CrossFit is an exercise regimen that uses short, intense workouts to build what its trainers call “functional fitness,” or skills that will help you lift heavy objects or do other everyday tasks more effectively. CrossFit workouts are much shorter than more traditional workouts, but their intensity gives them a high calorie-burning capacity. Your body will continue to burn calories at a higher rate after a CrossFit workout because of the variety of muscles you are working.

The Facts

The exact number of calories you burn in any particular workout will vary based on your physical abilities, weight and aerobic capacity. However, CrossFit workouts are intense workouts that have many calorie-burning advantages, despite the fact that most of these workouts last fewer than 20 minutes.


According to Tony Leyland, a kinesiology professor at Canada’s Simon Fraser University, high-intensity workouts such as CrossFit burn more calories than moderate workouts. The metabolic boost you get from a CrossFit workout is significant, and because of its intensity it lasts for hours after you work out, meaning your body continues to burn calories at a higher rate even after your 20-minute workout has ended. CrossFit’s intense combination of weight training and metabolic conditioning is also a good way to build muscle mass. As Leyland has written, a pound of muscle burns 30 to 50 calories a day at rest, while a pound of fat burns only three calories a day.


When starting CrossFit, calorie-burning shouldn’t be your only goal. If you focus on more concrete goals such as doing a pull-up, improving your running times or increasing the amount of weight you are able to lift, you will improve your overall fitness and endurance levels, which will allow your body to perform more calorie-burning activities in a day. This will help you to begin to lose fat and build muscle over time.


You can’t achieve your weight-loss goals by only worrying about the calories you burn exercising. If you more than replace all those calories the next time you snack or sit down to a meal, you won’t lose weight. Dr. Michael R. Eades, who has written extensively on nutrition, wrote on his blog that the number of calories burned through exercise is tough to nail down, and often inaccurate. He also wrote that many people more than compensate for the calories they burn through exercising just by popping a handful of nuts or other snack in their mouth.

Getting Started

CrossFit is based on a daily “Workout of the Day.” You can view daily workouts and find videos that demonstrate the specific exercises on the CrossFit website. If you are willing to invest in some equipment, you can work out on your own, but if you want to make sure you are using proper form and want access to a full range of equipment, it is best to work out with a certified CrossFit affiliate. The CrossFit website will help you find an affiliate in your area.

What to Expect

When you start CrossFit, you will first be put through a baseline workout that will gauge your fitness level. Most affiliates offer a series of classes that teach technique for basic moves. Don’t show up without water and a good pair of athletic shoes.

By Emily Battle