# "Eat back half your exercise calories"

## Replies

• Posts: 19,768 Member
edited July 2016
_sacar wrote: »
jkal1979 wrote: »
_sacar wrote: »
Huh, I have always been told you shouldn't eat back your exercise calories at all. Shows what I know, lol.

When it comes to the formula that MFP uses, you are supposed to eat them back (or at least a portion of them). There are other formulas that people use like the TDEE method where people don't add in their exercise calories since they are already added to the calorie goal.

Oh, you're right. I guess I'm doing a weird mishmash of the two - tracking with MFP but using the TDEE method of not eating them back. Oh well! You learn something new every day.

@_sacar
You did set your goal with a TDEE calculator then I hope?

By the way TDEE calculators include your exercise calories so if you are using that method you are eating back exercise calories, just an average not a variable amount.
• Posts: 4,397 Member
I just manually change the amount of calories MFP tells me I've burned to less.
• Posts: 8,577 Member
I basically just tried to leave some calories at the end of the day. You could always pick a lower calorie estimate, like choose walking instead of running when you log your exercise. Whatever, its all estimates anyway. Try not to over think it. If you work out daily, you could always just set your activity level to lightly active and not log any exercises.
• Posts: 25,701 Member
I see a lot of people saying "eat back half your exercise calories" or "eat back a third" or whatever. Am I the only one who thinks this is a super complicated way to approach things? Seems like it would involve a lot of mental arithmetic at the moment of deciding whether to eat something or not.

If I'm worried mfp might overestimate exercise calories, I just enter fewer minutes - so maybe I walked for 20min but I'll only enter 15. That way I can still just look at the calories remaining and know whether to eat the thing or not. No on the spot mathematical gymnastics.

Anyone else? When you say "I only eat half my exercise calories", what do you mean? Do you enter half the minutes or are you always juggling the numbers from your latest workout in your head? I feel it could be helpful to get this clarified, especially for beginners.

Sure, entering fewer minutes is certainly one way to do it.
• Posts: 30,886 Member
I see a lot of people saying "eat back half your exercise calories" or "eat back a third" or whatever. Am I the only one who thinks this is a super complicated way to approach things? Seems like it would involve a lot of mental arithmetic at the moment of deciding whether to eat something or not.

If I'm worried mfp might overestimate exercise calories, I just enter fewer minutes - so maybe I walked for 20min but I'll only enter 15. That way I can still just look at the calories remaining and know whether to eat the thing or not. No on the spot mathematical gymnastics.

You can control how many calories are entered. So when I used to add back calories (I do TDEE method now when logging and rarely log), I'd get, say, 600 calories for 50 minutes spinning and modify it to 350 or 400 or whatever seemed reasonable. (I don't do any specific percentage but use my judgment based on the activity.)
And a related question: what is your basis for thinking mfp overestimates burn (as opposed to users overestimating intensity or length of workout)?

A lot of activities depend on intensity, and newbies feel like they are exercising intensely often when they aren't actually burning so many calories. This is the case for spin, elliptical, and any exercise classes. It's also the problem with swimming being measured by intensity rather than distance.

Other activities, specifically longer runs (which are otherwise easy to measure), bikes, and walks are distorted by the fact that you are burning calories during the time period even if sedentary, and yet the calorie measures don't subtract those out (Apple Watch does, and gives a lower measure, as a result). Thus, for a shorter run (5 miles or less, say), I'll round down to be conservative but use most of the calories. For a long run or bike (10+ mile run, 2-3 hour bike or more), I'l chop it down much more. This works with the fact I never want to eat all those extra calories anyway.

It's never that exact, though, which is why I prefer TDEE method. Well, one reason.
• Posts: 2,578 Member
edited July 2016
But if you've done several bits of exercise during the day and logged them in full, you're going to have to remember how many calories to leave uneaten at the end of the day. So if I burned 100cal walking and 50 gardening and 150 at the gym and 75 cycling to the shops, and I log all that in full but only intend to eat half of them back, I have to be carrying in my head that I have to leave my calories in the green by 183 at the end of the day, and then if I log another 50 calories I have to remember to leave 208 uneaten now, and it just seems very complicated to me.

