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TOPIC: Do you "eat back" the calories that you burn?

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June 5, 2012 9:26 PM
This was prompted by other comments that I've seen about if someone has exercised, then they should be incorporating that back into the calories they eat for the day. So that, for example, if I have my calories set to 1200, and burn a further 200, then I'm actually eating 1400 calories that day.

Am I interpreting this correctly?

Because, to me, this just doesn't make sense. I don't exercise every day, instead I do a full on workout 3 times a week where I'm burning between 500 - 900 calories. So that would mean that on those exercise days, I could be eating up to 2000 calories, and on the off days back to 1200? If I was to do that, I would be really hungry on those off days as my stomach would be expecting that extra food.

So is there something I'm missing? Feel free to explain it to me :)
Edited by rachborg On June 5, 2012 9:27 PM
  1924708
June 5, 2012 9:30 PM
I normally just eat when I am hungry, but don't go over my 'allowed calories' for the day. Like yesterday I worked out a little bit, and barely went over my allowed calories (only about 10 over) but today I did a lot of work (burned like 2000 calories) and I still only ate about 1700 overall. On days that you don't work out, just try to find lower calorie foods that will fill you up, like popcorn, if you tend to be hungry and going over your calorie goal.
June 5, 2012 9:37 PM
No.... i was told if i want to reach my goal weight to eat only my daily requirement. if you eat back you're maintaining your current weight.
  15435364
June 5, 2012 9:40 PM
I burn 850 calories everyday from my cardio and I don't add them back into my meals. That being said, I'm "cutting" right now so I'm trying to get leaner, if I were just trying to maintain my weight I probably would add those calories burned back into my meals throughout the day. So long story short, depends on your goals.
June 5, 2012 10:43 PM
I don't eat mine back.
  22865699
June 5, 2012 10:45 PM
No I dont, I just eat my 1200 everyday.
  20600607
June 5, 2012 10:48 PM
MFP calculates based on your regular activity, not your exercise. You can compensate by averaging out your exercise calories over the week. Yes you will look like you are over on non-exercise days, and under on exercise days, but it will equal out and be easier on your stomach. I eat most of mine back, and if you don't eat enough calories, your performance at the gym will be affected. The days I am hungry, I have no stamina and little energy! You don't have to eat back all your calories burned, but try eating at least 1/2 (spaced out through the week) and see if that works for you. For me it is a perfect time to treat myself. The harder I work the bigger the reward!
  11845820
June 5, 2012 10:50 PM
I usually eat most of mine back. I have still managed to loose a good amount of weight. If you are accurate in entering your data to start there is already a deficit added to your formula. Exercising just adds to that deficit. If you don't eat them back you will, theoretically, loose weight faster. I have a LOT to loose and I want to be slow and steady. I choose to eat most of them back. Some days I don't and on occasion I go over. I am human.
I don't think there is a right or wrong though. If you are hungry eat. If not, don't worry about it. :)
Good luck!!
June 5, 2012 10:51 PM
QUOTE:

No.... i was told if i want to reach my goal weight to eat only my daily requirement. if you eat back you're maintaining your current weight.


That would be true if your settings were on "maintenance".
If you are set on say -2/week then the deficit is still there, the deficit that will help you acheive losing 2/week.

I eat mine, they taste great. (if I am not hungry I will leave half).
  1210291
June 5, 2012 10:51 PM
I eat all of the food. All of it.
June 5, 2012 10:54 PM
Let's say you're 5'4" and weigh 180lbs and lightly active. You would need to consume about 2200 calories in a day to maintain your weight. Not lose. Not gain. Maintain. If you limit your calories to 1200 per day, you're already at a deficit of 1000 calories per day. Now, if you burn 200 of those 1200 calories, you're down to a net of 1000 calories per day - or a deficit of 1200 calories per day. So if you eat back those 200 calories you burned, you'll still have a 1000 calorie, daily deficit. AND you'll still be getting the added benefit of moving your body and working your muscles which will help with fat loss.
June 5, 2012 10:55 PM
So, if you eat 1200, but burned 800, that means really, you only are left with 400 calories consumed for the day. Does that make sense to you?

The reason you eat your exercise cals is so that you eat enough to be healthy. It's called "net calories". You net should be at 1200, after exercise, if 1200 is your healthy level, which it's not, but let's pretend it is. So, if MFP tells you to eat 1200, and you burn 1200, you think that's healthy for you to net zero calories for the day? No, of course not. Your body needs nutrition above and beyond just fueling your exercise. You need to walk around, breathe, your heart needs to beat, and you need to be able to talk. All that takes energy.

