your target weight.  

So make sure you pick a diet plan that you enjoy.  

In the first few weeks you will lose much more than one pound per week.  This is merely fluid shifting and water weight.  

When you first start dieting you will start burning your glycogen stores and every 3 grams of glycogen is stored with 1 liter of water.  So most of that weight is water weight.  Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

But there you have it.  Now you make more accurate measurements because you can base your calories off of a reliable model instead of just guessing.  

Good Luck!

P.S. If you enjoyed this article I would greatly appreciate it if you would share this article and help spread our mission for more common sense training.  It wouldn’t just make my day, it would make my week!

Cheers!  


Tony G
Tony G

Anthony is a fan of all things gym related. Growing up very overweight and out of shape, Anthony whipped himself into shape and stunned his entire community becoming a "fitness guru". Tony then set his sights on strength sports (Weightlifting/Powerlifting/Strongman) and learned all about body mechanics, mobility work and injury prevention. Tony found his true love in the strength sports, particularly Olympic Weightlifting. He earned a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree from Fitchburg State University in Exercise and Sports Science. He is also a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the NSCA.

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