Skip Nav
Beginner Fitness Tips
Do This 5-Move Halloween-Themed Circuit For a Killer Workout
Body Positivity
Badass Woman's Response to the Man Who Fat Shamed Her For Running in a Sports Bra
Noosa Sees Your Regular Yogurt and Raises You This Pumpkin Pie Heaven in a Cup

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


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.


aimeeb aimeeb 9 years
JSmithPI JSmithPI 9 years
Fitsugar, Thanks for the clarification and correction! There are a lot of nutritionists and health "experts" out their with iffy agendas, but apparently you aren't one of them. I really appreciate your response, and the article makes a great point many people don't consider when having that "reward" Snickers! =)
Fitness Fitness 9 years
Hey JSmithPL - thanks for being so on top of it. The article I got my info from said that a woman would burn 91 net calories per mile. I realized they didn't mention the weight of the woman though. :) So I changed the number in my post to reflect a 130 pound woman. Thanks again.
JSmithPI JSmithPI 9 years
I just saw this article a couple minutes ago, and I can't believe it took the ninth comment before people started calling her out on blatant scare-mongering. I'm a 204-pound man, which by the x12 metabolic burn means I consume 1.7 calories/minute. If I ran for 28.5 minutes as in the example, my base burn would be 48.45 calories. 450 - 48.45 = 401.55. That's for ME. The 130-pound woman alluded to in this article burns 1.083 calories/minute, and thus her differential is 30.8655, meaning she still burned an extra 419.1345. Please ignore this blogger and just use your own head.
lmainer lmainer 9 years
tbsmith, i was gonna say the same thing, no one burns 177 calories at rest in a half an hour... the real calorie burn (net) would be closer to 400 in reality, maybe even a little higher.
tbsmith tbsmith 9 years
While this is a useful correction, the example given grossly overstates the correction. By my calculation to consume 177 at rest calories in about 1/2 hour (3 miles at 9:30 min miles) would imply a total body weight of close to 750 lbs. Few people who weigh 750 lbs can run a 9:30 min mile. A more reasonable correction from TCB to NCB is on order 40 calories for those that can run at this speed.
Spectra Spectra 9 years
I never put much stock in the calorie-burned estimates from different cardio machines or anything like that. They always grossly overestimate how much you burn. NCB is a lot more accurate than TCB, especially since everyone's base metabolism's different.
rpenner rpenner 9 years
Wow, I had no idea!! Thanks for the information
ElectroPopTart ElectroPopTart 9 years
Wow, this is something totally new to me...a real bummer actually. I usually have a read out of 420 calories on the treadmil. What a shame!
Renees3 Renees3 9 years
Cardio machines are almost always wrong anyway, so I never listen to those. This all makes sense, but personally isn't that important. I keep track of what I eat, how much I work out (I use a HR monitor) and base things off that. I don't think people should work out Harder or Longer just because their NET calories is less than their total calories. Calories are calories no matter how you burn them. Burn more than you take in.
gabiushka gabiushka 9 years
Great post
teacherturtle1 teacherturtle1 9 years
wow, this is a good info on how to more accurately determine what's going on with our "net" rate of burning energy. hopefully people don't read this article, and over do it with their workouts... but it's good to see how in the long run, we are good in maintaining active in life.
Kellyim Kellyim 9 years
That's interesting. I wonder if the websites where you can enter in your weight and the activity you did to get calories burned gives you TCB or NCB? Probably TCB.
cereal_please cereal_please 9 years
I would much rather try that thing you breathe into, just because I'm convinced that my TCB is less than what I calculated it to be.. otherwise I wouldn't be gaining weight.
David Kirsch Workout Tips
How to Foam Roll
Alessandra Ambrosio's Best Workout Outfits
Ax Throwing
From Our Partners
Latest Fitness
All the Latest From Ryan Reynolds