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According to a new study, the answer may be that, yes, you can cap out your calorie burn. Research published in Current Biology examined total energy expenditure from physical activity and how it related to total daily calorie burn. Researchers tracked subjects for about a week with a wearable device and measured energy through a specialized urine test. Moderately active people had higher daily energy expenditures—about 200 calories more—than the most sedentary subjects. But the most active actually plateaued in their total daily energy expenditures.
“Your body’s homeostatic mechanisms are designed to increase or decrease calorie expenditure to maintain your body weight within a given range,” says clinical exercise physiologist Bill Sukala, Ph.D. That’s one big reason it’s considered much harder to lose weight through exercise alone versus dietary changes. But don’t quit that Tabata workout just yet: It’s important to have a mix of intensity and to keep your routine well rounded, rather than just focusing on how many calories you burn during an exercise session, notes Sukala. “Don’t just fixate on calories burned as a measure of success—some days you’ll burn more, some days less. Every workout is different.”
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