Should you actually eat back your calories from exercise?

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  • Making_changes7
    Making_changes7 Posts: 194 Member
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    Thanks everyone! :smiley:
  • try2again
    try2again Posts: 3,562 Member
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    Also, it's important how accurate you are in logging your food. If you don't weigh your food and log every little thing that goes in your mouth, you may already be using up any cushion any exercise calories would give you.
  • dankaplin
    dankaplin Posts: 36 Member
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    I have paired MFP with my Garmin VivoFit and have monitored the output on the treadmill. MFP has reported the lowest calorie burn for exercise of the three. So, it is probably a conservative estimate. Certainly eating back 50% of your calories seems reasonable to me.
    Another question - I think based on what everyone has said I will eat back my calories but how do I know that they're accurate?

    What if it says I burned 400 but actually only burned 100 and then I am going in excess of 300? How do I monitor that? How accurate is MFP's exercise calorie tracking?

  • fatfudgery
    fatfudgery Posts: 449 Member
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    By all means eat back your exercise calories! Like others have already said, MFP gives you a Calorie goal that already has a built-in deficit, so burning extra Calories by exercising and not eating those Calories back would put you at too great a deficit, which has a bunch of potentially detrimental side-effects relating to diet compliance and muscle sparing and metabolic adaptation and general energy levels and whatnot.

    Two caveats, though:

    1. Most people overestimate the amount of effort they're putting into their exercise. Also, the MFP database grossly overestimates the Calorie burn from doing some exercises and activities. So be conservative and don't trust that 800 Calorie burn from walking for an hour, or whatever. I've seen a lot of people recommend eating back half of the exercise Calories MFP gives you, which seems like reasonable starting point.
    2. Make sure that the exercise Calories you're logging aren't already being accounted for in your MFP Calorie allowance. So if you set your daily activity level as "lightly active" because you take a daily 30 minute walk around the block, for example, MFP already takes that into account in your Calorie goal. Don't log that daily walk again!

  • cwolfman13
    cwolfman13 Posts: 41,865 Member
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    Fueling your fitness is kind of important...failure to do so will ultimately result in your body not receiving enough nutrients or energy (calories) for repair and recovery and you end up with all kinds of nagging injuries and whatnot...to boot, your fitness gains will be pretty much non-existent.

    Your calorie target is provided to you as if you were not going to do any exercise whatsoever...it includes your deficit...when you exercise, your maintenance level of calories would increase, thus the amount you can eat and maintain the same deficit would also increase.
  • Rocknut53
    Rocknut53 Posts: 1,794 Member
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    cwolfman13 wrote: »
    Fueling your fitness is kind of important...failure to do so will ultimately result in your body not receiving enough nutrients or energy (calories) for repair and recovery and you end up with all kinds of nagging injuries and whatnot...to boot, your fitness gains will be pretty much non-existent.

    Your calorie target is provided to you as if you were not going to do any exercise whatsoever...it includes your deficit...when you exercise, your maintenance level of calories would increase, thus the amount you can eat and maintain the same deficit would also increase.

    And, one must be cautious when determining their activity level which seems pretty vague and would lead one to believe their base calories for the day are actually higher than what is realistic. Because this is not a one size fits all app, it takes a little effort to figure out what works best for each of us. What has worked for me was setting my activity level at sedentary (it was winter and I was being a slug) so to lose 1 pound a week I was given 1200 calories. I ate back some of my exercise calories based on the assumption that the burn was not really as high as MFP gave me. I'm currently below my goal weight and now just playing with the numbers to figure out what maintenance really is.
  • beatyfamily1
    beatyfamily1 Posts: 257 Member
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    I think as long as you are not going below your BMR then you should be fine if you eat them back or not. Remember that about 10% of your total calories are burned off just by digestion.
  • lynn_glenmont
    lynn_glenmont Posts: 10,028 Member
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    I disagree. If you are trying to lose weight, DO NOT eat back the calories you have burned off. (This comment is supported by my medical doctor as well.)

    Your doctor's advice to you is meant for you. It's not meant for people she has never met or examined, whose medical history she has no knowledge of.

    Plus, it seems pretty likely your doctor doesn't have a clue how MFP is designed.
  • 3dogsrunning
    3dogsrunning Posts: 27,167 Member
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    another thing some here seem to not be considering is activity level.

    It is one thing to not eat back exercise calories when one is not very active or at a moderate deficit or has a lot to lose. It is a completely different thing to tell someone who is very active not to. Especially if they are at a low calorie intake to start.
  • French_Peasant
    French_Peasant Posts: 1,639 Member
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    I am not into suffering and self-flagellation AT ALL so I have eaten back nearly every single calorie I have earned from exercise, even the ones from machines at the gym and from MFP. I have lost 25 lbs over the past year and just went out yesterday and bought some cute bikinis because I now have my bikini-friendly body back. That being said, I still have 6 vanity lbs that I would like to lose, and haven't been losing over the past couple of months, so I will have to ratchet things up a notch to pare off the last few lbs. It's going to be different for different people, and everyone's mileage will vary, but if I don't eat right/enough, I definitely notice I am weaker and more tired in the gym.
  • Onesnap
    Onesnap Posts: 2,819 Member
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    Yep, you have to fuel that machine. Always eat those exercise calories back.
  • charis2979
    charis2979 Posts: 38 Member
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    I disagree. If you are trying to lose weight, DO NOT eat back the calories you have burned off. (This comment is supported by my medical doctor as well.)

