Several weeks ago I had surgery. Since then I’ve been on complete physical restriction. I haven’t been able to work my body in the way I am accustomed to moving. Something in me aches to move my body, but healing isn’t going as planned, so it will have to wait a while longer. In the meantime I’ve been wondering if brainpower works in the same way. Will brainpower substitute for a lack of physical activity? Brain vs. braun: how many calories can you burn?

Flexing muscles burns calories.

It’s called isometrics.

Iso means equal or same.

Metric means length.

Isometric: equal or same length.

Isometrics are practiced when the muscles tense against other muscles, or when muscles tense against an immovable object while the length of the muscle remains unchanged.

So, if my brain works hard, really hard, against my even harder head, it could work to burn calories.

Maybe, just maybe. It could work? Temporarily?

Realistically it applies to a force at work when pushing arms against a wall. Or, holding a hand weight in curl position and flexing the bicep.

But, it was a fun introduction, and I had you going there for a minute; didn’t I?

No, really, it’s a real question. Can the brain burn calories?

Here’s a short video on using brainpower.

Health experts say the best calorie burn comes from strength training or cardio burn. Activities like cycling, jump rope, swimming, aerobics, elliptical training, running, yoga, kickboxing, or hiking-one of my favorite exercises. You might have you heard of the popular HIIT exercise. It is high-intensity interval training. It involves short quick routines, done at a fast pace, and you alternate different exercises with no rests in between.

Everyone experiences brain drain once in a while. It’s the feeling of being mentally taxed for a period of time, and the fatigue that sets in afterward. It’s the feeling the kids have when they come home after taking the ISTEP+, the STAAR, Benchmark, or whatever test evaluates mastery of skills these days. It’s the feeling after taking the SATs. It’s the drain after finals. It’s the exhaustion after a day of conference or meetings. We’ve all felt it at one time or another.  

If brainpower causes such fatigue, it has to have a calorie burn; right?

Let’s take a look.
While Interviewed on The Naked Scientists Podcast nutritionist Toni Steer said,

“It’s absolutely right, the brain does require round about 20% of your daily energy intake.”

Tweet: @nicoleakers10: Nutritionist Toni Steer said, “It’s absolutely right, the brain does require round about 20% of your daily energy intake.”

Here’s the science behind brainpower. The brain needs to have glucose for energy so unlike other parts of your body, for example, other organs and muscles which use fatty acids, the brain has to use glucose. Most evidence indicates that, actually, you don’t see a significant increase in energy consumption with people doing mental tasks.

Did I get that right?

Twenty percent of the body’s daily calorie burn is with brainpower?


The average adult brain weighs about 3 pounds. By comparison muscle at rest burns about 6 calories per pound, but physical activities can burn more calories depending on the intensity of the activities. The greater the intensity, the more calories burned, whereas the brain’s calorie burn remains fairly constant.

Scientific American reports a study at Liverpool John Moores University where volunteers divide into two groups and ask participants to identify the color of ink in which a word was printed, rather than reading the word itself.

In one version the words and colors match BLUE appear in blue ink. In the other version the word BLUE appears in green or red ink. Volunteers that perform the more difficult task show a greater drop in glucose as a result of greater mental effort.    

Conflicting studies offer different takeaways. Some studies suggest when people are not very good at a task their brain uses more glucose, thus burns more calories. The more efficient your brain is the less glucose you need.  One study suggests the opposite—that more skillful brains recruit more energy.

Scientific American calls it well established that the brain is responsible for 20% of the body’s total calorie burn, and it leaves the door open to greater thinking causing a greater calorie burn, at least in cats.

Braun conclusively burns more calories, but once in awhile life calls a person to be physically inactive. In this situation a person can count on brainpower for a minimum of 20% calorie burn, maybe more.  

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