Do You Burn More Calories When Sick? Quick Answer (2023)


Let’s answer the question. Do you burn more calories when sick? 

When we get sick, our bodies go into survival mode. This means our metabolism slows down, and we lose weight faster than usual. But do we really burn more calories when we are sick?

We’ve all heard the saying, “You are what you eat.” Well, when we come down with the flu, or we’re just not feeling well, we tend to eat less healthy foods because our body needs the energy to fight illness. However, most experts agree that we burn more calories when sick.

If you are interested in knowing why you may burn more calories when you’re ill, keep reading. I will explain how and why we burn more calories when feeling under the weather. Let’s get started.


Do You Burn More Calories When Sick?

If you’re sick without a fever, like with the common cold, your calorie intake is likely to drop, but you might not burn any additional calories. However, you could quickly burn anywhere from 200 to 500 extra calories daily if you are running a fever.

This extra energy expenditure is caused by increased metabolic activity in the body, including heart and respiratory rates.

The human body burns more calories while running a fever. So, if you’re feeling under the weather, you don’t necessarily need to worry about burning off those extra pounds. Just make sure you keep yourself hydrated.

How Many Calories Do You Lose When You’re Sick?

The number of calories lost during illness depends on several factors, including the severity of the disease, how much sleep you get, what type of diet you follow, and whether you exercise regularly.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that the average person loses about 100 to 200 calories per day when ill. This figure varies based on the individual’s sex, weight, and activity level.

For example, men tend to burn fewer calories while women typically lose more. People who eat less and exercise more often burn more calories compared to those who eat more and don’t exercise.

Another study published in Health Psychology found that the average person burns about 7% more calories when sick.

The researchers used data from more than 2,500 adults to determine the relationship between caloric consumption and body temperature.

They found that the average person consumes 3,200 to 4,100 calories daily, depending on age, gender, and height.

However, the amount of calories consumed does not necessarily translate into the same amount of calories burned. The researchers found that the average adult burns approximately 3,800 calories when sick.

The difference between the two numbers is that sick individuals experience a more significant elevation in their body temperatures than healthy individuals.

As such, the body increases metabolism by 7% for every half-degree Celsius rise in body temperature.

Infection and Calories

You probably know that bacteria, viruses, and fungi cause infections. But did you know that some types of infections can cause burns?

The most common type of infection that causes burns is bacterial. Bacteria are tiny organisms that live everywhere in nature. They’re found in soil, water, air, food, animals, plants, and humans.

Because bacteria multiply quickly, they can cause serious health problems.

For example, staphylococcus bacteria can cause skin rashes, boils, abscesses, and even pneumonia. And streptococci bacteria can lead to scarlet fever, strep throat, and tonsillitis.

When we catch a cold, our bodies produce white blood cells called lymphocytes. This helps fight off germs like bacteria and viruses. When someone gets sick, the immune system goes into overdrive and has large numbers of lymphocytes to fight off infection.

This process increases metabolism and helps maintain body temperature.

During this process, the body releases chemicals called cytokines. Cytokines are essential messengers that communicate information within the immune system.

Some of these cytokines act directly against pathogens, while others stimulate the production of antibodies. Both actions increase the amount of energy needed to fight the infection.

So, does fighting infection burn calories? Yes, it does.


Do You Burn More Calories With a Cold?

You know how it goes: A nasty cold hits, and you start feeling like crap. Your throat hurts, your nose runs, and your head feels like someone took a hammer. But do you feel like you’re burning off some extra calories?

Not likely. “The key thing here is that we’re talking about a particular type of activity,” says Dr. Amy Gorin, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at NYU Langone Health. “We’re talking about something that causes you to expend energy.” And that’s precisely what happens when you have a fever.

Your body needs to generate heat to keep itself warm, which requires energy. So while you might think you’re burning more calories because you’re shivering and sweating, that’s happening because your body is expending energy to fight infection and maintain its core temperature.

