Busy, busy, busy. Everyone today is always busy. Too busy to hit the gym, not enough time to make healthy meals, no time to care for our health!
Today, we’ll be talking about something that plagues us all: weight loss!
What if I told you there was a way to burn calories while sitting?
Would you believe me?
If you answered “no,” that’s okay. Now, you don’t have to believe just me. Instead, you can take a look at what science says about calorie burn while sitting.
Yes, you heard that right; science!
So, let’s dive right into it. In this post, you’re going to see some excellent ways to speed up your metabolism and burn more fat and extra calories while sitting according to science.
Can You Really Burn Extra Calories While Sitting?
The whole idea of burning calorie burn while sitting may seem irrational, too good to be true, and simply impossible. The truth is everything we do burns calories. Even now as you’re reading this sentence, you’re burning calories. Each time you breathe in or out, you burn calories. Not a lot of them, of course, but you do burn calories!
Basal Metabolic Rate
Calorie burn without the actual exercise or another form of physical activity come down to your basal metabolic rate (BMR). The term basal metabolic rate refers to the total number of calories the body needs to perform basic, life-sustaining actions (1). These include cell production, nutrient processing, breathing, and blood circulation.
When discussing BMR it’s important to address a common tendency where people mistake it for resting metabolic rate (RMR). It’s not uncommon for people to use these terms interchangeably, although they’re not the same. You see, BMR is the minimum amount of calories required for basic functions at rest, RMR is the number of calories your body burns at rest (2).
Even when you sit on the couch, you’re burning some calories and that’s the perfect example of BMR. You’re just sitting there, breathing, but still, your body burns some calories. Your BMR accounts for 2/3 of the total calories you burn during the day. For example, you may lose about 40 to 55 calories per hour when you’re sleeping.
The basal metabolic rate is not the same for everyone. Some people have a higher BMR, while others are lower. Additionally, BMR can change over time. When you’re sick, BMR can speed up. If you add muscle mass it may slow down. It can also slow down when you lose weight or as you age.
How Many Calories Can You Burn When Sitting?
Since everyone’s BMR is different, the number of calories you burn when sitting differs too. Some numbers show you may burn 60 to 130 calories per hour when sitting (3). But, it’s more complicated than that.
The number of calories you burn when sitting also depends on your weight. For instance, a person who weighs 170 lbs (77kg) may burn 134 calories per hour when sitting. By comparison, that same person may lose 206 calories when standing, 296 calories when working at a moderate pace, and 341 calories per hour when walking at a brisk pace.
To further show how current weight influences calorie expenditure we’re going to illustrate examples of an average height female (5’5” or 165cm) and male (5’10” or 178cm). Let’s see how people of the same height, yet different weight burn calories when sitting, and both sitting and standing for eight hours (4).
Calories burned when sitting
Sitting + standing
Calories burned when sitting
Sitting + standing
Fidgeting Burns More Calories
Generally speaking, the more you move, the more calories you burn. So, when you’re fidgeting while sitting you may burn even more calories than sitting alone.
For example, you can jiggle your leg muscles, twirl a pen, or tap your foot. When you do these activities while sitting you burn a small number of calories. This may seem insignificant to you now, but when you do it regularly it can add up to a bigger number over the week (5).
The Science journal published an interesting study on this subject. The main objective of the study was to examine the impact of non-exercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT) on obesity. Sciences recruited 10 lean and 10 mildly obese sedentary subjects. The study revealed obese individuals were seated two hours longer, on average, than their lean counterparts. On the other hand, lean subjects were more likely to have NEAT behaviors. If the obese participants adopted NEAT-enhanced behaviors they could expend an additional 350 calories a day (6).
Since fidgeting is also a form of NEAT behavior, it could help you lose more calories. Don’t forget the actual number of calories depends on your weight, metabolic rate, and other factors.
A study from the BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine focused on the role of chair-based fidgeting on energy expenditure. Scientists measured heart rate and energy expenditure in 16 subjects while they sat and worked on a standard chair, an under-desk device that promotes fidgeting of the legs, and a fidget-promoting chair. Findings revealed the under-desk device and fidgeting-promoting chair increased energy expenditure compared to a standard office chair. More precisely, subjects who used the device for fidgeting or a fidgeting-promoting chair burned 20% more calories (7).
