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My trainer told me that to calculate how many calories I've burned during an activity, I shouldn't use my actual weight, but rather my weight minus my body fat. So if I'm 135 pounds and my body fat is 26% then I should input 100 pounds into the calculator to get a more accurate reading of calories burned. What do you think? — Kate, VA

Richard Cotton


Your intuition to question this information is right on. Your trainer is mistaken--calorie consumption during weight bearing exercise is directly related to total body weight.

Think about it, who would burn more calories: a hiker carrying a small day pack or a hiker carrying a 40-pound backpack? Certainly the backpacker would have a much higher caloric consumption. Body fat weight has the exact same effect on caloric consumption.

Body weight has varied influence on non-weight-bearing activities like stationary cycling. There the caloric consumption depends on the workload not on the body weight. Remember, calories reported by the exercise machines are guesses at best.

About Richard Cotton

Richard T. Cotton is the chief exercise physiologist for the American Council on Exercise (ACE). Richard oversees the ACE's studies and evaluations on fitness products and serves as the ACE's media spokesperson for these studies and other health and fitness issues. He has written numerous articles on health and fitness-related topics such as the importance of certification and safe and effective exercise techniques.

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