People – stop generalizing!

Recently, I had a client who came in, a bit bothered, because she had someone tell her there is NO WAY she burns as many calories as she says she does, playing soccer. In fact, they went as far as emailing her information from the internet that tells how many calories someone burns playing soccer.   I find this quite humorous for a couple of reasons – one, that someone would get emotionally triggered over this (not my client, the one telling her she didn’t burn that many calories), and two – you can not generalize how many calories someone burns!!  You just can’t!  In the game of soccer – you have many positions and some require more running than others – that alone will play into how many calories you can burn in an hour or an hour and a half of playing.  Then you have the fact that everyone’s, AB (aerobic base) and AT (anaerobic threshold) are different – I guarantee it.  It simply needs to be measured so you know what yours is.  Take someone who has been playing soccer for five plus years, verses someone who just started playing and has been playing for five months.  The one that has been playing longer, will be much more conditioned and efficient then the newer player.  There are simply too many variables involved to generalize – that’s the bottom line.   And how do I know this? I know this because we measure it (metabolism), then we use it, then we track our progress and get results. (like in the charts and tables I’ve included in this post)

Speaking of results – yesterday was a fantastic day for me.  I love getting results, accomplishing things, getting things done, feel like I’m moving forward and getting somewhere.  I know that is “just my nature,” as a 3 type energy.  It’s quite funny – In fact, I have this compelling NEED to haul all this crap I have, multiple computers, books, papers and just stuff, back and forth from the gym to my house – JUST IN CASE I can actually find some time to work on something and get it done, even though 95% of the time I run out of time and don’t ever get to it.  I still need to bring it with me – just in case.  A great day for me is being productive and/or achieving something.  Getting results for clients is DEFINITELY achieving something and it makes my day and motivates me and moves me forward with excitement and energy.

So – there is always this feeling of uncertainty in the time of waiting to see what the clients results will be after a week or two of following their personal assessment information.  Even though I’ve done this hundreds of times – I’m still holding my breath.  It’s so much information and so counterintuitive, that I fear they won’t use it correctly.  So – needless to say, it’s hard for me to take a sigh of relief, until I take their measurements for the second time, after they’ve been on the program for a week or two.  And when their results come back like this:


I am one happy camper! Or I guess that’d be trainer, huh?  Anyway – depending on whether I see you privately or in a group setting, we track your progress with pinches and measurements on a weekly or bi-monthly basis (unless they have requested to not be tracked).  We keep the information in these great charts and data tables that allow them to see their progress, like this:




You can read more information on metabolic assessments here at New Leaf Fitness, and if you find that this is just what you need to move forward yourself, subscribe to my blog, comment on any post and you’ll receive 100.00 off a full metabolic assessment.  Just email me for your appointment –

Oh – and by the way, yes – these are real clients and their results, I just withheld their names.

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1 Response to People – stop generalizing!

  1. JB says:

    I have lots of thoughts on this topic. I did my first metabolic assessment with Carrie in September 2008. Immediately after doing the assessment (yes I know I should have done this before hand) I read everything I could get my hands on in regards to how to calculate the number of calories the average person expends during exercise.

    Before I jump into my commentary I need to define what ATP is. Muscle cells, like most other cells in the body, can’t directly convert calories from carbohydrate and fat into the energy needed to do the cells’ work. The energy from food calories first needs to be transferred to ATP (adenosine triphosphate) molecules. Inside our cells, ATP molecules act like tiny power packs than can rapidly store energy, release it on demand, and then quickly get recharged. Remember this little thought on ATP because I’ll reference it in just a minute.

    Generally…. If you are mildly curious about the number of calories an average person expends on any particular type and duration of exercise, there are plenty of tables online and in print that can estimate this for you. To get a personal calorie score, you can work out on an aerobic exercise machine that has an attached electronic calorie counter. Almost all of the built-in electronic devices use formulas based on how fast you go and how much resistance you have dialed up. A few of the machines will also ask you to input your body weight. This tends to be excellent if you are exactly average and fall exactly in the dead center of the bell curve. These ‘estimates’ can and are frequently off by orders of magnitude not just a few calories.

    The most accurate counts of energy expended are done in special laboratories. The direct method of tracking calories burned measures how much heat is produced during exercise; however, as you can imagine that technically it is quite difficult. More commonly, energy is measured by determining the amount of oxygen consumed to calculate the number of calories burned. Except for short bursts of anaerobic metabolism, cells use oxygen to create the energized ATP from food calories (I told you I would talk about this again). This maintains basal metabolic rate and allows muscles to quickly and vigorously contract when exercising. Since there is a direct relationship between the amounts of oxygen consumed and calories burned, this is a straightforward calculation. Calories (kcal) burned per minute equals the liters of oxygen consumed per minute multiplied by 5.

    Athletes and trainers often gauge level of fitness according to a person’s volume of oxygen consumed per minute at maximum exercise intensity, known as the VO2 max. To be even more accurate, the number should be adjusted for body weight, since larger people can reach higher rates of oxygen consumption (Carrie does make this adjustment). So VO2 max is recorded as milliliters of oxygen per kilogram per minute (ml O2/kg/min).

    So how does this relate to the topic of someone getting in an argument/discussion regarding calories burned while playing soccer. If you have not been exercising regularly, your muscle cells are not geared up to efficiently use oxygen to make ATP, and your heart and lungs aren’t in shape to increase the uptake and transport of oxygen to those muscle cells. So your initial VO2 max will be on the low side. As you get more and more fit, the muscle cells can create ATP more quickly from oxygen and your cardiac and respiratory systems strengthen to speed up the delivery of oxygen to the muscle cells. In general, the muscles gear up more quickly and usually have excess capacity to expend more energy and make more ATP if only the muscle cells could get more oxygen. The limiting factor is almost always how hard the heart or the lungs can work. This is true for both the very sedentary person and the competitive athlete.

    Here is an example. A healthy 35-year-old male of average weight (170 pounds) who has not been sedentary would have a VO2 max around 2.5 liters per minute. To convert that to calories burned, multiply by 5, which equals a VO2 max of 12 calories per minute. However, this is the amount of calories burned at maximum intensity; an untrained person would be only to able to hold this level for one to two minutes. With increasing fitness, your VO2 max rises, and the amount of minutes you can spend at higher levels, closer to your VO2 max, also goes up.

    That same 35-year-old male who begins a serious aerobic exercise program could bring that VO2 max up to 18 calories per minute. Assuming he could hold exercise intensity at 80% of maximum for 45 minutes, he would burn 650 calories. And this would not include the extra calories burned post-workout as his body recovers. Add in some resistance training to increase muscle mass, and the total caloric burn rises a little more.

    I mentioned earlier that nobody is average… so I’ll use my own personal data. When I first assessed in September 2008 I was 212 pounds, 26.6% body fat and had a VO2max of 29.8. Today after 2+ years of what I would consider fairly vigorous training and following very very closely Carries crazy program I’m 192 pounds, 14.7% body fat and have a VO2max of 49. So what does that look like in terms of calories burned: when I first assessed in my zone 3 heart rate I would burn 11.7 calories per minute… now in my zone 3 I burn 19 calories per minute. Why… its because my body has become much more efficient.

    So back to the soccer/calories burned discussion/argument. Other than measuring heat produced by your body during exercise (nearly impossible) the next best thing is to have your VO2 measured and develop a cardio training program based on that. Purchase a quality heart rate monitor that will allow you to manually adjust the VO2max setting (or you will be lumped in as average), learn how to properly use that monitor and reassess frequently. As I mentioned earlier the more fit you are the more efficient your body becomes and the more fuel it will need. It’s worked for me.

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