Does Chess Burn Calories?

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You may have seen your favorite chess players competing against each other in a tournament.  

However, have you ever wondered if the brain exercises that a chess player does while playing chess can actually burn calories? 

Does playing chess make you lose weight by any chance? In this article, I will answer all such questions and give you a complete clarification. So, without further ado, let’s dive in!

Do You Burn Calories When You Play Chess?

The good news is, yes, you can burn so much more calories than you think while playing an intense game of chess. But how is that possible if you don’t even get up from your seat and only occasionally move your arm and hand?

It was all explained by the Stanford neuroscientist Robert Sapolsky in one of his curious speeches. According to his studies, he concluded that a professional chess player can burn up to 6,000 calories per day while competing in a contest.

Turns out that it’s all because of the stress and increased brain activity that usually happens during the game. More points if it’s a tournament-level match.

While playing a tough chess game, the brain works at a huge capacity, which is so much more than your everyday mental activity. As a result, your metabolism kicks in, and you start burning calories.

Plus, the entire stress of wanting to beat your opponent, predict his movements, and get to checkmate can also induce weight loss. With this amount of pressure, you may start to eat less, your heart rate will pick up, and you might not even be able to have a peaceful night of sleep.

All these scenarios could result in a drop in your weight.

Do Chess Players Lose Weight?

Yes. High-level chess players tend to lose significant weight while participating in hours-long chess games. In fact, there were many instances of this happening to act as proof.

One notable incident takes place during the 1984 World Chess Championship. During that championship, the defending champion Anatoly Karpov managed to lose about 22 pounds by the end of the tournament.

Of course, it was all by accident, but this weight loss occurred after about five months of high-intensity brain activity. Strangely enough, the rate of calories burnt over this period of time by chess players was almost the same as that of tennis players in a match!

How Much Weight Can You Lose Playing Chess?

The amount of weight you can shed while playing chess can highly vary from one person to another. This is due to the fact that our bodies don’t all react the same way to physical and mental exercise.

Plus, even if all humans lost weight at the same rate, the intensity of the chess game itself could affect the calories that you burn. For example, a relaxed game with your friend next to the fireplace won’t be as stressful as a four-hour-long match in a championship, right?

Still, to give you a clear picture, just know that a professional chess player might burn up to 560 calories in a two-hour game. If you’re wondering, that’s almost the same amount of calories you can burn if you spend three hours on the treadmill!

A chess player can lose 2 pounds per day which over the long tournament can be considerable weight loss. For instance, it has been reported by Grandmaster Fabiano Caruana that he can lose about 15 pounds over the course of the entire competition (that too only when he is mildly scared!).

Is Chess Good for Weight Loss?

Well, chess can definitely be a great addition to your daily routine to enhance your weight loss rate. However, you shouldn’t count on solely playing chess to get rid of the extra weight.

The reason behind this is that, again, your calorie-burning rate will likely be much slower than that of a high-level player in a tough game of chess.

In addition, let’s not forget that any type of activity, be it physical or mental, must go hand in hand with a healthy, balanced diet to give you awesome weight loss results. I mean, what’s the point of burning calories if you’re going to make up for what you’ve lost and then some?

The bottom line here is that you should create a nice schedule that includes all the following things to make the most of your chess playing:

●     A healthy diet that has plenty of fruits and vegetables, fewer carbs, and a lot of protein

●     Any physical activity of your choosing (walking, running, dancing, yoga, weight-lifting, swimming, cycling, etc.)

●     Chess practice with a professional (make sure to increase the difficulty of your games day after day to boost your brain activity)

●    Drinking a lot of water every day

●   Getting enough sleep every night

Can You Manage Excess Weight Loss While Playing Chess?

In some cases, like the one with Anatoly Karpov, the amount of weight that a chess player can lose over a tournament can be astonishing. The stress, sleepless nights, and lack of appetite could make a player lose weight to a dangerous point.

So, is there a way to prevent this from happening?

Yes. It’s all about keeping a close eye on your body and monitoring every change to make sure nothing goes south.

For example, a chess player who’s already pretty up in the fitness alley might be able to control this risky weight loss. By focusing on how much they eat and ensuring they consume their recommended daily intake of calories, they can battle unwanted weight loss.


Does playing chess make you lose weight?

Yes. Playing intense chess games with difficult opponents speeds up your heart rate, makes your brain work harder, and boosts your metabolism. As a result, you burn a good amount of calories during the match and, eventually, you might lose some pounds.

Fortunately, you can always use this knowledge when planning your weight loss routine. Add chess-playing to your healthy diet and physical workouts and you might just be surprised at the results!

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