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What's the Diff: Total Calorie Burn and Net Calorie Burn

What's the Diff: Total Calorie Burn and Net Calorie Burn

Although fitness is about moving your body, there is an awful lot of jargon to follow. One seriously good side effect of exercising regularly is burning calories. But do you understand the difference between total calorie burn (TCB) and net calorie burn (NCB)?


Let's start with TCB; it refers to the number of calories you burn during exercise plus the calories your body would burn naturally just from living, even if you're just sitting on the couch all day. The readouts on cardio machines usually refer to this number.

On the other hand, NCB refers only to the number of calories burned during exercise. To calculate the NCB of a 3-mile run, you take the TCB and subtract the amount of metabolic calories your body would burn while sedentary. To do this you need to know what your daily metabolic calorie burn is. While there is little gadget that calculates the amount of calories you burn at rest – you breathe into it for about 15 minutes after fasting for 12 hours (I did this when I visited a nutritionist) – most of us don't have access to this nifty machine. You can use this basic formula: Multiply 12 calories times the number of pounds you weigh. That means a 130 pound woman burns about 1,560 calories a day just with normal activity (65 calories per hour).

So what does this have to do with losing weight? To find out read more.

NCB is rarely mentioned, let alone displayed on the readout of your cardio machine stats post workout because it's a smaller number and we like to think we are burning large amounts of calories. It is kind of like the inverse of "vanity sizing." The TCB figure is misleading though; a post-workout summary might say you burned 450 calories by running for three miles (at 6.3 mph/9:30 minute miles), but in reality, your body actually only burned about 418 net calories (or extra calories). It's not a huge difference, but working with just the TCB illustrates one reason people have trouble losing weight, since they think they're burning more calories than they really are. So keep this in mind if you're trying to shape up for Summer. You may need to work out longer and more often than you think.

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