In addition to all that, in case that doesn't make sense to you, the 1200 calories a day that MFP is telling you to eat INCLUDES a calorie deficit, so you will lose weight if you do no exercise. So, by eating back the calories you burn from exercise, you will NOT GAIN WEIGHT, but will continue to lose.
June 5, 2012 10:58 PM
I generally eat around my allotted 1200 calories a day regardless of how much I work out/burn calories. I usually work out 6 days a week and tend to burn at least 900-1200 calories a day. I probably should be eating a bit more, but if I am not hungry, I am not going to consume more calories. I look at it this way...I have the extra calories there if I want to splurge on something and it is working for me because I have lost 40 lbs and I am almost at my goal weight. I would say play around with it and find what works best for you.
  21152740
June 5, 2012 11:02 PM
I really enjoy reading philosophies on this subject. My wife and I both eat a portion of our exercise calories back each day. Most days I burn between 750-1000 calories during cardio workouts, I also weight train 5 days per week. I have steadily lost weight almost 14 pounds since Feb. 4th. A little more than 3 pounds per month. Granted I did not need to lose 25 - 100 plus pounds but, those that just go by the calorie intake here will eventually feel the starve and then binge erasing the gains. I know we are supposed to be supportive here but, you need to be smart about it as well. Starving yourself will not work, you need to hoe this road smartly.
June 5, 2012 11:04 PM
Can we get a "sticky" on this?
(Seriously)
June 5, 2012 11:11 PM
QUOTE:

So, if you eat 1200, but burned 800, that means really, you only are left with 400 calories consumed for the day. Does that make sense to you?

The reason you eat your exercise cals is so that you eat enough to be healthy. It's called "net calories". You net should be at 1200, after exercise, if 1200 is your healthy level, which it's not, but let's pretend it is. So, if MFP tells you to eat 1200, and you burn 1200, you think that's healthy for you to net zero calories for the day? No, of course not. Your body needs nutrition above and beyond just fueling your exercise. You need to walk around, breathe, your heart needs to beat, and you need to be able to talk. All that takes energy.

In addition to all that, in case that doesn't make sense to you, the 1200 calories a day that MFP is telling you to eat INCLUDES a calorie deficit, so you will lose weight if you do no exercise. So, by eating back the calories you burn from exercise, you will NOT GAIN WEIGHT, but will continue to lose.


very good explanation. i only just started here, but i plan to "eat back" my calories (at least some), because i know that if i don't i will start to feel deprived and exhausted, and thats a great lead up to a binge.
June 5, 2012 11:19 PM
if you enter your food consumed & the exercise done, my fitness pal subtracts the workout from your allowed food - so it seemed like common sense to me.

Plus anything below 1200 net cals is kicking you into starvation mode, it's just going to backfire later on =/
June 5, 2012 11:20 PM
i dont care about the net at all, only what i consume
  8889735
June 5, 2012 11:30 PM
This same question gets asked every couple of days.... and most of what comes back is I do or I don't responses with little or no explanation as to why or why not or much understanding of what this site is doing.

MFP calculates your BMR based off your vitals (height, weight, age, gender, etc.). That BMR is the calorie level your body burns just at rest in 24 hours. No activity, no exercise, just basic life support.

When you input your normal daily activity level, MFP takes your BMR and increases it by a multiplying factor based on that activity level to estimate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). If your normal, everyday activity includes little more than sitting at a desk or on the couch, you are sedentary and your TDEE is only a little above your BMR. If you walk 3 miles a day as your normal activity (say you live in a large city and get around by walking or bus / subway) then you are active and your TDEE is well above your BMR. In the end, TDEE is what matters so make sure your activity level is as accurate as possible.

MFP takes your TDEE and subtracts to create the necessary deficit for you to lose weight without changing your normal activity level. 3500 calories to burn 1 lb of body fat. Your goal is to lose 2 lbs a week.... 2 x 3500 / 7 = 1000 calorie deficit per day. TDEE - deficit = net calorie goal.

Here is the most important part: When you input your daily activity level, was the exercise you are doing today part of that? yes or no. Exercise in this stand point is any physical activity burning calories above and beyond the daily activity level you input. If the answer is no and you are now exercising (you input a sedentary activity level but are now at the gym 5 days a week), every calorie burned is increasing your TDEE, meaning it increases your net calorie goal BECAUSE THE DEFICIT IS BUILT INTO THE NET CALORIE GOAL.

You can eat your exercise calories back and you will still be at the planned calorie deficit, meaning you will still lose weight.

If you only eat 1200 calories and burn 400 calories exercising, your body only is getting 800 calories to function on. For most people that is not sustainable for very long. If you start to fatigue easily, get irritable easily, have trouble concentrating or other sudden changes, please re-think how little you're eating.
  15336376
June 5, 2012 11:55 PM
A great answer from dvisser above.

I will just add that every calorie calculator I've seen gives you more calories to eat if you are more active.
This is not a new idea that MFP has dreamed up, it's just a different method to get the same end results.