    This is generally not the best option based on this post: http://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/818082/exercise-calories-again-wtf/p1
  • Onesnap
    Onesnap Posts: 2,819 Member
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    charis2979 wrote: »
    I disagree. If you are trying to lose weight, DO NOT eat back the calories you have burned off. (This comment is supported by my medical doctor as well.)

    This is generally not the best option based on this post: http://community.myfitnesspal.com/en/discussion/818082/exercise-calories-again-wtf/p1

    I would have been below 1200 if I did not eat my exercise calories back.
  • kschramm7
    kschramm7 Posts: 72 Member
    edited July 2016
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    Great conversation.

    I've been doing Weight Watchers for 18 months. I did REALLY well last year. 80 lbs lost, hit a healthy weight based on BMI scale for the first time in my adult life in October, and made "lifetime"....BEFORE they changed the program.

    They basically took clean eating to the extreme, made lean protein cheap and anything with fat or sugar in it REALLY expensive on their plan. Additionally they pushed you to exercise...the more you did, the higher your goal was. Mine started at "27 fit points" and ended at 120 fit points. That was equivalent to 10,000 steps daily + 40 minutes of high intensity cardio every stinking day, and you were not to eat any of that back.

    There were days I ran out of "points" at 1,000 calories (I started tracking calories along with points a few weeks ago). My weight loss stalled (with 5-7 lbs left to lose)....for 7 months! I've spent that amount of time gaining and losing the same 4 pounds and struggled to do it! I stayed on plan, planned, prepped, tracked and exercised at the level they dictated. You name it. And I gained and lost those 4 pounds over and over again. I joined a gym and took zumba and spinning classes 4 x a week for a month....and nothing!

    I started MFP 9 days ago. It set me with 1420 calories daily to lose 1/2 lb a week. I've exercised, I've eaten back SOME of my exercise calories, I've eaten more daily in the last 9 days than I have daily for the last 7 months....and as of this morning I'm down 2.4 lbs.

    Time will tell of course, but I'm now a firm believer in fueling your body to lose weight and keep it off.

  • amusedmonkey
    amusedmonkey Posts: 10,330 Member
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    I disagree. If you are trying to lose weight, DO NOT eat back the calories you have burned off. (This comment is supported by my medical doctor as well.)

    Your doctor is right, but so are people who say you should eat back the calories. The reason your doctor says not to eat back is because exercise is assumed into your calorie allowance already. MFP does things differently. It does not assume any exercise into your allowance and it's added later either manually by you or automatically by a fitness tracker.

    With that said, it's best not to eat all of your extra calories because certain exercises in the database are grossly over-estimated, giving you more calories than they should. It's customary to eat 50-75% of these extra calories.

    The best course of action would be: eat 50% back, if you are losing too fast keep increasing what you eat back gradually until you are consistently losing your weekly goal give or take.
  • ninerbuff
    ninerbuff Posts: 48,740 Member
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    Another question - I think based on what everyone has said I will eat back my calories but how do I know that they're accurate?

    What if it says I burned 400 but actually only burned 100 and then I am going in excess of 300? How do I monitor that? How accurate is MFP's exercise calorie tracking?
    If your weight keeps going up, then you're likely not burning as much as you think. It's easier to track food calories than exercise calories for many.
    I used to get this from yoga people all the time who believed (via their instructor) that they were burning 700+ calories per session when the real number was more like less than half that. Even just eating half their calories back resulted in no weight loss.

    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
    IDEA Fitness member
    Kickboxing Certified Instructor
    Been in fitness for 30 years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition

    9285851.png

  • ninerbuff
    ninerbuff Posts: 48,740 Member
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    I think as long as you are not going below your BMR then you should be fine if you eat them back or not. Remember that about 10% of your total calories are burned off just by digestion.
    If someone is very overweight/obese, eating under their BMR isn't bad.

    A.C.E. Certified Personal and Group Fitness Trainer
    IDEA Fitness member
    Kickboxing Certified Instructor
    Been in fitness for 30 years and have studied kinesiology and nutrition

    9285851.png

  • CasperNaegle
    CasperNaegle Posts: 936 Member
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    You absolutely want to take your exercise calories into account for you total diet. Your total burn is important and you want to stay within 20% or so on your deficit.
  • sehartariq101
    sehartariq101 Posts: 3 Member
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    If you're trying to lose weight then most probably not, although some like to eat back some of them- guess that's personal preference and depends on what your goal is too. I however don't :)
  • malibu927
    malibu927 Posts: 17,564 Member
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    If you're trying to lose weight then most probably not, although some like to eat back some of them- guess that's personal preference and depends on what your goal is too. I however don't :)

    That's how MFP is set up though, for you to eat them back.

    When I followed MFP's goals, I did. Now that I do TDEE I don't, but that is because exercise calories are already factored in.