Calorie Burn When Standing?
While you burn some calories when sitting, your energy expenditure is a lot higher when standing. It’s impossible not to wonder why that happens. And the explanation is quite simple.
You see, your body burns more calories when you’re physically active. You burn the least amount of calories when you’re sitting or lying.
On the other hand, when you’re standing you activate more muscles. Activation of muscle mass leads to greater energy expenditure. At the same time, you make more movements when standing. Most people tap their feet when standing or they stretch. Some of them get tired of standing and start pacing then return to standing. All these activities help you burn more calories (8).
Interestingly, one study showed substituting periods of sitting/standing with walking increases energy expenditure significantly. However, replacing periods of sitting with standing may not affect energy expenditure (9). More research is necessary to learn more about this subject.
Even though sitting can burn some calories, you should avoid being sedentary too much. Excessive sitting carries many health risks. You may want to stand up every 30 minutes or use a standing desk and take a break, and strive to be more active otherwise (10). Do desk push ups or use an exercise ball if possible.
But, if you want to increase calorie burn when sitting, below are useful tips that can help you out.
Number 1: Down a Casein Protein Shake
Proteins are a fantastic source of energy, but so are carbohydrates and fat. So, what is it that sets protein apart from other types of food? A 2016 study from the US National Library of Medicine helps us understand that consuming casein protein during the day has a positive effect on fat metabolism in obese men and women.
Casein is a protein, which means it will break down slowly inside the body. Proteins always take the longest to break out of the three food groups (the others being carbohydrates and fats) because of their complex structure and need for enzymes and energy during the breakdown process.
In the study, men and women consumed a casein supplement during the day. The results were surprising, and researchers were impressed. The study claims that consuming healthy protein like casein can help in overnight fat loss by keeping the body active all night.
Because of the presence of protein molecules, the body is in food-burn mode while not active. To burn the food or break down any proteins, the body has to spend energy. The fastest way to get this energy is through fat, which is why we see the body starting to break down fat (also known as adipose tissue) through the night while also breaking down the casein.
But why casein specifically? Aren’t there other healthy proteins, too? Yes, there are! However, Dutch research shows that casein takes longer to digest than most proteins, which means it will keep your body in fat-burning mode for longer. It typically takes six to eight hours to fully break down casein, which is why it is perfect for keeping your body’s metabolism at its peak throughout the night.
Number 2: Take Care of Your Sleep
If you want to be healthy, you've got to sleep healthy. Most of us suffer from sleepless nights or busy schedules, which strongly impacts our sleep cycle. In turn, our overall health is affected, including our metabolism and fat-burning processes.
So, if you want to lose those flaps, start sleeping more! But it just sounds too easy, doesn't it? If we could sleep to burn fat, wouldn't everyone be doing it?
Excellent question! See, most people don't know much about the inner workings of the body, which is why they don't know about the powerful effect of sleep on fat burn and weight loss. The process is relatively simple; it has to do with two hormones called leptin and ghrelin.
Leptin helps your body regulate energy levels and suppresses your appetite. If your appetite is suppressed, you'll get rid of those pesky midnight cravings that add fat to your body.
Additionally, you will feel lighter on your feet and be more active thanks to leptin, giving you higher energy levels. Once your daily activity is increased, you will automatically begin to burn more fat throughout the day.
Ghrelin, on the other hand, stimulates hunger, but when you sleep properly, only a fixed amount is produced, so you don't overeat. A study from the University of Wisconsin found that more sleep was linked to higher levels of leptin and lower levels of ghrelin. Also, a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine shows us that overweight people sleep an average of 16 minutes less than slimmer people, further proving that sleeping enough can help you shed those extra pounds.
Number 3: Eat Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese is rich in one of our favorite proteins. That's right; it's casein! We already know why casein is excellent for fat burn while sitting; now, let's discuss more why eating cottage cheese during the day can help you lose weight.