Two things - 1) I'm not logging every single time I get out of my chair during the day and 2) so when you log it and it says 100 calories -just change it to 50 right there. Nothing to remember later.

Right. I've read elsewhere that we shouldn't eat back any calories from activities that aren't an exertion because they are pretty much daily normal activities-based. That's why I was getting confused why someone adds gardening or gentle walks. Those don't burn too many calories above the regular given activity level.

Now, for instance, jogging, heavy cycling or exercise that raises the heart rate and causes one to get out of breath, on the other hand, my doctor said counts as "exercise". I've also read not to include weight lifting for eating back exercise calories. But one hears a lot of conflicting stories in MFP.
• Posts: 2,578 Member
LisaKay91 wrote: »
... I have friends who log 'chores' and 'house cleaning'... eat back 400+ calories a day from their normal 'exercises' and wonder why they can't lose half a pound for 2-3 months.

I personally don't eat back my exercise calories (I am extremely sedentary) unless I am hungry or feeling weak... exercise is a buffer in case my calorie counting is off.

I WISH that I could include chores and cleaning as calories burned. Maybe I should dance, do jumping-jacks, and twirl while I vacuum and cook??

• Posts: 10,933 Member
DebSozo wrote: »
But if you've done several bits of exercise during the day and logged them in full, you're going to have to remember how many calories to leave uneaten at the end of the day. So if I burned 100cal walking and 50 gardening and 150 at the gym and 75 cycling to the shops, and I log all that in full but only intend to eat half of them back, I have to be carrying in my head that I have to leave my calories in the green by 183 at the end of the day, and then if I log another 50 calories I have to remember to leave 208 uneaten now, and it just seems very complicated to me.

Two things - 1) I'm not logging every single time I get out of my chair during the day and 2) so when you log it and it says 100 calories -just change it to 50 right there. Nothing to remember later.

Right. I've read elsewhere that we shouldn't eat back any calories from activities that aren't an exertion because they are pretty much daily normal activities-based. That's why I was getting confused why someone adds gardening or gentle walks. Those don't burn too many calories above the regular given activity level.

Now, for instance, jogging, heavy cycling or exercise that raises the heart rate and causes one to get out of breath, on the other hand, my doctor said counts as "exercise". I've also read not to include weight lifting for eating back exercise calories. But one hears a lot of conflicting stories in MFP.

For the record (I say this because more data is usually better than less): I burned 1,306 kCal on my bike on Saturday without breaking a sweat. It took 3:20 (hours:minutes), covered 34 miles mostly on dirt roads, and involved 2,021 feet of vertical. That's only about 400 kCal per hour and only 60 feet of rise per mile. But it was a pretty good number of calories (and measured with 95+ % accuracy), there are people who eat less than that in a day. You can put a lot of energy into a mild to moderate level of exertion, as long as you spent some time doing it.
• Posts: 2,578 Member
DebSozo wrote: »
But if you've done several bits of exercise during the day and logged them in full, you're going to have to remember how many calories to leave uneaten at the end of the day. So if I burned 100cal walking and 50 gardening and 150 at the gym and 75 cycling to the shops, and I log all that in full but only intend to eat half of them back, I have to be carrying in my head that I have to leave my calories in the green by 183 at the end of the day, and then if I log another 50 calories I have to remember to leave 208 uneaten now, and it just seems very complicated to me.

Two things - 1) I'm not logging every single time I get out of my chair during the day and 2) so when you log it and it says 100 calories -just change it to 50 right there. Nothing to remember later.

Right. I've read elsewhere that we shouldn't eat back any calories from activities that aren't an exertion because they are pretty much daily normal activities-based. That's why I was getting confused why someone adds gardening or gentle walks. Those don't burn too many calories above the regular given activity level.

