Our brain is a capacious, highly-sophisticated organ, that controls our every move, sensation, and bodily function. It’s a marvel really, to think of how many neurons are ceaselessly at work to get us through the day. The brain is like a puppeteer; it manipulates our every move with lissom hands that never miss a beat. When the brain is out of sync with the body, we know all too well what that can do to a person. While it is true that arduous mental exercises burn calories, the significance of such a statement is still reckoned as minuscule, in relation to how many calories are burnt―which aren’t much.
In a study conducted in a Canadian university by the Department of Social and Prevention Medicine, 14 students were told to indulge in 45 minutes of activity―read and summarize a document, laze around in one place, or perform computerized/battery-powered tests. Students that opted for activities that made their brains work more, consumed more calories at a lunch buffet that was later provided as part of the test. Their blood glucose levels spiked, along with other changes like high blood pressure, anxiety, and increased heart rate. Cortisol―a stress-inducing hormone―was higher for students who engaged in an activity that required more brain participation.
The result of the study concluded that activities which put one under pressure were more likely to force people to overeat, not because their brains needed refueling, but because their bodies were thrust into a state of tension. This shows that mental exercises when not performed at ease, could unfortunately make you reach for two Big Macs instead of one.
How Mental Exercises Can Burn Calories
Playing games like Sudoku don’t just enhance brain function!
Doing logic puzzles and quizzes that require mental strain―like Sudoku or the Sunday crossword―burn 90 calories for every hour spent on it, according to the Daily Mail. The more challenging the activity, the better. This is a disputable topic with regard to weight loss because the brain doesn’t burn fat molecules to expel energy; it needs glucose.
Our brain weighs a modest 1.4 kg, where it needs 20 percent of our RMR (Resting Metabolic Rate), to give it enough fuel to adroitly juggle between its many responsibilities. Our RMRs aren’t similar; gender, size, age, and overall health, determine its rate. The brain nibbles on 0.18 calories/minute, which is approximately 10.8 calories every hour, assuming that one has an average RMR of 1,300 calories.
Dr. A. Levitsky―professor of nutrition and psychology of Cornell University―says that while the body’s metabolic rate increases when it is put through a mentally-taxing activity, the amount of calories that it actually disintegrates every day, is not a number that one would feel jubilant over. Especially since the calories it burns, will probably be recouped by a heavy snack or meal. He was quick to add that mental exercises that did need more strain, upped the number of calories burnt, but that it wouldn’t result in metamorphic weight loss.
Our brain needs energy which it obtains from neurotransmitters (a chemical) produced by neurons. Without a sufficient supply of energy, one feels languor and exhaustion. The brain’s platter of food includes 20% oxygen, approximately 300 calories, and 75% glucose, that it takes from our blood. When you cuddle up with a cup of Joe and the latest newspaper crossword, just remember that the more thinking you’re going to do, the more calories you’re potentially going to burn. Any kind of stress that the brain experiences―playing tactical/logic-based games or those that make you crinkle your forehead in rapt concentration―makes it go into power mode since it needs more glucose to be able to keep up with your enthusiasm.
No matter how hard you try, you cannot think yourself thin.
Unfortunately, you cannot think yourself into a size 0, where it is ridiculous to even consider this as a means of losing weight. Because many of us are nescient about the science of losing weight, we fail to give due importance to exercise and healthy eating, which are the prerequisites to a slimmer you.