Do you feel like your energy is zapped after a long day at work or school? Well, it turns out that using your brain to focus on something mentally challenging, actually uses more energy and burns more calories too! Yes, another reason to balance your screen time and number of mindless activities everyday.
Why Exerting Yourself Mentally Burns More Calories
To understand why mental exhaustion occurs, let's understand how the body uses glucose. It's normal to feel tired after a long run or a hard workout at the gym. This is because glucose (our primarily energy source) is stored as glycogen in your muscles and when you use your muscles during exercise, you break down the glycogen stores. Eventually, your muscles run out of energy so naturally, you feel tired. But just as physical fatigue is common, so too is mental fatigue.
Mental activity also uses glucose, but it doesn’t require your muscles to break down glycogen. Instead, it causes mental fatigue, which heightens your perceived exertion of physical tasks. Your brain burns calories to perform basic functions, so it uses more energy (burns more calories) when you have to concentrate.
The Approximate Energy Expenditure For Studying
A 155 pound individual will burn about 100 calories per hour of studying and an additional 10-20 more calories if they sit at a desk or in a classroom, as compared to staring at a screen. So, if you're studying all day long, you likely burning through more glycogen then you think!
Benefits of Brain Workouts
Of course, the caveat is that while your brain burns more calories per hour of studying or working on something mentally challenging, the calories burned, aren't likely to help with any kind of significant weight loss. Exercise and eating well, will help with help with such goals.
But that doesn’t mean exercising your brain has no benefits -- it is a muscle after all! Activities like listening to music, doing puzzles, and learning new hobbies can all boost your cognitive function. Plus, keeping your brain active can help with age-related cognitive decline -- "use it or lose it!"
Calories In, Calories Out
So, you may be wondering, if you burn more calories concentrating, do you need to take in more calories? The simple answer is, yes! Because the brain uses more glucose when you study, you'll need eat a little more fuel to help you think clearly. A couple hundred more calories should do the trick. Of course, not all calories are created equal. Some foods actually help you feel clear-headed while high-sugar, processed foods can make you feel the opposite. So, choose your studying calories wisely, so that you can properly fuel your brain and stay "in the zone" for longer.
Chef Soraya Plant-based macro meals make for ideal brain-nourishment as the brain needs all three macronutrients to thrive (healthy fat, complex carbohydrates and protein). The beans, rice, quinoa, and hemp seeds in our bowls all work together to feed your brain. Read more about brain fuel here.