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Fitness Tips

How to Burn 1000 Calories a Day (Even if You Have a Desk Job)

When it comes to fitness, calories matter. A lot.

How many you burn and how many you consume will determine your weight, while the kind of calories you consume and the kind of exercise you do will determine your body composition. 

But the truth is, most of us don’t burn enough calories on any given day without putting in a concentrated effort. It’s even harder if you want to lose weight quickly, especially considering that to lose 1 pound you need to burn 3500 calories. 

So if, for example, you wanted to lose 2 lbs a week, you’d have to create a calorie deficit of 1000 calories per day. 

If you’re wondering how to burn 1000 calories a day, the good news is I have a feasible, proven method that works.

Even if you have a desk job and have limited time to work out. Because let’s face it – it’s a daunting number, and not everyone has hours to spend on a spin bike every day.

In fact, using my method will help prevent overwhelm, exhaustion, and injury!

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But First Thing’s First

I am not saying that you need to burn 1000 calories a day to be successful in your fitness journey. On the contrary, this might not be a great goal for you depending on your current situation and fitness goals. I have had great success with weight loss with much smaller deficits. 

But if you have a lot of weight to lose and want to do it fast, then 1000 calories a day is a good target to build up to

And I would not recommend sustaining large calorie daily deficits for more than a couple of weeks at a time. You don’t want your body thinking it’s not getting enough fuel which may cause your metabolism may slow down. Switch it up by eating more to decrease the deficit and then spend a couple of weeks eating at maintenance. 

And please don’t just jump into a high-calorie burn regime. It’s a much better idea to start small and work your way up to it! 

This prevents the chances of you becoming overwhelmed or injured. 

Active Vs Passive Calories

Before we get into how to burn 1000 calories a day, I need to clarify that what we’re talking about is how to burn 1000 active calories. 

Because the truth is, you burn way more than 1000 calories a day just by being alive!

This is what’s known as your TDEE or Total Daily Energy Expenditure. It’s what your body burns just to keep your body’s system going, as well as the calories you burn from everyday actions like walking around your house or typing at your desk. 

How to Track Your Active Calorie Burn

And everyone’s TDEE is different depending on their age, gender, height, and metabolism. On average, most women’s TDEE is around the 1600-2000 mark without exercise. 

It’s a good idea to know your TDEE so that you can make sure you’re eating the right amount of calories. This is my favorite free online calculator for finding that number. 

However, an even better way to track your daily calorie burn is to wear an activity tracker with a heart rate monitor. My top two choices for this are the Apple Watch or the FitBit Versa

If you’re a slave to Apple like I am then their watch will be your first choice. However, FitBit is an excellent brand and I find their heart rate monitor just as good and accurate. Plus it’s a lot more affordable!

Benefits of Burning 1000 Calories a Day

Why aim for 1000 calories a day? I will be the first to tell you that this is not a magic number and your daily calorie burn will only support your fitness goals if you pair it with the right nutrition.

It could be that you may fair better with a lower daily calorie burn, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. 

But I will say that for myself, I have been noticing some pretty awesome benefits since I started hitting this number on a regular basis:

Better Sleep

I have never been a great sleeper. Even after cutting out caffeine and alcohol, I am a ridiculously light sleeper who used to toss and turn for at least an hour before falling asleep.

Since I started burning 1000 calories a day, this is no longer an issue. It’s been so nice to actually feel tired at bedtime and fall asleep in minutes!

Quality sleep is also essential to weight loss as well as your overall health and fitness. 

Easier to Maintain a Calorie Deficit (or at Maintenance) 

I don’t eat at a deficit anymore because I’m already as light as I want to be. But if I did still have a few pounds to lose, this much active calorie burn makes it way easier to maintain a calorie deficit.

Think about it. There are 3500 calories in a pound. So if your TDEE without much physical activity is 2000 calories per day and you want to lose 1 pound per week, you’d have a deficit of 500 calories per day, which puts you at 1500 calories.

Do you know how hard it is to only eat 1500 calories a day?

I do, and it sucks. 

You have to get really granular about what you’re eating to ensure you’re hitting your nutrient targets and still feel satiated. 

And there’s pretty much zero budget for “fun” foods. 

If your TDEE is even less than 2000 (like mine), then you’d have to eat even less. 

But at that point, you start sacrificing nutrition because you can’t consume enough to hit your nutrient targets and still stay in your calorie deficit. 

But when you burn 1000 calories a day, now your TDEE is 3000 and you can very easily add a 500 calorie deficit without compromising your nutrition.

How to burn 1000 calories a day using my apple watch
I record my daily calorie burn using my Apple Watch.

Easier to Hit Nutrient Targets

Even when you eat for maintenance, it can be really difficult to reach all nutrient targets on any given day when your TDEE is low.

For example, for a long time I was struggling to get enough protein every day. I’m at the stage where I’m trying to build more muscle, which means I need to target between 1.2 and 1.7 grams of protein per kg of bodyweight. 

I’m only 52 kgs and that still amounts to 62-88 grams per day. It can be a lot of protein without resorting to eating a lot of meat or blowing the calorie budget. 

To put that in perspective, here are some examples of the best vegetarian sources of protein:

  • 6 grams in 1 egg
  • 9 grams per half cup of lentils
  • 10 grams in half a cup of greek yogurt

But ever since I hike up my calorie burn, hitting this target has been a breeze. 

I’m also finding it way easier to hit previously challenging nutrient targets, like potassium, Iron, Calcium, Magnesium and many others. 