Now, for instance, jogging, heavy cycling or exercise that raises the heart rate and causes one to get out of breath, on the other hand, my doctor said counts as "exercise". I've also read not to include weight lifting for eating back exercise calories. But one hears a lot of conflicting stories in MFP.

For the record (I say this because more data is usually better than less): I burned 1,306 kCal on my bike on Saturday without breaking a sweat. It took 3:20 (hours:minutes), covered 34 miles mostly on dirt roads, and involved 2,021 feet of vertical. That's only about 400 kCal per hour and only 60 feet of rise per mile. But it was a pretty good number of calories (and measured with 95+ % accuracy), there are people who eat less than that in a day. You can put a lot of energy into a mild to moderate level of exertion, as long as you spent some time doing it.

Then you are in super great shape. I would consider that above and beyond a casual walk down the street or doing the dishes.
• Posts: 25,701 Member
DebSozo wrote: »
But if you've done several bits of exercise during the day and logged them in full, you're going to have to remember how many calories to leave uneaten at the end of the day. So if I burned 100cal walking and 50 gardening and 150 at the gym and 75 cycling to the shops, and I log all that in full but only intend to eat half of them back, I have to be carrying in my head that I have to leave my calories in the green by 183 at the end of the day, and then if I log another 50 calories I have to remember to leave 208 uneaten now, and it just seems very complicated to me.

Two things - 1) I'm not logging every single time I get out of my chair during the day and 2) so when you log it and it says 100 calories -just change it to 50 right there. Nothing to remember later.

Right. I've read elsewhere that we shouldn't eat back any calories from activities that aren't an exertion because they are pretty much daily normal activities-based. That's why I was getting confused why someone adds gardening or gentle walks. Those don't burn too many calories above the regular given activity level.

Now, for instance, jogging, heavy cycling or exercise that raises the heart rate and causes one to get out of breath, on the other hand, my doctor said counts as "exercise". I've also read not to include weight lifting for eating back exercise calories. But one hears a lot of conflicting stories in MFP.

I don't log gardening when I'm watering or cutting flowers. My normal gardening is more tiring than a brisk walk, which is why I get more calories for it.
• Posts: 25,701 Member
jkal1979 wrote: »
LisaKay91 wrote: »
There is no way for me to know how many calories I actually burn exercising even with my chest strap.

I have friends who log 'chores' and 'house cleaning'... eat back 400+ calories a day from their normal 'exercises' and wonder why they can't lose half a pound for 2-3 months.

I personally don't eat back my exercise calories (I am extremely sedentary) unless I am hungry or feeling weak... exercise is a buffer in case my calorie counting is off.

The MFP estimates are nuts.. 30 minutes on the elliptical the database says it burns 600+ calories for me but my exercise machine says it's around 325/350

I think the oddest thing I have seen logged is meal prep.

Some people don't realize that day to day things like that are pretty much covered even if they are set to sedentary.

I don't log everyday cooking for myself. But when I do binge cooking like I did for the 4th of July, that's not normal everyday activity and I do count that. It's less tiring than a brisk walk, and I get less calories for it. Also, I've cooked professionally and am moving quickly.
• Posts: 175 Member
I do as your suggesting, I log my non step based exercise in my Fitbit but reduce the minutes as I find the Fitbit calories for exercise over inflated. Eg 45 minutes of boxing I'll log between 30-35 depending on intensity.

I don't find the maths difficult but I prefer my numbers to accurately reflect my input/output so I can review the data over periods of time.
• Posts: 25,701 Member
I don't disagree that it's not a causal walk or house work, but I wouldn't have called it "exertion," either. On the other side of the coin my girlfriend has a friend who would call any walking heavy exertion, so it's relative. My point was that you shouldn't necessarily discount things you've done because they don't feel like enough exertion, especially when they take a long time. (Gardening can take hours, for example.)