In short, you’re probably not burning more calories when you have a cold.

But other factors could play into your calorie count. One factor is your appetite. If you’re sick, your appetite tends to drop, making it harder to eat enough food to compensate for lost calories.

Another factor is that your metabolism slows down when you have a cold, meaning you’ll burn fewer calories even though you’re exercising.

And finally, there’s the possibility that your brain isn’t processing information correctly. When you have a cold, your sense of smell is compromised, which makes it harder to tell whether you’re hungry or full.

So the bottom line is that you probably aren’t burning more calories when you have a cold, but you might eat less for plenty of other reasons.

What’s The Connection Between Appetite And Sickness

Being sick affects our appetites because of many changes in our bodies. Some people might notice an increase in appetite, while others experience a loss. This is normal, and it doesn’t mean anything about your health.

Does your appetite increase when you are sick?

In general, your appetite can go up when you are sick because bacteria infections increase the pro-inflammatory cytokines that increase metabolic rates during illness.

However, the most common cause of decreased appetite is upper respiratory infections, diarrhea, fever, or vomiting. These illnesses cause nausea and dehydration, causing us to lose fluids and nutrients.


What Should You Eat When You Are Sick?

When you’re sick, it’s important to keep yourself well-nourished. Not only does food help fight off infections, but it also helps to heal the body. But what do you eat when you’re sick?

Here’s some information about what you should eat when feeling under the weather.

Eating when you’re sick is important because it keeps your digestive system working correctly and prevents dehydration. But what about specific foods?

There isn’t one food that works for everyone; it depends on how severe the illness is, whether you feel better when you eat certain foods, and your personal preferences.

When sick, the best foods to eat are those high in protein, anti-inflammatory compounds, and electrolytes.

Ginger, turmeric, and garlic are some foods with anti-inflammatory properties.

They help to reduce inflammation throughout the body, including the gut lining, which makes it easier for the immune system to fight off infections.

Eating fiber-rich vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, and lean meats like fish, chicken, turkey, and pork are good protein sources.

Protein increases the production of white blood cells, which fight against bacteria and viruses.

Vitamin B12 and iron are essential minerals that keep our bodies healthy and strong.

Eating foods rich in vitamin B12 and iron is especially helpful when we’re ill because they support red blood cell formation and help us absorb iron from our diet.

The worst things to eat when sick include foods high in fat because excessive fat intake can trigger an immune response. This causes the body to produce antibodies that attack the fats themselves.

Fats are great energy stores and provide the building blocks for hormones, neurotransmitters, and brain chemicals. However, consuming too much fat during infection can cause the immune system to overreact and attack the fatty substances themselves.

This triggers an inflammatory process within the body called lipotoxicity. Lipotoxicity occurs when too much fat is stored in the liver, muscle, heart, and pancreas tissues.

This leads to chronic conditions like insulin resistance, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. In addition, fats stick to the intestine’s surface, making it harder for the immune system to detect harmful pathogens.

FAQ’S Corner

What Do Bodybuilders And Top Athletes Do When Sick?

REST! You need to rest. If you work out when you are under the weather, you can do more harm than good. Rest, get better, and get back to your training.


Being sick is not fun. However, there are ways to make it less miserable. If you’re feeling under the weather, try to eat healthy food and drink lots of water.

This helps keep your energy levels up and makes recovery quicker. Your body needs nutrients to fight illness, so eating healthily will help you recover faster.

And I know that being sick is not how you want to burn calories, but it does, as explained in this post. Please take it as a little boost—a positive by-product of feeling under the weather.

If you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

Stay Healthy and Strong!

Meet Ezra, a former model and actor turned founder of GymTrends365. His no-BS approach to fitness helps men over 40 achieve their best shape. Ezra believes in empowering individuals to take control of their health and fitness through practical, sustainable methods. At GymTrends365, he's committed to providing the resources and support necessary to help everyone achieve their fitness goals.