A bonus brought to us by cottage cheese is tryptophan. Cottage cheese is brimming with healthy tryptophan, which is an amino acid. According to the Journal of Psychiatric Research, tryptophan improves sleep quality and makes you fall asleep faster and will help you lose weight while sitting the other day. On the one hand, the casein in cottage cheese will boost your night metabolism, which tryptophan will help you sleep better at night. It's a win-win!
Number 4: Practice Resistance Training
Exercise is an age-old trick to help you curb extra weight gain. But there are some excellent exercises you can practice during the day that will keep your metabolism and internal fat burn mechanisms active throughout the day, hence helping you burn calories while not active.
Resistance training is excellent for this cause; it includes drills like weightlifting and strength training, which help accelerate the body's metabolism.
Training demands energy. Also, resistance training comes with the added benefit of toning, which means that it will trigger the body to reshape itself by breaking down and reforming muscle tissue. This keeps the body in a state of peak metabolism for as long as 24 hours, enabling you to burn fat as you sit, too!
Number 5: Eat Small, Healthy Meals Throughout the Day and Drink Tea
Eating little but eating often will help you control your craving for food. Also, when you eat with a healthy fixed routine, your body will burn fat more efficiently, including during your sleep. The key to health and weight loss is eating right, and by taking smaller, spaced-out meals across the day, you will be jumpstarting your metabolic processes and keep them working well into the night.
Additionally, you may drink green tea between meals, especially if you are deficient in iron or other key minerals. Doing so will guarantee you don’t overeat or have any unhealthy cravings that could add pounds to your waistline.
Green tea has fewer calories and has been associated with a range of health benefits due to its rich nutritional and antioxidant make-up.
Number 6: Eat Grains For Lunch
Every meal you eat throughout the day encourages your metabolism. One meal leads to another, and dinner finally leads to sleep. They are all interconnected, and understanding this connection is exactly what will help us understand how to target weight loss during sitting.
So, let's dive right in!
The best time to get your complex carbs is not before bed, unlike casein, but during your mid-day lunch. Serotonin, the happiness hormone, converts into melatonin (which is a sleep hormone) during stage 3 REM sleep. We get serotonin, and hence melatonin, too, from complex carbs.
Eating carbs at the right point during your day will ensure that by the time you hit the hay, your body will have stocked up on enough serotonin to help you enjoy a good night's sleep. We have already seen how important it is that the body gets enough sleep. Not sleeping enough will help us gain weight instead of losing it, as shown in a study from the Archives of Internal Medicine. So, make sure to stock up on those whole grains with fewer calories and healthy carbs at the right time of day to improve your sleep and hence help control your weight gain while sitting.
Number 7: Keep It Cool
An exciting new study from the journal Diabetes shows us that sitting in a colder climate can help us reduce belly fat during the day. So, start blasting that air conditioner and get those fans spinning-it's time to burn away that pesky belly fat!
Colder temperatures affect the way we store brown fat. Sitting in a colder climate will enhance the effectiveness of our fat burn. To help combat the chilly atmosphere, the body begins to burn fat to produce energy. This, in turn, leads to weight loss.
The best part is that all of this can happen while you're resting up and catching some Zs. How great is that?
Participants from the research project conducted by Diabetes Journal spent a few weeks sitting in different atmospheric temperatures. While some people sit in cooler rooms, others sit in warm or room temperature surroundings.
It's not hard to guess the outcome: those who sit in cooler climates for a few weeks without breaks ended up losing more weight than they had anticipated! Their weight loss was significantly higher than that of the people sitting in warm or room temperature areas.
It's great to know that there are so many new ways to help us lose weight while we sit. All of the methods we've discussed are tried and tested, not to mention they're all backed by scientific facts. They will either help you consume fewer calories or burn more fats, making them all reliable and trustworthy practices you should definitely incorporate into your daily routine.
Most of us don't have the time to go to the gym and work out for hours on end to achieve the body of our dreams. But now, thanks to science, we can get the ideal look we all desire with a few changes to our diet and practices.