Many believe that studying can lead to burning excess calories that would ultimately contribute to weight loss. This idea may seem plausible because often after studying, you get hungry, feel the need to rest, and want some kind of compensation. It also seems likely that intense intellectual exertion require more energy than natural, routine mental processes. But does studying burn enough calories to lose weight?

It turns out that mentally draining activities do not significantly require more energy, and won’t help much in losing weight

No Calorie Burns?

beer, pizza
Marisa Guido

I’m not saying studying does not burn any calories. Of course, studying will use up some energy, but so does breathing and other simple, everyday brain functions. It's common sense that you don't lose too much extra weight while breathing. Compared to the total daily intake and the total metabolic rate of 2,200 calories per day, the calorie loss from mental activities is trivial.

Also, short periods of extra mental efforts, such as studying, don't really require more energy than daily brain activities. The brain continuously uses energy to function as an organ in the human body. Since the brain's baseline intake is already substantial, other additional brainpower and glucose increase does not affect the energy consumption by much.

notes, textbook, study snack, snacks, studying, clif bar, tangerine, cutie
Jocelyn Hsu

According to David A. Levitsky, professor of nutrition and psychology at Cornell University, daily mental activities take up only about 20 percent of the resting metabolic rate (RMR) of 1,300 calories a day. That's 300 calories per day- about 10 calories per hour and 0.20 calories each minute. Studying may increase the glucose uptake in the brain by less than 20 calories of the 300 calories, but since it's impossible to stay at maximum concentration for long durations,  it is only about 10 more calories a day in reality.

What About The Exhaustion And Hunger?

lunch, Meal, overhead, sandwich, fries, avocado toast, brunch, avocado, pasta, meat, sauce, tomato, salad, vegetable
Denise Uy

You feel tired and hungry after studying because of the temporary mental exhaustion and stress. Hours of concentrating will leave you mentally and physically weary, making you feel drained. Eating after studying will make you feel satisfied and happy, but will actually make you gain weight since you haven't actually burned more calories.

In order to avoid getting a mental burnout and binge eating, take breaks in between studying sessions. If you know you're not going to focus, how about taking a short nap? Watch some Youtube videos or stretch out your body. If you think you need something filling to eat, start chewing a gum or drink water. Most importantly, do not stress over your work! Your GPA may be important, but ultimately, nothing is more important than your health. Enjoy your college life and study consistently, rather than pulling an all-nighter.

beer, cake, chocolate
Seung Won Na

It's such a shame now that I know I shouldn't have rewarded myself with Edy's ice cream pints and mini Kitkats while preparing for midterms. At least now if someone asks me "does studying burn enough calories to lose weight?" I can confidently say no. Also, to my other fellow college students, beware of the snack corner while you study!