Does thinking burn calories?
Asked by anonymous on Jan 10, 2009 in Nutrition

It seems that the brain requires fuel just as muscles do. Does the brain have specific nutritional requirements when involved in intense mental activity, such as graduate school?  I notice that after classes, many of us say we are surprised by how hungry we are given that we were sitting much of the day.  Is it at all like exercise, that this type of activity should be taken into account when figuring out daily nutritional requirements for weight loss?  What qualifies as brain food?


The brain does burn more calories during periods of intense thinking.  But calorie burning is related to learning; after a subject is mastered, fewer calories are burned by thinking about it.  Overall, the brain accounts for 20% - 30% of total calories burned in a day, but most of those calories are used to regulate physiologic processes such as heart rate, breathing and digestion.  The brain burns glucose to transmit messages across a network of neurons, and so carbohydrate, which digests to become glucose, is truly brain food.  Carbohydrates are found in fruits, grains, vegetables, legumes, and milk. Read more about calories burned in thinking at

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