By the way, if you aren’t tracking your calories and nutrients you should try it, at least until you get a better idea of your eating habits and where you can improve. 

I use an app called Cronometer. It’s easy to use and totally free! (If you want to learn more about it, check out my detailed review.)

You Can Eat More Fun Stuff

I’m not going to lie, I’m a foodie. I really enjoy mealtimes and also have a weakness for sweets. 

In fact, baking is my hobby. 

But when my calorie burn was lower there was just no room in the calorie budget for baked goods, no matter how “healthfied” I made them. They were just too calorie dense with not enough nutrients in return.

Now I can treat myself to a couple of home-baked peanut butter cookies or enjoy a glass of wine on the weekends without blowing the roof off my calorie budget. 

It’s important to stipulate that burning 1000 calories a day is not a free pass to eat whatever and however much you want. 

An evening of pizza and cheesecake will quickly decimate that extra calorie burn pretty quickly. 

And you still want to make sure that at least 80% of what you put into your body is healthy and minimally processed. 

How to Burn 1000 Calories a Day in 3 Steps

This is my personal method for burning over 1000 calories a day during the week. The good news is, only a small amount of time needs to be dedicated to vigorous exercise – sometimes as little as 10 minutes.

The rest of the time it’s about staying active throughout the day. This is possible even if you have a desk job.

1. Get an Under Desk Bike or Elliptical

This is the game-changer right here. At the start of the year, I bought a Cubii JR to use while I’m at work, and I’ve been obsessed ever since.

It fits right under my desk so that I can pedal while I work.

The key to this is to only pedal hard enough that your heart rate is elevated, but not so hard that you’re sweating buckets and getting distracted from your work. 

It’s about the same amount of effort and calorie burn you would get from easy walking.

It is an adjustment and you may have to work up to this. I started out doing 15-20 minutes at a time for a few times throughout the day. Now, I spend a total of 3-4 hours pedaling away every day and it feels effortless!

Yes, the calorie burn here is low – about 150 active calories an hour – but it stacks up quickly. By the end of the day, this activity alone accounts for more than half of my daily active calorie burn!

If you need some help choosing a compact desk or elliptical, you can check out this buyer’s guide, or you can also read about my experience with the Cubii JR. 

2. Take a Long Walk (or a Few Shorter Walks) Every Day

Even with an under desk bike it’s not a good idea to sit all day. Almost every single day my spouse and I go for a 3-4 km walk that usually takes about 40-50 minutes. 

I talk about walking a lot on this blog and there’s a reason why – it’s one of the best forms of exercise there is! It’s low impact and enjoyable. 

Plus, walking outside has some added benefits like boosting you Vitamin D intake and triggering the release of endorphins which boosts your mood. 

If you can’t take a long walk due to your schedule or time-constraints, aim for 3-4 shorter walks broken up throughout the day. Even 10 minutes makes a difference!

Your calorie burn from this activity is going to be pretty modest – unless you are power walking up a hill the whole time – but the benefits from getting outside and stretching your legs are more than worth the effort. 

3. Do High-Intensity Resistance Workouts

Here’s where the hard work comes in. Getting fit isn’t just about creating calorie deficits or burning calories. 

You need to condition your muscles and build strength, too. 

That’s why it’s important to do resistance training at least a few times a week. 

The good news is, these workouts don’t have to take up a lot of time. Even 20-30 minutes of high-intensity resistance training will get the job done!

I do 3-4, 30 minute resistance training sessions a week. If I’m in a time crunch, then I will sometimes sub out with a 10 minute HIIT resistance workout. 

I love this type of training because not only does it help you build muscle, it torches a ton of calories in a short time. On average I burn about 200 active calories in 25 minutes. 

So now you might ask, what are the best resistance workouts for this purpose?

You can download any number of fitness apps (I’ve reviewed a ton of them if you need help choosing one.) 

Or you can do one of my free at-home workouts:

Or, if you’re a beginner with little time and motivation to work out, you should definitely check out my 4-week beginner’s program, Serial Starter Fix. 

Final Thoughts

Again, burning 1000 calories a day isn’t a magic number, but it’s a good target to aim for if you’re having trouble maintaining a calorie deficit, hitting your nutrient targets, or getting a good night’s sleep.

And it is feasible to do it daily without exhausting yourself if you focus on low-intensity, low-impact exercises for longer stretches of time. Then make those short, intense workouts count!

Just remember to take 1-2 days off per week for rest and recovery.

I hope this gave you some good ideas for how to burn 1000 calories a day. Any tips, tricks, or suggestions I missed? Let’s discuss in the comments!

Is it possible to burn 1000 calories in a workout?

Yes, but I don’t recommend it. Unless you’re already a seasoned athlete, burning 1000 calories in one workout is likely to result in injury. We’re basically talking about a half-marathon’s worth of exercise! Even most intense workouts you’re likely to only burn 500-600 active calories max.

How can I burn 1000 calories in a day?

The best way is to stick with low-intensity, low-impact exercises that you can do at intervals throughout the day. Walking, under desk pedaling, with a 20-30 minute high-intensity workout is a good way to achieve this.

How many steps does it take to burn 1000 calories?

It depends on your height and stride, but ballpark figure is around 35,000 – 40,000 steps .

how to burn 1000 calories

Corrie Alexander is an ISSA certified personal trainer, home fitness advocate, and founder of The Fit Careerist. A proponent of personal growth and a self-proclaimed fitness app-junkie, Corrie shares tips and product reviews with the goal of helping others on their own fitness journey.

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