That means that the total calories recommended each day to stay healthy AND lose weight are your daily allowance plus the cals you burn from exercise.

Sure, you don't have to eat them back - no-one is forcing you to, but I just don't understand why you wouldn't. Your body needs good nutition to stay healthy and to have enough energy to live your life and do the things you want to. Why short-change yourself?
  4147547
June 6, 2012 1:07 AM
Ok, so all this advice is great. I completely understand why you should eat back your calories. But I don't (usually). I hope that this doesn't have a negative effect later on when I'm closer to my goal weight. From what I can tell, people have success either way and it depends on the indivdual. I don't feel tired or hungry. If this becomes the case I will increase my calorie intake.
My main reason for not eating back the calories I burn though is that I usually do my exercise at night when the kids are in bed and I try not to eat later than 5:30pm. I don't know how many calories I'm going to burn and sometimes something gets in the way of this planned exercise so I would be over for the day if I ate more.
June 6, 2012 2:11 AM
QUOTE:

Can we get a "sticky" on this?
(Seriously)


Yes please!!!
  11180573
June 6, 2012 2:15 AM
QUOTE:

Ok, so all this advice is great. I completely understand why you should eat back your calories. But I don't (usually). I hope that this doesn't have a negative effect later on when I'm closer to my goal weight. From what I can tell, people have success either way and it depends on the indivdual. I don't feel tired or hungry. If this becomes the case I will increase my calorie intake.
My main reason for not eating back the calories I burn though is that I usually do my exercise at night when the kids are in bed and I try not to eat later than 5:30pm. I don't know how many calories I'm going to burn and sometimes something gets in the way of this planned exercise so I would be over for the day if I ate more.


It only depends on the individual in terms of how much each individual has to lose. If you have a lot to lose you can cut your calories further than if you don't. It doesn't matter what time of day you eat either, nor do you have to balance your calories on a daily basis - over a week will do!
  11180573
June 6, 2012 2:17 AM
QUOTE:

Ok, so all this advice is great. I completely understand why you should eat back your calories. But I don't (usually). I hope that this doesn't have a negative effect later on when I'm closer to my goal weight. From what I can tell, people have success either way and it depends on the indivdual. I don't feel tired or hungry. If this becomes the case I will increase my calorie intake.
My main reason for not eating back the calories I burn though is that I usually do my exercise at night when the kids are in bed and I try not to eat later than 5:30pm. I don't know how many calories I'm going to burn and sometimes something gets in the way of this planned exercise so I would be over for the day if I ate more.


Most days, I can't eat back my calories. I try, but I'm just not that hungry. Some days, though, I feel like I'm going to starve before supper and I have to add in another snack. I think that I am helping my body learn to monitor when I really need food. Before starting MFP - I ate all the time. I can't even remember if I ever felt hunger.
June 6, 2012 2:27 AM
QUOTE:

This same question gets asked every couple of days.... and most of what comes back is I do or I don't responses with little or no explanation as to why or why not or much understanding of what this site is doing.

MFP calculates your BMR based off your vitals (height, weight, age, gender, etc.). That BMR is the calorie level your body burns just at rest in 24 hours. No activity, no exercise, just basic life support.

When you input your normal daily activity level, MFP takes your BMR and increases it by a multiplying factor based on that activity level to estimate your TDEE (total daily energy expenditure). If your normal, everyday activity includes little more than sitting at a desk or on the couch, you are sedentary and your TDEE is only a little above your BMR. If you walk 3 miles a day as your normal activity (say you live in a large city and get around by walking or bus / subway) then you are active and your TDEE is well above your BMR. In the end, TDEE is what matters so make sure your activity level is as accurate as possible.

MFP takes your TDEE and subtracts to create the necessary deficit for you to lose weight without changing your normal activity level. 3500 calories to burn 1 lb of body fat. Your goal is to lose 2 lbs a week.... 2 x 3500 / 7 = 1000 calorie deficit per day. TDEE - deficit = net calorie goal.

Here is the most important part: When you input your daily activity level, was the exercise you are doing today part of that? yes or no. Exercise in this stand point is any physical activity burning calories above and beyond the daily activity level you input. If the answer is no and you are now exercising (you input a sedentary activity level but are now at the gym 5 days a week), every calorie burned is increasing your TDEE, meaning it increases your net calorie goal BECAUSE THE DEFICIT IS BUILT INTO THE NET CALORIE GOAL.

You can eat your exercise calories back and you will still be at the planned calorie deficit, meaning you will still lose weight.

If you only eat 1200 calories and burn 400 calories exercising, your body only is getting 800 calories to function on. For most people that is not sustainable for very long. If you start to fatigue easily, get irritable easily, have trouble concentrating or other sudden changes, please re-think how little you're eating.


This has been a bit confusing for me too, so thanks for this smile

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