Burning calories for weight loss has been all the rage for a very long time now. Of course, to burn calories you have to get up and actually work out. Sounds tedious and really time-consuming. But what if there was another way to burn calories that didn’t include so much movement? That must be a dream come true!
That introduction had to lead up to something, right? The thing is, just thinking can burn calories. What can’t the brain do! According to one of the most brilliant minds of our generation, Hank Green, our brain uses 10 to 20 percent of the calories you consume. These calories serve as an energy source for your brain to produce and release chemical signals called neurotransmitters. Your resting brain uses 1.5 calories every minute! Considering that your brain is only 2 percent of your body mass, it’s a LOT.
To produce the neurotransmitters which we mentioned earlier, neuron cells extract 75% glucose and 20 % of the oxygen from the blood. It’s a lot of percentages but that’s just to give an idea of just how much your brain needs. Your frontal lobe is where the thinking happens which is why that bit needs more glucose.
Consider Watching this video to Find ways to keep your brain healthy.
Could this explain why you feel mentally exhausted after a hard math test or exam? Actually, researchers have not been able to confirm this as many times, they don’t push the volunteers to their limits. Equally important to mental exertion is the attitude towards a strenuous task. Some people like reading intense and thick novels which should exhaust them but instead they use the “just one more page” excuse to read more. The same goes for people who enjoy doing crosswords or playing chess. In conclusion, people enjoy intellectually challenging activities without feeling mental exhaustion afterward.
So why doesn’t this apply to every intellectually challenging activity? The thing is, what you expect from an activity can greatly alter how much the activity will drain you in reality. For example, if you think an exam is going to be difficult, chances are that you will actually find it more difficult; and face more mental fatigue.
The brain doesn’t have fixed rules that it follows so each situation can differ in terms of how many calories your brain consumes. Stressful situations such as giving a final do not only affect the brain but it also shoots stress hormones into the blood stream. It also induces sweating and increases heart rates. Some activities are mentally as well as physically exhausting.
A small study consisting of 14 female Canadian college students showed that even mildly stressful intellectual activities could change one’s emotional state. The students were asked to sit around while others were given a passage to summarize or a series of attentions and memory tests to do for 45 minutes. After these activities, they were given a buffet to feast on. Students who were asked to do tasks consumed around 200 more calories than students who were asked to relax. Their glucose levels also fluctuated more compared to those who just sat around.
Another thing that was higher in hard-working students was the level of the stress hormone, cortisol. So were their heart rates, blood pressure, and self-reported anxiety. So it could be concluded that their brains didn’t more fuel but rather they were actually stress eating.
So does thinking burn calories? Yes, it does. But the brain can also trigger changes in the body to use up more calories depending on the type of situation you’re in. Your brain-burning calories are NOT the same as exercising as your brain needs fuel to keep your bodily functions such as breathing and digestion, working properly.
Until Next Time,
Team Doctor ASKY!