500 Calories in 30 Minutes? Forget About It

Everytime I see some “500 calories in 30 minutes” claim it really makes my blood boil. It’s a complete scam. For most people, their bodies are not physiologically capable of burning calories at that rate, no matter how hard they work at it.

Normally, I wouldn’t spread this kind of information but I’ll go ahead and give you the link. It’s an article from Shape magazine: 5 Ways to Burn 500 Calories in 30 Minutes
I’m very dismayed to see that an NASM trainer put his name to this as he should know MUCH better.

The amount of calories your body can burn greatly depends on how efficiently your heart can pump blood through your lungs to be oxygenated. The heart of a highly-conditioned athlete can pump a greater volume of blood with fewer beats and can beat at a higher rate for longer. If you can’t do that, there’s no way that you’re reaching 17 calories per minute consistently for 30 minutes.

I’ve known of some guys in their twenties, over 300 to 350lbs, who could get their calorie burn up pretty high, as logged by a BodyBugg. This was AFTER they’d been doing a regular exercise regimen long enough that they could maintain a steady pace, even if it wasn’t vigorous. A very large person might burn what seems like a high rate of calories because they are moving a larger body mass but they can’t maintain a steady pace of physical activity.

I work out regularly and I am fortunate to have developed excellent cardio health. My resting heart rate is in the 50s and I can easily work out with my heart rate up at 150. But I know from using the BodyBugg that my per minute calorie burn is about 6-8 calories MAXIMUM. For me to go beyond that, I might have to undertake very extreme physical conditioning to see if I can push myself to another level.

I really have to laugh at the photo that accompanies the article—the happy rope jumper!! JUST TRY to jump rope for 30 minutes. JUST TRY to jump rope for a consistent minute or two. Your body’s capacity for burning calories depends on many factors including your height and weight, age, gender, and to a great degree, your cardiovascular efficiency. 500 calories in 30 minutes? It’s just media misinformation to get your attention.


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  1. I am curious WHAT is the HIGHEST rate one can burn calories at?

    I am not sweating again. I am not sure what to make of it. Even after walking around a bunch for me.

    One thing I want to know, does being cold burn more calories? I had the smart idea to turn down the heat to just tolerable levels but usually give in after shivering too much. I am always so cold it’s driving me mad.

    I think they should do studies seeing how many calories are being burnt off in a human body. Can they even measure that?

    I of course think calories are a myth remember :p

    1. The body is like a car. Our breath is essentially the exhaust of metabolic processes. A test subject gets on a treadmill wearing a mask to capture their breath. The Respiratory Exchange Ratio is the percentage of oxygen exchanged for carbon dioxide and water to burn fat and glucose metabolized from carbohydrates. By measuring the RER, we can determine the body’s caloric expenditure and the percentage of fat and glucose being burned. We burn 100% fat when we are asleep but by definition the caloric expenditure will be the lowest at which our body will continue to function. The percentage of glucose in the fuel mixture will rise as oxygen intake increases and caloric expenditure increases—you breathe harder as the body works harder. The VO2Max is the maximum capacity at which the cardiovascular system can take in oxygen, pump blood, and oxygenate the blood. That’s why you reach a point where you can’t breathe fast and deeply enough to keep going and you’re forced to stop and catch your breath.

      What’s the highest recorded rate of calorie burn? That would also be a question of how long that could be maintained. An extremely large person might burn as many calories to move their body per minute as a conditioned athlete burns while running—but the athlete can keep running and the large person has to stop moving. A more highly-conditioned body can work longer and with greater intensity, thereby burning more calories overall. Calorie burn is not a function of merely attempting to work our hardest. We have our limits.

      I will be writing a blog post tomorrow about what I’m doing with my own tracking of my heart rate and calorie burn.

      I would expect that the body burns slightly more calories while shivering than while at a comfortable temperature but it would be an autonomic response. I doubt it’s enough of a difference to endure the discomfort.

      1. Thanks for telling me how they do this.

        I always wanted to get my metabolism checked. I do think there is something with all the low temperatures. Oddly my blood pressure seems to be getting kind of low. They are maintaining it a low level, I even said today to 104/62, that sounds kind of low. I saw the doctors and I’m on blood pressure meds. Wonder if I can drop one soon but then at other times it seems higher.

        That helps explain why people have to stop and catch their breathe, even the otherwise fit and in shape. It sounds like being able to move steady and for long periods of time helps too with the calorie burn. I remember hearing someone saying to me, your walk around the apt lot is the same as someone going for a 15 mile run, but I said, I doubt it’s burning as many calories. How does heart rate play into this? One thing I wish they would study is regarding the fact that exercise does not impact people all the same way. Why do some get so ill and find fast burns so horrible? I am thinking of when I was young not even obese a few years, and running made me want to throw up and like I was going to pass out. I wonder if some people are forming an aversion to exercise and if this has a physiological base. Remember even I was forced into gym class. In other words why is exercise so enjoyable and acquireable as a habit for some? I think I will write about this. The only exercise I could tolerate even during thinner times, was walking. Exercise made me feel sick at a young age, WHY? I did form an aversion to it. I hate the feeling of sweat and a fast heart rate now though I force myself to do something DAILY, where I feel a bit short of breathe–that is usually the short walk. Maybe if they got to the bottom of this it would help in the weight loss arena. Aversion to exercise. Hmmm have to explore that one.

        LOL I kept the heat down hoping it’d take some fat off, but I froze, my how I froze but one thing about me thin people find so strange is I am always the fat woman freezing in the corner covered in coats. When it crosses the 75 point I get too hot, but anything under that, I am freezing!

        1. I do not understand what you mean by this comment, “Why do some get so ill and find fast burns so horrible?”

          I can’t imagine any reason why physical activity would make anyone sick except for being extremely deconditioned and trying to do much more than the body is able at that time or perhaps because of a balance problem such as with the inner ear. The body is meant to move or it deteriorates.

          I tell very large clients if they can walk for 30 seconds or a minute, then do that. Just do it every day. There was a time that one minute on a recumbent stepper had me red-faced and practically coughing up a lung but I did it every day, improving by increments of a few seconds, literally.

          Your medical condition is unique so there’s nothing I can advise you, specifically. So please don’t interpret anything I say as advice to you. I am a certified trainer so I feel obligated to state a disclaimer!!

    • Rob on April 23, 2013 at 10:11 am

    I’ve noticed that myself. When I was first trying to lose weight and get healthy, my bodybugg would frequently report calorie burns over 22/min, but as I got in shape (even before I had lost any weight) the calorie burn slowly started dropping. I still can get over 20/min (I’m not in THAT good of shape and I’m still over 290 lbs.) but I’m becoming more and more aware how hard this journey will be.

    1. Hi Rob, thanks for stopping by and commenting! I’ve worked with some guys who could really get the calorie burn up there, especially while they were still over 300lbs but young enough that they could push themselves and keep moving by working really hard to manage their fatigue and cardio limitations.

      You gentlemen in your 20s and 30s have the best shot at getting a lot of value out of physical activity! In my book, I include a profile of a man who is a composite of three men I worked with. Everything I describe in the profile was taken from real life. All three of those guys were carrying a lot of weight but still young enough that they had general good health on their side. Once we found activities they liked to do and were able to keep doing while managing their fatigue, they burned the calories like crazy. I’m JEALOUS!! I’d be a twig if I could burn the calories like them!!!

      Whatever you are working on doing, I wish you the best.

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