Ya, in the spring my mom regularly puts in 8 hour days in her extensive vegetable and flower gardens.

• Posts: 27,178 Member
LisaKay91 wrote: »
There is no way for me to know how many calories I actually burn exercising even with my chest strap.

I have friends who log 'chores' and 'house cleaning'... eat back 400+ calories a day from their normal 'exercises' and wonder why they can't lose half a pound for 2-3 months.

I personally don't eat back my exercise calories (I am extremely sedentary) unless I am hungry or feeling weak... exercise is a buffer in case my calorie counting is off.

The MFP estimates are nuts.. 30 minutes on the elliptical the database says it burns 600+ calories for me but my exercise machine says it's around 325/350

Not all of MFP's estimates are nuts. Some are better than others. Elliptical is one of the not great ones. This blog post explains it well.

http://www.myfitnesspal.com/blog/Azdak?month=201201

It doesn't really matter how you come to
Your calorie goal as long as you are consistent. Cut down on time, cut calories in half, use TDEE, guess. If you consistently log one way, and you lose keep going. If not, change it a bit and try again.

I started out using MFPs estimates and did just fine. I've also done TDEE and using a fitness monitor.
• Posts: 7,739 Member
edited July 2016
But if you've done several bits of exercise during the day and logged them in full, you're going to have to remember how many calories to leave uneaten at the end of the day. So if I burned 100cal walking and 50 gardening and 150 at the gym and 75 cycling to the shops, and I log all that in full but only intend to eat half of them back, I have to be carrying in my head that I have to leave my calories in the green by 183 at the end of the day, and then if I log another 50 calories I have to remember to leave 208 uneaten now, and it just seems very complicated to me.

Am I missing something? My log shows exactly how much I earned. Does yours not? No juggling involved to look at the asterisked 'extra calories earned' amount at the bottom of the page and divide by 2.

eta: Which would mean one single division of 2 is less math that subtracting some number from multiple exercise entries.
• Posts: 385 Member
WinoGelato wrote: »
xmarye wrote: »
Well, I would not eat my calories back since I think it defeats the purpose of using exercise as a tool to increase caloric deficit - but who am I to dictate this approach to everyone? I would still advise eating half rather then eating back all of them, just in case that there would be an overestimation... let's not forget that the goal here is to maintain a deficit! This is one reason why I am planning to get a fitness watch ASAP to help me understand my body better

Also... I prefer to enter as my calorie goal my TDEE since that way I see the calories needed to maintain. The calories left (the green number) then represents my deficit, which motivates me a lot more. I think it makes more sense and helps me understand my body better; just make sure your recalculate your TDEE for every 5lbs lost and also be sure to have a sensible tool to calculate your body fat % to ensure best possible accuracy. P.S. I also take my measurements!

All in all, just make sure that whatever you're doing is working and that you're losing on the scale! It's all about making it work for you. We can all share our experiences and motivate each other no matter what. I'm sure there are people that don't eat them back, some people that eat them all back or only half back, and all of those people could still lose weight!

If you are using the MFP method, which uses a NEAT estimate, exercise is excluded. Your calorie goal is set at a deficit such that even if you do no exercise at all, you should lose weight. That is why if you do exercise, you should eat back at least a portion of those calories, to avoid having too large of a deficit which can result in loss of lean muscle, as well as other potential adverse effects.

Calculating your goal from your TDEE has exercise calories factored in, so no, you wouldn't necessarily eat back the exercise adjustment. Most people using the TDEE method log the exercise activity and the duration but manually adjust to 1 calorie when it is logged.

You are conflating two different methods - so please don't suggest that eating back exercise calories defeats the purpose.

Your TDEE doesn't include your workouts... it includes your level of daily activities. For example, are you doing a desk job or do you work standing up and moving all day long. Your BMR is what your body needs just to function (breathing, digesting, etc).